Wheel Talk

A Look At The Season Ahead

Thank you again for checking out what I hope will be an interesting and dynamic alternative analysis of the 2017 Moto GP season as it progresses!

The season ahead looks set to be something special, with Maverick Viñales making his debut on the Factory Yamaha, Lorenzo hopping over to the Bologna-based manufacturer, Ducati and Valentino Rossi amazingly still looking as strong as ever on his faithful Yamaha.

The 2017 season could be one of the best yet and we’ll be looking at every aspect of it in close detail! From tire choice to pre-race rituals, we’ll watch, assess and discuss each race And I’ll even try to attend as many as I can (which won’t be many this time round, but maybe in future) to get as close to the action as possible!

So far in the season we’ve seen just one test but if it’s any indicator at all as to what the 2017 season could be like, we’re in for some show!

The test in Valencia saw Maverick Viñales put in the quickest lap, with a 1:29.975 on his Yamaha debut, significantly faster than the time entered by Marc Marquez at the same stage in the 2016 season, when he went round the Spanish track in a still very impressive 1:31.060. It’s very early to make predictions but Viñales’ lightning pace round the track is exciting to say the least. If his time on the Suzuki taught us anything it’s that he relishes a challenge and comes out on top. If he managed to achieve so much on the Suzuki (and he did! Just look at Aleix Espargaro’s record in the same period), what might the future hold for him with the powerful and competitive, multiple season winning Yamaha bike under him?

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Another change to the lineup this year is former champion Jorge Lorenzo’s move to the Ducati outfit. With both bikes looking strong last year, hinting that Ducati may finally be back on the road to consistently competitive races, Lorenzo’s experience and talent could be just what the doctor dreaded and give the manufacturer the final piece of the puzzle, allowing the team to push for more victories than the two they’ve had in recent memory!

Looking at Lorenzo’s past record, he certainly has the capability to win races but hasn’t challenged himself like this since he arrived in the Moto GP class. His former teammate, Valentino Rossi made the feat in 2011 and, shall we say, wasn’t so prosperous in his venture, but the Desmosedici itself seems to have made a whole lot of progress since then and Lorenzo made his first ride count in Valencia, putting in a respectable time of 1:30.744, just shy of half a second quicker than his time on the Yamaha at the Valencia test in 2015. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say, we look forward to seeing how Lorenzo handles this challenge!

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Marc Marquez had a tough ride to victory last season, winning 5 races himself but being closely followed by Jorge Lorenzo with 4 victories and Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi with 2 each, Rossi performing well all round during the season, bar a few blips, and securing second place despite Lorenzo’s 4 vicories! Though Marquez was only absent from the podium on five occasions and managed to secure his 2nd world championship.

After a memorable 2nd championship victory, his off-season period has been somewhat remarkable too after he took his classic orange Repsol gear onto the dirt, taking another 2nd world championship, this time in the ‘Superprestigio’, an invitational dirt track motorcycle race held at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain

Marc, as always, should be considered a threat to any hopeful champion-to-be this year, showing no signs of slacking, he put in the second fastest time of the testing in Valencia with a 1:30.171, just nine tenths of a second slower than Viñales on the Yamaha. We’ll be keeping a close eye on what will likely be a revival of the pair’s Moto 2 rivalry from earlier in their careers now that Maverick has the right machinery to challenge Marquez. Who will come out on top? Or will someone else use this predicted rivalry to their advantage?

Along with the new talent and the old, there’s one relic predating all those who share the track with him. Most riders of his age are now retired and enjoying a peaceful life off track. Valentino Rossi however lives and breathes motorbikes and is adamant he wants one more world championship before hanging up his leathers. Could 2017 be his year? He has after all shown us in the last 2 seasons that he can come close. He can win races and he can fight with the youngsters. Rossi will be hoping, like millions of his fans around the world that he can stay ahead of the new talent and show them how it’s done.

He showed absolutely no signs of the contrary during the Valencia testing, finishing 7th overall but only around 8 tenths behind Viñales with a 1:30.709 and again, as with many riders at this test, he improved on his time from last year significantly and is not to be discounted as a potential champion in 2017!

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