The season you’ll never forget
We are literally days away from the 2019 MotoGP season. And while Testing has been its usual engaging exercise in stern looks, fur-stroking, and always-positive PR spin from all the racers (except Cal), it’s always and forever just Testing. Watching blokes belt each other with wooden swords is never as much fun as when the cold steel is unsheathed and the real cutting begins.
So what are we to expect in 2019? Everything, I guess.
MotoGP has almost always delivered stonking racing. The little tweaks Dorna makes to the rules has not failed to work in terms of closer competition.
This year it’s added the Long Lap Penalty to its arsenal of sanctions for riders who are too enthusiastic with their handbags. It’s not a complex rule. You ride like a Bolshevik and you may get the signal on your dash telling you to take the long way around whatever turn has been lengthened to accommodate the new rule. Qatar has re-jigged Turn Eight in this regard. The racers have said they don’t mind it. It will add maybe three seconds to their lap-time, and it looks to be more of a sanction than dropping a place and less of a sanction than “Get your shit back into the pits you Black Flagged Bastard!”
All eyes will of course be on Repsol’s new boy, Jorge Lorenzo, who missed some tests because he was re-growing surgeried bones in his hand and foot, but made it to Qatar for three rather indifferent sessions.
Marquez, likewise recovering from surgery, has also been less than spectacular in testing, but he’s more than a decade younger than his team-mate, so bounce-back time is much less.
Over at Yamaha, both Vinales and Rossi have shown good pace. Clearly, Yamaha has been lashing its R&D engineers with wet ropes in the off-season. It could not have been easy for it to publicly apologise to its riders last year for building them crap bikes, and it does not anticipate a repeat of that shameful admission.
So the question then follows: “Will it be enough for Rossi to snag his tenth title?”
As a fan, my response is: “Of course. This is the Doctor’s year!” But then I have said that before and have spent the season weeping on the couch in my underpants. Such is fandom, I guess.
Realistically, if the bike is good, and it seems it is, then both Rossi and Vinales stand a great chance.
The boys at Ducati also have wicked gleams in their eyes. And you can bet Jack Miller is going to do everything he can to gnaw on the factory boys, Petrucci and Dovizioso. It is an important year, for Jack. His chocolates better be rich and creamy, or Bautista may well find he’s going to get some real competition in WSBK in 2020.
But I have faith in Jack. And Petrucci is far too hairy and ex-cop-like for me to ever warm to him. He’s also somewhat of a mercurial racer, and he knows Miller will eat him given any chance at all. And if Dovi pulls the pin this year, then Jack may well get the full factory ride he wants.
Rins has been very impressive in Practice – which follows on from his late charges last year. But the new kids, Quartararo, Bagnaia, and Mir were not exactly flubbing around in tears during Practice either. I expect them to upset people, much as they also clearly intend to upset people.
Crutchlow is miserable as usual. His testing was entirely indifferent, and his recovery from last year’s injuries is probably still on-going. And there’s certainly gravel-traps Cal has yet to plough.
Iannone will probably want to kill himself before the fifth round, or leave to pursue the modelling career he’s clearly nurturing what with his inability to test in Jerez because his helmet couldn’t be pulled on over his swollen, post-plastic-surgery face. I wish I was present at that Aprilia de-brief.
I’m relatively convinced the rest will only be making up the numbers as always. Though I’m sure Zarco, who has forgotten what a back-flip even looks like, will enjoy his time in mid-field this year as much as he enjoyed it last year.
The real title-fight will be a fascinating and ruthless contest – more so even than last year’s stoush. The clock ticks ever louder for Rossi, Lorenzo has so much to gain and everything to lose, Marquez…well, hell, he’s Marquez. And if he can avoid the inevitable Mallorcan Mamba tantrums from his team-mate, he will always be at the pointy end. The Ducatis work. We know that now and we have seen Andrea Dovizioso waving his wedding vegetables around quite a bit last year. And there are some very strong, young and salty satellite riders hungry for glory.
Bring it on. I’m ready.
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|2019 MotoGP Round One Schedule (AEDT)|
|East Coast Daylight Savings Time|
|MotoGP FP1||Friday 2340-0025|
|MotoGP FP2||Saturday 0400-0445|
|MotoGP FP3||Saturday 2315-0000|
|MotoGP FP1||Sunday 0320-0350|
|MotoGP Q1||Sunday 0400-0415|
|MotoGP Q2||Sunday 0425-0440|
|MotoGP Race||Monday 0400|