Marty’s picks for the 2016 Moto GP Championship

By Martin Thompson

After what can only be termed an ‘interesting’ end to the 2015 Moto Gp season, the anticipation of what may unfold in 2016 has been intense. Never has there been more media focus on testing, and attempts to add fuel to the fires still smouldering from 2015. It appears most of those actually in the paddock, are just getting on with preparing for the first round in Qatar this weekend, while a few are still attempting to carry over last year’s almost farcical end to the season into the new season.

Marc Marquez crash with Valentino Rossi in Argentina
Marc Marquez crash with Valentino Rossi in Argentina

However, this year has seen some significant changes to the rules, both in terms of the machine specifications and also the governing rules. The rule changes having the most effect are of course the new Michelin control tyre, with it’s 17″ front tyre diameter, and the Magnetti Marelli control ECU which all the bikes must use.

Michelin MotoGP Tyre Guide 2016
Michelin MotoGP Tyre Guide 2016

I called it at the end of last year, that the Suzuki might benefit the most from both of these changes. The Magnetti Marelli control ECU appears to be the equal, if not more than that of the system which Suzuki had used last year. Added to that, Suzuki have made significant gains with their engine, in both delivery and output.

But the biggest leveller has been the Michelin tyre. It became apparent from the first test at the end of last season that the new Michelins were somewhat different in the way they worked. It needed more front weight bias, especially from the transition from braking to opening the throttle. The Suzuki last year was not only able to turn incredibly well, but was inherently stable under brakes. Which suggested that it had more room to move with transferring weight to the front without creating too many stability issues under brakes. Vinales, in particular, has show this to be the case in pre-season testing, and also in FP1 at Qatar where the Suzuki is much further up the time sheets than last year. This bodes well for Suzuki in season 2016.

Qatar is an unusual circuit, which often throws up a front runner out of left field. So I wouldn’t place too much credence in the overall results of the season based on the race results at Qatar.

Losail Circuit
Losail Circuit

In pre-season testing Yamaha, in particular, 2015 world champion Jorge Lorenzo ,has been consistently fast. He ran a lot of race simulations and appeared to be able to come back out on circuit and simply just up the pace as soon as any rider got close to him. I think his smooth, high corner speed style is going to suit the new tyres well, and with Yamaha having already had experience with the Magneti Marelli System, all be it a more sophisticated version, the transition appears to have been a lot easier.

MotoGP Testing Valencia 2015 - Jorge Lorenzo with Michelin Techs
MotoGP Testing Valencia 2015 – Jorge Lorenzo with Michelin Techs

Valentino Rossi, while not appearing to have as an easy a time of adapting to the new tyres and ECU, was still also consistently fast and not far behind his Yamaha team mate. He appears to have even more desire at this point in the season and is fired up to attempt to claim his 10th GP title. While this would be a fairytale end to the 2016 season, I still have doubts that he will be able to maintain the pace of some of the other riders for the entire season. In addition, he is still carrying over his grudge from 2015. He has stated he was betrayed and that he blames others for his inability to win the title in 2015. In early season interviews, he has attempted to create the perception that if he wins the title, it is because he is the best, but if he loses the title, it is because the Spanish riders have conspired to hinder him. So either way he will end the 2016 season a hero in the eyes of his fans, who are some of the most blindly passionate people.

Valentino Rossi
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi emerged victorious from a thrilling battle with Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso to win the opening round of the MotoGP season at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit in 2015

I predict it won’t take much to have him implode as he did towards the end of last season, as he sees the title slipping from his grasp. I would love to be proved wrong, as I believe if anyone deserves one more championship, Valentino certainly does. If he does, I just hope he does it by showing the form he has when he was truly on top of his game and wins it being the fastest rider on the track, not through constant sniping and criticisms of his competitors or the series.

Honda have had perhaps the most troubled of starts to this season, with it well documented they have struggled to get their heads around the new software. It being a Commodore 64 compared to a Mac Pro in terms of speed, complexity and control parameters compared to what they had in 2015. In addition, the engine changes designed to improve rideability have not bared the fruit they had hoped. As the engines are now sealed for the season, they may take a few races to get the electronics working well, and producing the results that HRC expect. Marquez seemed to have had more trouble adapting to the new bits….17″ Michelins, ECU and motor than perhaps Dani Pedrosa has in testing. So we may take a few races to see Marquez taking it up to the front runners for the entire race. But I’m not ruling him out. However, I think this is Dani Pedrosa’s year to shine, I can see Dani being strong from the start and building as the season goes on. It’s his first start to a season in years without carrying an injury, so I hope to see him reach his often somewhat muted potential.

MotoGP Testing Valencia 2015 - Dani Pedrosa with Michelin Techs
MotoGP Testing Valencia 2015 – Dani Pedrosa with Michelin Techs

Ducati have had some surprises, with the likes of Petrucci on the GP15 being consistently faster than both Iannone and Dovisioso during the pre season tests. But I expect Iannone to dominate the Ducati riders as the season progresses, and they get the new bike fully sorted.

Andrea Iannone
Andrea Iannone

There are of course the rest of the field to consider, but I will focus this piece on the top end of field. Here are my pics for the year.

  1. Jorge Lorenzo
  2. Dani Pedrosa
  3. Marc Marquez
  4. Valentino Rossi
  5. Andrea Iannone
  6. Maverick Vinales
  7. Danilo Petrucci
  8. Andrea Dovisioso
MotoGP 2016 Riders
MotoGP 2016 Riders
MotoGP 2016 Riders
MotoGP 2016 Riders
MotoGP 2016 Machines
MotoGP 2016 Machines