Crutchlow wins action-packed Argentinian GP

Cal Crutchlow sealed his third MotoGP victory to wrap up a controversial weekend in Argentina across all three classes. The Brit managed the race to perfection to see off the  competition from Johann Zarco and Alex Rins, who completed the podium places.

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Cal Crutchlow win was Honda’s 750th Grand Prix victory. Image: The Checkered Flag

Despite a disappointing qualifying session, Crutchlow had been going well all weekend, and the Honda rider seems to always go well in Argentina. Crutchlow was a part of the leading group for most of the race, conserving his tyres as Zarco, Rins, and pole-sitter Jack Miller diced for the lead.

The LCR Honda rider hit the front with two laps to go, and managed to hold off pressure from Zarco to take the win.

If Crutchlow was the hero of the story, Marc Marquez was certainly the villain. The Spaniard was penalised on three occasions, including for knocking off Valentino Rossi in the final stages of the race.

The race started in controversial circumstances, as the hero of qualifying Jack Miller was the only rider to start on slicks on the drying track. However, just before the start, every other rider changed and jostled for position for their start from pit lane.

The race officials decided to delay the start of the race, and then allowed everyone to start from the grid, albeit from the fourth row back.

This decision obviously infuriated Miller, who was brave enough to chance the slicks while everyone else had stuck with the wets. His decisiveness and bravery was rewarded with nothing.

The chaos was not finished there, as Marc Marquez stalled his bike on the grid. Instead of following protocol, and starting from pit-lane, the Spaniard jump started his bike, and rode it back to his position.

This broke the rule of not riding backwards on the track, and Marquez was given a ride-through penalty, which saw him drop back to twentieth.

Dani Pedrosa crashed out on lap one, as he was forced on to the wet part of the track by Johann Zarco.

The front four soon broke away, with Miller leading from Alex Rins, Johann Zarco and Cal Crutchlow.

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Marc Marquez once again clashed with Valentino Rossi in Argentina, having previously come off worse in their 2015 collision. Image: Cyclenews.com

On lap nine, Marquez committed his second offence of the race. On the penultimate corner he forced his way past Aleix Espargaro when there was no gap there. Espargaro was forced off the track, and Marquez was told to drop a position by race direction.

Crutchlow made his move with eight laps to go, slipping under Zarco. Alex Rins had also ran wide, allowing the Brit to go up to second, and Zarco to follow in to third.

On lap 21 Marquez again took the spotlight, going for a gap that wasn’t there on the penultimate corner. This time the victim was Valentino Rossi, who crashed out of fifth. Marquez was hit with a 30 second penalty for “irresponsible riding”, which saw him drop out of the points to eighteenth.

This saw Maverick Vinales take fifth place, 11 seconds behind Jack Miller in fourth. Andrea Dovizioso took sixth, with Rabat, Iannone, Syahrin and Petrucci rounding out the top ten.

Jorge Lorenzo finished fifteenth after a dismal ride, and Valentino Rossi rejoined the race to finish nineteenth.

Scott Redding had a good race on the Aprilia, coming twelfth, but Bradley Smith crashed out with eight laps to go.

In the Moto3, Marcos Bezzecchi took a debut victory, with Aron Canet, the villain of FP1 coming second. John McPhee finished seventeenth. Mattia Pasini won the Moto2 race, with Danny Kent and Sam Lowes finishing twelfth and thirteenth respectively.

The next race takes place in Texas, at the Circuit of the Americas, on April 22.

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2018 MotoGP season preview

The 2018 MotoGP season kicks off this weekend under the lights in Qatar, so it is time to look ahead to the oncoming season and assess the chances of the contenders.

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How the riders will line up for the 2018 MotoGP season. Image: BT Sport MotoGP

The front-runners

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Marc Marquez celebrated his sixth world title, and his fourth MotoGP title, at the final race in Valencia last season. Image: Motorsport.com

World Champion Marc Marquez has had a rather understated pre-season as he prepares to aim for his fifth MotoGP title. Despite topping the charts in the first test in Valencia back in November, Marquez has recorded an eighth in Sepang, a third in Thailand and a seventh in Qatar.

The Spaniard has won just once in the premier class at Losail, so he may have to wait to launch his bid for the title.

Andrea Dovizioso ran Marquez close last season, and has offered a slightly more consistent pre-season than his rival. After a sluggish start in Valencia, Dovi has recorded a fourth place in Sepang, a seventh in Thailand and a third in Qatar.

The Yamahas had a disappointing year in 2017, especially considering Maverick Vinales’ dominant form in testing. This year he was slightly more off the pace. The Spaniard, who finished third last season, has placed seventh, eighth and fifth in the three 2018 tests.

His teammate, the experienced Valentino Rossi, has said that he will continue racing for at least the next two years. Rossi finished second in the Qatar test at the beginning of the month, but finished twelfth in Thailand and ninth in Sepang.

Jorge Lorenzo is clearly still trying to get to grips with the Ducati, having finished on the rostrum three times last year. Lorenzo topped the charts in Sepang, but has struggled to match that pace in the subsequent tests, finishing fifteenth and tenth.

Could 2018 finally be the year that Dani Pedrosa makes his mark on the championship. The 32-year-old continues to be one of the best riders to never win the MotoGP title, but his pre-season form has been impressive. He has recorded two second places and topped the standings in Thailand. However, the Spaniard has also finished twelfth in Qatar and eleventh on the first day in Valencia, so it could go either way once the season gets underway.

 

The outsiders

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Cal Crutchlow has praised Honda for the improvements they have made this winter. Image: Autosport.com

Johann Zarco was the top performing rookie last season, with the Frenchman finishing the year in sixth. The Yamaha rider topped the timing charts in the final test in Qatar, finishing almost a quarter of a second ahead of Valentino Rossi.

Zarco finished second in Thailand, and also recorded top three finishes in both days of the Valencia test.

Danilo Petrucci finished on the podium four times season, and finished just 13 points behind Jorge Lorenzo. The giant Italian will be looking to build on his strong showing, especially in the first half of the season. Petrucci has been consistently in the middle of the pack during testing, but will hope that he can steer his Ducati in to the top half of the grid.

Cal Crutchlow will be disappointed with his 2017 season. The Brit finished ninth overall and failed to finish five times. A third place in Argentina was the highlight of a pretty sub-standard campaign, but Crutchlow will be hoping that he can recover this year.

He has performed well in testing, finishing fourth in Qatar and Thailand and third in Sepang. Crutchlow has praised the improvements that have been made to his Honda, saying that Honda have given their riders all that they wanted.

Andrea Iannone always has the potential to cause an upset, however his aggressive riding style has led to a number of crashes. He has been off the pace in testing but tends to perform much better on a raceday.

The Brits

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Scott Redding will be hoping that he can improve on last season after his move to Aprilia. Image: Motorcycle Sports

Bradley Smith managed to keep his ride at KTM this year but his performance will be under close scrutiny this year. Smith managed to up his performances at the end of last year, but his KTM still looks unlikely to let Smith challenge the top 10.

Scott Redding has moved to Aprilia, with his spot at Pramac Ducati being taken by Jack Miller. Redding had a solid season last year, scoring four top 10 finishes, including in the season opener in Qatar. Testing has shown that Redding is still getting used to his new bike, and he may have to wait until he is able to challenge for a top 10 place.

The rookies

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Franco Morbidelli has won back-to-back Moto2 titles before he stepped up to the premier class. Image: Motorsport.com

Two-time Moto2 champion Franco Morbidelli has stepped to challenge himself in the top class. Morbidelli will race for the Marc VDS Honda team alongside Thomas Luthi, who came runner-up to Morbidelli last season.

Xavier Simeon will race on a Ducati this season. Simeon finished 23rd in Moto2 last season, and will partner Tito Rabat, who has moved to the Reale Avintia Racing team from from the Marc VDS team.

Takaaki Nakagami showed some promise last season in Moto2, collecting three third places and a win. Nakagami will partner Cal Crutchlow as LCR Honda will enter a second rider this year.

Hafizh Syahrin will become the first Malaysian rider to compete in MotoGP after he was drafted in to replace Jonas Folger, who has to miss the season due to suffering from Gilbert’s syndrome. The German missed the last four races of the 2017 season due to the rare illness, which forces the body to shut down.

 

Rossi takes victory in thrilling Dutch TT

Valentino Rossi secured his first MotoGP victory in over a year as he took the chequered flag in Assen. The Italian fought of stiff competition for Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci to take the win, whilst Marc Marquez rounded off the podium.

Rossi Assen

Image: BT Sport (@btsportmotogp)

It was fellow Yamaha rider Johann Zarco who made the strongest start, converting his pole position in to an early lead. The Frenchman led a breakout group, with Marquez, Rossi and Petrucci moving well clear of the pack.

With 15 laps to go, Rossi made his move, hitting the front ahead of Zarco, There was a bit of contact as Zarco tried to snap straight back at the Doctor, but this didn’t affect Rossi, and allowed Marquez to pass Zarco.

Shortly afterwards, Petrucci muscled his way past Marc Marquez in to second, but the real excitement started when, with 8 laps remaining, the white flags came out, indicating that there was rain and that riders were allowed to come in and change bikes.

Andrea Dovizioso, who had been having a quiet race by his recent standards, pushed past both Zarco and Marquez on the same lap to put himself in to podium contention, before hunting down Petrucci on the following lap.

During this time, Johann Zarco, who had been on the softer option tyre, decided to swap bikes to a wet race set-up, a gamble that proved unsuccessful as he would be unable to make up the lost time, and even suffered a penalty for speeding in pit lane. Only Hector Barbera, Alex Rins and Jorge Lorenzo followed Zarco in changing to wets.

Rossi looked to be getting clear as the two Ducatis battled amongst themselves, but Petrucci was able to break clear and catch the leader. The two Italians battled it out for the final few laps for first, with Rossi leading in to the final lap. The Pramac Ducati rider looked to have the pace to take his first MotoGP victory going in to the final sector, but lost time lapping Alex Rins, who Rossi had passed smoothly. This enabled the 38 year old to take his tenth win at Assen across all classes, finishing 0.063 seconds clear of Petrucci.

Cal Crutchlow appeared from nowhere to join the race for the final podium position in the final stages of the race. The Brit passed Dovizioso and Marquez with ease, but the factory Honda rider fought back. Marquez just managed to better Crutchlow, holding him off by 0.042 seconds.

Last year’s race winner Jack Miller finished sixth, ahead of Karel Abraham in seventh. Loris Baz, Andrea Iannone and Aleix Espargaro rounded off the top ten.

It was a miserable day for the Brits, apart from Cal Crutchlow of course. Sam Lowes crashed early on, and was soon followed in to the gravel by SBradley Smith. With two laps remaining, Scott Redding completed the hat-trick of British riders crashing out.

Dovizioso’s fifth place sees him move to the top of the championship, after previous series leader Maverick Vinales crashed out having fought back to fifth place after a start to forget. Dovizioso leads the championship now by four points, with Rossi a further three points behind Vinales, and Marc Marquez only eleven points off of the lead.

In Moto3, Aron Canet secured his second win of the season, preventing a fantastic comeback from Britain’s John McPhee, who ended up third after making up sixteen places to catch the leaders. Franco Morbidelli celebrated securing a MotoGP ride in 2018 with another Moto2 victory. The Italian has now won five of the opening eight races.

The next race is the German Grand Prix at Sachsenring on the 2 July.

Marquez Continues American Dominance

Marc Marquez extended his winning run on American soil to nine races after securing a comfortable victory at the Grand Prix of the Americas in Texas. The world champion saw off early pressure from his team-mate, Dani Pedrosa, who ended the race in third, with Valentino Rossi splitting the two Repsol Hondas.

Marquez Texas

Image: Crash.net

After qualifying on the second row, it was Dani Pedrosa who made the strongest start, with pole sitter Marquez following him closely. It wasn’t long before the first incident of note, as the so far infallible Maverick Vinales slipped off of his Yamaha on a long right hander.

Controversy followed on lap seven, as rookie Johann Zarco tussled with Valentino Rossi. The Frenchman punted Rossi off the track through the chicanes, but it ultimately caused Rossi to actually gain ground on the leading Hondas. Race direction, perhaps harshly, awarded Rossi with a 0.3 second penalty for the incident, even though the Italian did everything in his power to avoid coming together with Zarco.

Marquez first hit the front on lap eight, but was pegged back immediately as Pedrosa blasted past him on the back straight. But Marquez had learnt his lesson, passing Pedrosa a few corners earlier on the next lap to ensure that his team-mate could not catch him on the straight.

From that point onward Marquez looked in complete control of the race. Pedrosa fell back, and Rossi was able to pass him on the final bend with two laps to go. With the 0.3 second penalty hanging over his head, Rossi continued relentlessly, opening up a two second gap in the final two laps.

The win is Marquez’s fifth consecutive victory in Texas, whilst Rossi’s second place takes him to the top of the championship, six points clear of Maverick Vinales.

Cal Crutchlow followed up his podium in Argentina with a fourth place, edging out Johann Zarco with a lap to go. Andrea Dovizioso finished as the top Ducati in sixth, whilst Andrea Iannone and Danilo Petrucci managed to finish ahead of Jorge Lorenzo. Jack Miller rounded up the top ten.

Scott Redding finished in twelfth, whilst Bradley Smith finished just outside the points in sixteenth. The last of the British riders, Sam Lowes, crashed out on his Aprilia.

After the initial Moto3 race was red flagged, Romano Fenati took the chequered flag. John McPhee’s seventh place sees him slip to third in the championship. Franco Morbidelli continued his dominance in Moto2, finishing over two seconds clear of the rest of the field to take his third win from three races.

The next race is at Jerez on 7 May.

Vinales Continues Pre-Season Form

Maverick Vinales is looking in top form ahead of the start of the 2017 MotoGP season. The Spaniard, who replaced Jorge Lorenzo at the factory Yamaha team, has topped the time sheets again after the three day test at Phillip Island.

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Vinales has now topped every test since his move to Yamaha (Valencia, the private test at Sepang, the Official Sepang test, and Phillip Island). Image: crash.net

Vinales was one of only two riders to record a lap time in the 1:28s, with world champion Marc Marquez also breaking the barrier. However it was the former Suzuki man that won out, topping the charts on both the second and third days and finishing 0.294s clear of the Repsol Honda rider.

It was a good test for Honda, as Dani Pedrosa, who missed the majority of day two due to a throat infection, finished third overall, and Cal Crutchlow was fifth. The LCR man was on form throughout the weekend, with a third place on day two and two fifth places.

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Jonas Folger finished the test as top rookie, less than half a second behind Vinales. Image: Motorsport.com

Rookies Jonas Folger and Alex Rins offered up some very promising performances, with Folger managing to shoot up to fourth on the final day. Rins managed to recover from a poor first day to best his Suzuki teammate Andrea Iannone, who struggled after a strong first day. The top rookie from the Sepang test, Johann Zarco, struggled in Australia, only recording a 1:29.67, putting him in fifteenth.

The title this year may be a two horse race between Marquez and Vinales. Valentino Rossi only finished in the middle of the pack, 0.921s behind his teammate. The Ducatis were improving though, as Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo finished seventh and eighth respectively.

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The KTM team unveiled their 2017 livery after the Australian test. Image: crash.net

It was a miserable test for the other Brits, as Bradley Smith, Scott Redding and Sam Lowes occupied three of the bottom four places. Smith and Pol Espargaro both showed signs of improvement on their KTMs, finishing half a second closer to the leader than they did at Sepang. Sam Lowes also improved on his Aprilia, despite not breaking the 1 minute 30 barrier, as he was 0.3 seconds closer to Vinales.

The final MotoGP test will be at Losail, Qatar, from the 10-12 March, with the season kicking off at the same track on 26 March.

All You Need To Know From Sepang Testing

The first official MotoGP testing of the new year has been completed at Sepang. It was the first time that riders have been seen in their new colours for the upcoming year, and has offered a look at who will be going strong this season, as well as showing how well the rookies will adapt.

The Movers

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Image: autosport.com

Maverick Vinales was the most successful of all the riders who have moved teams. The Spaniard seemed to adapt very quickly to his new Yamaha, topping the overall testing times by 0.084 seconds. He finished in the top three on each day, before leading the standings on day three. The man that he replaced, Jorge Lorenzo, is still getting used to his new Ducati. The three time world champion had to settle for tenth, 0.2 seconds behind his team mate, Andrea Dovizioso, and a tenth behind Ducati test rider Casey Stoner.

Andre Iannone enjoyed a strong showing on his Suzuki, after topping the standings on day two and finishing second overall. Alvaro Bautista also had a strong test, including a third place on day 2. Following his step up from Aprilia to the Aspar team, the Spaniard finished seventh overall, above Jorge Lorenzo. Aleix Espargaro, who has replaced Bautista at Aprilia, had a solid test, finishing in thirteenth place, 0.74 seconds off of Vinales’ time. His Brother,¬†Pol Espargaro, and Bradley Smith have moved from the Tech 3 Yamaha team to the new KTM team. They both struggled, but for a new team in MotoGP, you can expect their results to improve as the season goes on.

The Rookies

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Image: Cycle World

The double Moto2 world champion Johann Zarco had the most attention on him, but ended up with an eleventh place. The highlight of his outing on his new Tech 3 Yamaha was a fifth place on day 2. His new team mate will be Jonas Folger, and the German was unable to break the 2 minute barrier, but still recorded top ten finishes on the first two days. After finishing third in Moto2 last season, Alex Rins finished twelfth overall. The Suzuki rider also failed to finish under 2 minutes, but was only outside the top ten by 0.29 seconds. There will be another British rider in the Premier Class this season, with Sam Lowes joining Aprilia. It looks like the bike will need some improvement though, as Lowes was unable to break in the top 20, only finishing above Tito Rabat, excluding test riders.

 

The Challengers

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Image: Crash.net

As previously¬†mentioned, Maverick Vinales is looking like a serious contender for this year’s title. His team mate, Valentino Rossi, will no doubt be trying to prevent that as he searches for a record equalling eighth Premier Class title. Rossi finished sixth overall in testing, but his real strengths lie on a race day.

The reigning world champion, Marc Marquez, is looking strong again this time around. Finishing the Sepang test 0.138 seconds behind Vinales, it is clear that the Repsol Honda rider is well in the hunt for his fourth title in five years. Honda’s chances at a Constructors’ title look good this season, as Dani Pedrosa put in a strong showing throughout testing (fifth place, 0.21 seconds from Vinales) and Cal Crutchlow came ninth, 0.36 seconds from the top.


Who do you think will win the 2017 World Championship? Will there be a surprise package? Have your say in the comments below.

Lorenzo takes win on final Yamaha outing

Jorge Lorenzo signed off at Yamaha by claiming victory at the final race of the season in Valencia. The Spaniard, who will move to Ducati for the 2017 season, enjoyed a dominant weekend, leading the race from start to finish. World Champion Marc Marquez finished second, whilst Andrea Iannone, who Lorenzo replaces at Ducati, rounded off the podium.

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Image: crash.net

Having broken the lap record in a blistering qualifying session, it was no surprise that Lorenzo started well. Within a few laps the Yamaha man had escaped the pack, leaving teammate Valentino Rossi to challenge with Maverick Vinales and Iannone for second place.

Marc Marquez suffered from a poor start, getting swallowed up going in to the first corner, but put in a strong display to battle his way back up to second. With Lorenzo struggling in the final laps with his front tyre, it looked as though Marquez would be able to take a remarkable win. But the Repsol Honda rider left himself with too much to do, with Lorenzo taking the win by just over a second.

Rossi got the better of his future teammate Vinales as they finished fourth and fifth respectively, and Pol Espargaro edged out both Andrea Dovizioso and his brother Aleix to finish sixth.

Bradley Smith finished as the top Brit in ninth, on his final ride for the Tech3 Yamaha team. Scott Redding finished fourteenth with Eugene Laverty sixteenth. Cal Crutchlow remained the top independent rider of 2016 despite crashing out.

Having already confirmed his second Moto2 title, Johann Zarco bid farewell to the class with another victory. Sam Lowes, who is also heading to MotoGP next season, came fourth whilst Danny Kent secured a ninth place finish. It was a similar story in Moto3, as the dominant Brad Binder recovered from an early mistake that saw him drop to 22nd to take the chequered flag.


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