2017 racing action kicks of with World Superbikes in February. Here’s our lowdown on what’s new and what you need to know.
The MotoGP Brits
Have they done enough? Have they disappointed? Do they deserve better rides? And who’s been the best out of Smith, Crutchlow and Redding?
Have your say, give your opinion and place your votes in our MotoGP Brits poll blog…
The 2015 MotoGP season is far from over but the three British riders in the series have all signed new deals for 2016. But have they got what they deserve? Do they deserve better rides or have they not done enough to justify the rides they’ve got?
And who’s performed best out of Bradley Smith, Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding? Who’s exceeded expectations and who’s disappointed? A closer look at the equipment they’re currently on and the results they’ve achieved should provide the answers.
Bradley Smith creeping forward:
Bradley Smith is in his third season on the Tech 3 Yamaha M1 satellite bike and, ahead of the Italian GP at Misano on September 13, is lying in sixth place overall, just five points behind the factory Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso and 13 ahead of the factory Repsol Honda of Dani Pedrosa.
Top satellite rider:
He’s the top satellite rider by far and has comprehensively out-performed his team-mate, Pol Espargaro, all season long. The Spaniard currently lies in 9th place in the championship, 34 points behind Smith. That’s significant because Espargaro’s contract is directly with Yamaha Japan while Smith’s is with the French Tech 3 team. As a full factory employee, Espargaro has received upgraded parts for his M1 Yamaha ahead of Smith and yet the Brit has still managed to beat him in most races this season.
Has Smith done enough?
Smith’s stated aim at the start of the year was to be top satellite rider. So far, he’s achieved that and more – he’s currently ahead of three factory bikes (Pedrosa’s Honda and the Suzukis of Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro) in the points standings. Surely Smith has done enough to deserve a factory ride with Yamaha next year?
2017 factory deal:
Sadly, it doesn’t matter what he deserves – Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have already secured the two factory Yamaha seats for 2016 so all Smith can do is repeat his form in 2016 with a view to securing a factory deal the following year when Rossi and Lorenzo’s contracts expire.
RC213V – the bike to have!
Many people thought Cal Crutchlow had landed a dream ride when he signed for LCR Honda for 2015. It’s a factory bike (although not quite as ‘factory’ as the Repsol machines of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa) but it’s run out of a satellite team. Even so, the RC213V seemed the bike to have after Marquez won ten successive races and the MotoGP world title on one last year.
Taming the 2015 Honda:
But it seems Crutchlow picked the wrong time to get out of his factory Ducati contract. The 2015 Honda is a different beast to last year’s model and even Marquez has struggled to tame it. The Spaniard only got the bike working for him when he reverted to using the 2014 chassis.
Crutchlow signs new deal:
Crutchlow has showed flashes of greatness, despite saying the bike is the hardest he’s ever ridden. He scored a podium in Argentina but lies a lowly tenth in the championship after a string of DNFs and too many crashes. His highest placing apart from that solitary podium has been a sixth place at Assen but Crutchlow seems to have done enough on a difficult bike to impress his team and he’s signed a new deal to stay with LCR Honda in 2016 with an option for the following year.
Podium finish on an inconsistent bike:
While Crutchlow has struggled with inconsistency on the Honda, he has managed to score a podium finish on it, something that Bradley Smith has so far failed to achieve on his satellite Yamaha M1.
Smith in a great position:
Smith has been on the same bike now for three years so he knows it inside out and has benefited from the consistency of having the same team around him too. But he’s so far only scored one podium on the M1 and that was at the Australian GP in 2014 (and only after Crutchlow crashed out of second place on the final lap).
More factory bikes means tougher competition:
Cal Crutchlow also rode the Tech 3 Yamaha for three years between 2011 and 2013 and scored six podium finishes on the bike. But in Smith’s defence, there are more factory bikes in MotoGP now and the competition is even tougher.
So who’s been the more impressive of the two leading British riders in 2015? Crutchlow with his third place in Argentina, or Smith with his superb top-six consistency?
A struggle for Redding:
The third British rider in MotoGP is Scott Redding and it’s fair to say that his season has not gone to plan. After an impressive rookie year on the customer Honda in 2014, Redding was rewarded with a full-power RC213V to be run out of the Marc VDS satellite team that nurtured him in Moto2. But despite showing occasional turns of speed on the bike, Redding’s season has been a disappointment and he’s currently languishing in a lowly 13th place in the championship, his best result being a sixth place at his home round at Silverstone in late August.
His inability to gel with the Honda has led Redding to switch manufacturers for 2016 and the Gloucester rider will line up for the satellite Pramac Ducati team next year.
Impressive new talent:
Of course, much of the talk about British riders in the 2015 Grand Prix world championship has focused around Danny Kent. The 21-year-old has utterly dominated the Moto3 championship and looks odds-on to become Britain’s first Grand Prix world champion since Barry Sheene in 1977.
Kent loyal to Leopard Racing:
Kent was offered a three-year deal with Pramac Ducati to jump straight to MotoGP in 2016 but did not accept the offer and looks more likely to move to Moto2 with his current Leopard Racing team. Scott Redding took the Pramac deal in his stead.
Kent’s dominance of what is usually the tightest-fought class in GPs has attracted much attention from MotoGP team bosses and he looks certain to make the step up to the premier class in the near future. But should he have made the move next year? Or is it better to spend a year in the intermediary Moto2 class to further hone his skills before taking on the big boys in MotoGP?
Kent doing it for the Brits:
There’s still time for Bradley Smith, Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding to pull some podium finishes out of the hat in 2015 but perhaps this season will best be remembered, from a British point of view at least, for the talents of young Danny Kent – the man who looks set to finally end Britain’s 38-year GP world championship drought.
So, how did your votes compare? Which Brit have you been backing this season? Share your comments below…
Stuart Barker is a freelance motorcycle journalist and author. A former MCN reporter and features writer, he is now editor of the Official Isle of Man TT and Classic TT programmes and has contributed to most major UK motorcycling titles including MCN, Bike, Ride, Superbike, Two Wheels Only, Fast Bikes, Classic Bike and Classic Racer. His books include biographies of Barry Sheene, Steve Hislop, Niall Mackenzie, David Jefferies and Evel Knievel as well as a centennial history of the TT races.