Another season to remember in MotoGP
Following on from a record-breaking 2016 season, the 2017 MotoGP World Championship was undeniably one of the finest years ever in the sport and whilst it ultimately came down to a straight fight between Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso, the supporting cast was plenty and it certainly wasn’t all about the aforementioned riders.
Fortunes ebbed and flowed, new names rattled the cages of the established guard and some of the class stalwarts found themselves shuffled through the pack. And with the manufacturers closer than ever and the tyre suppliers, Michelin, playing a crucial role, picking a winner was never an easy task.
Marquez continues to astound
Six wins in 2017 meant it wasn’t the most successful season in terms of victories for Marquez but the most important statistic was that he won the world title for the fourth time in five years – and when it came down to the final few rounds, he upped his game even more to deliver the results when they were truly required. He fought hard with Dovizioso all year long but did enough to see off the Italian’s challenge.
Clearly the most talented rider on the grid, his levels of machine control moved into new territory in 2017, and from seemingly impossible positions on at least three occasions – including during the final race of the year – he stayed on board when lesser mortals would have crashed out. He won when he could, picked up big points if he couldn’t and only failed to finish three of the 18 races. Still only 24, the Spaniard is in a prime position to dominate the sport in the years ahead and could undoubtedly break all the records before him.
Dovizioso takes giant leaps forward
Not since the Casey Stoner years have Ducati come close to being in world championship contention but in 2017 they were – and all down to Dovizioso raising his game and finding new levels of both speed and consistency. A stalwart of MotoGP since 2008, the Italian had only won two premier class races before the year commenced but tripled that tally in 2017, matching Marquez’ total of six wins.
A few people may have expected him to be overshadowed by his new team-mate, triple world MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, but Dovizioso rose to the occasion and beat him comprehensively. He only failed to finish two races which, along with his race wins, kept him in the title race and it was ultimately 13th place in Australia that cost him the title.
Had it not been for that, he would have been a lot closer to Marquez going into the final round and we would have had a real showdown on our hands. The key now for Dovizioso is to do more of the same in 2018.
Unfamiliar woes for Yamaha
Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi may have finished third and fifth overall respectively but whilst that’s more than respectable on paper, it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.
After two years with Suzuki, much was expected of Vinales coming into the season, especially after setting some blistering times in pre-season testing. It seemingly made him the man to beat and with victories in the first two races, he certainly lived up to that billing.
However, both he and team-mate Rossi struggled on circuits with low grip, as well as in the rain, and their qualifying performances on occasion, could only be described as dismal. They regrouped somewhat for the races (Vinales only managed 12th at the final round though) and although Rossi’s broken leg in a training accident two thirds of the way through the season clearly halted his progress, they lacked any sort of consistency to seriously mount a title challenge.
Best of the rest
One of the undoubted stars of 2017 was class rookie Johann Zarco with the double Moto2 World champion finishing sixth overall on the Tech 3 Yamaha after taking three podiums along the way. Both he, and to a lesser extent team-mate and fellow rookie Jonas Folger, were fast from the outset but Zarco got quicker as the year wore on and will be a real dark horse next year – a maiden premier class win is more than a distinct possibility.
Dani Pedrosa had another solid year, taking two wins to claim fourth overall, whilst Danilo Petrucci impressed for Pramac Ducati, taking four podiums. He was especially strong in the wet and although he struggled initially, Lorenzo gradually got to grips with the Ducati and although he didn’t win a race, three podiums suggest he should be more of a challenger in 2018.
It wasn’t a vintage year for the four British riders in MotoGP with Cal Crutchlow claiming the highest championship position in ninth overall. The LCR Honda rider was unable to reach the heights scaled in 2016 when he won two races and only managed one podium all season. He was the best Honda rider after the two Repsol riders though and will again be our best hope in 2018.
Scott Redding struggled on his year-old Ducati and only finished inside the top ten on four occasions although he was a lot more prominent in the wet races. He’ll be hoping for better fortunes in 2018 when he lines up on the Gresini Aprilia which came at the expense of Sam Lowes who was told mid-way through the season that his two-year contract would be coming to an end after the first year. Just five points would suggest the Italian manufacturer made the right call but it was a harsh decision and the majority of the paddock voiced their support of the Lincolnshire rider.
The fourth Brit was Bradley Smith who lined up for new entrants to the series KTM. He was outshone by his team-mate Pol Espargaro, scoring 29 points to the Spaniard’s 55 but he finished the year strongly and will be looking to hit the ground running in 2018.
If you enjoyed our review of the MotoGP season, why not check out our review of the BSB Season 2017?
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.