The 2019 MotoGP World Championship season is drawing to a close and it’s been another year where we’ve all been dazzled by the talent and skill of Marc Marquez, the Repsol Honda rider having recently clinched his sixth title in the premier class. He’s again seen off all the challenges faced – quite comfortably – and his feats on a motorcycle continue to defy belief.
With victory in Thailand last month, Marquez secured the 2019 title with four races to spare to make it eight world championships in total and 55 wins in the premier class mean he’s now the third most successful rider behind just Valentino Rossi (89 wins) and Giacomo Agostini (68).
In the 18 races that have taken place so far, the 26-year old has taken 17 podiums – 11 wins and six seconds – with his only non-score coming at round three in America when he tipped off at low speed. That remarkable run of form has seen him set a new record for the most points scored in a single season in the class and in an era when, supposedly, the competition in terms of both riders and manufacturers is fiercer than ever.
He cannot be accused of sweeping all before him because he has the best bike as the Honda clearly isn’t and he’s the only rider who has won races this year for the Japanese manufacturer; he’s successful because he’s one of a kind and able to perform feats on a motorbike that no one else can. He’s also experienced some luck, it must be said, as he’s managed to avoid injury in all the crashes he’s had none more remarkable than at Malaysia on Saturday when he suffered a vicious high-side in qualifying.
How he didn’t break a bone – a wrist, a collarbone or ankle – remains a mystery but 11th on the grid proved no barrier as he stormed up to fifth by just the third corner, going on to finish in second place. His dominance has seen him win six MotoGP titles in the last seven seasons and for all the will in the world of the likes of Maverick Vinales, Andrea Dovizioso and Fabio Quartararo, to name just a few, it’s hard to see that dominance ending any time soon.
The Yamahas of Vinales and Quartararo have been the riders to challenge Marquez the most in recent rounds with ‘Top Gun’ Vinales taking a brilliant win in Malaysia just a week after leading the Australian GP right up until the final lap. Having done all the hard work, he was almost powerless to do anything when his fellow Spaniard, who had shadowed him for much of the way, overhauled him and to add insult to injury he then crashed out with just two corners to go.
However, rather than have his confidence dented, he took away the positives and came out with all guns blazing in Malaysia to show that, on his day, he’s more than capable of dominating a MotoGP race. The problem for Vinales is that his consistency remains a problem as seen in his tenth and 11th place finishes in the Czech Republic and America respectively with the Malaysian win being just his second of the season and first since Holland in June.
The Yamaha, although a good, overall package, continues to lack top speed and is a problem which must be addressed in 2020 if Vinales is to have any chance of at least getting close to Marquez at each round.
Close but not quite
It’s been an unbelievable rookie season for Frenchman Quartararo on the satellite Petronas Yamaha with six podiums having come his way, finishing second to Marquez on no less than four occasions with three of those coming in last lap shootouts.
A fifth pole position was taken in Malaysia after a series of record-breaking laps, one of which saw Marquez crash in his bid to keep up, and it looked as if he’d take his first ever MotoGP win particularly as team-mate Franco Morbidelli took second on the grid to strengthen the team’s cause.
However, it wasn’t to be and after slipping back to eighth on the opening lap he was never able to recover with brake issues cited as the cause for his eventual seventh place finish. It speaks volumes of the impression made by the 20-year old that such a finish is deemed a disappointment but his pace is without question.
Currently sitting in sixth place overall, Quartararo will get the same spec bike as the official Yamaha team of Vinales and Valentino Rossi in 2020 and, if he can maintain his progress, the battles between him and Marquez should be mouth-watering affairs. It’s a bold prediction but maybe, just maybe, he’s the one to stop the Honda rider winning a seventh MotoGP crown.
Dovizioso has already secured second overall to Marquez in the championship standings for the third year in a row but this year has seen the Ducati rider have less of an impact than previous seasons and he currently sits a whopping 139 points behind the Spaniard.
Dovi has battled hard at each and every round but has only taken two wins this season as he’s found himself in familiar territory this year, fighting it out for podiums at some tracks but down in sixth and sevenths at others, the Ducati’s fickle nature once more returning. When it works, it works but the window in terms of set-up is very small and if the sweet spot isn’t found the Ducati struggles.
He’s fared considerably better than his team-mate Danilo Petrucci though and since he took his maiden Grand Prix win on home soil at Mugello in June, the Italian has only featured on the podium one more time since. Indeed, the last six rounds have seen him post a best finish of only ninth, branding the Desmosedici ‘impossible to ride’ in Malaysia and although he still sits in fifth overall that’s largely due to his results in the opening seven rounds.
He’s perhaps fortunate to have retained his factory ride for 2020, awarded on the back of the Mugello victory, with Jack Miller out performing him on the Pramac machine on numerous occasions. The Australian has enjoyed a fine season and took his fourth podium of the season in Australia, being a prominent figure in the leading pack of late.
Brothers in arms
Whilst Marquez has been sweeping all before him in MotoGP, younger brother Alex has been quietly going about his business in the Moto2 category and after a mid-season run of five wins in six races, which saw him take a grip on proceedings, he duly clinched the championship – his first in the class but second in total – with second place in Malaysia.
Riding for the Marc VDS team, Alex has had to live in the shadow of his illustrious brother – no easy task – for some time now but just like 2014, when he won the Moto3 Championship, the two brothers have again become world champions in the same season.
The only brothers to win a World Championship, the two clearly have a strong bond and are always the first to congratulate each other in parc ferme but whether Alex will get an opportunity to compete again Marc, three years his elder, in MotoGP remains to be seen.
He doesn’t have the same wow factor his brother possesses nor the out and out talent so will again contest the middleweight category in 2020 but 12 Grand Prix wins and 38 podiums speak for themselves.
It’s been a mixed few rounds for the five British riders currently contesting the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 World Championships but Cal Crutchlow and John McPhee have enjoyed the best results with the former back on a MotoGP podium in Australia.
It’s been a tough season for the Isle of Man-based rider, starting the season far from fit and battling to adapt to the 2019 Honda RC213V, which only Marquez has mastered. His results have subsequently been up and down – comfortably in the top six one week but at the bottom end of the top ten the next. The Phillip Island circuit in Australia was scene of his near career-ending crash twelve months ago so it was a particularly sweet moment when he finished second to Marquez last month.
McPhee, meanwhile, has regularly been in the weekly dogfight in the Moto3 class where as many as 15 riders are often disputing the win! He may have been slightly disappointed not to have finished on the podium more often this season but he’s already secured fifth place in the championship, his best ever position in the class. The second Brit in the class, Tom Booth-Amos, took a career best eighth at Phillip Island as he strives to keep his spot on the grid for 2020.
Sam Lowes and Jake Dixon have found the going tough, for different reasons, in Moto2 with Lowes no doubt desperate for next season’s preparations to start where he’ll line up as team-mate to Marquez at the Marc VDS squad.
It’s a golden opportunity and one he needs to grasp with Jake Dixon also in a strong position next year having signed for the Petronas team. He’s performed solidly and will have learnt a lot in his maiden season on the World stage and next year will be all about putting that into practice.
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 Racing, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki, Dafabet Devitt Racing, John McGuinness, Lee Johnston and KMR Kawasaki. 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.