MOTOGP: The Season So Far

Published: July 11, 2019

The MotoGP World Championship heads into its three-week summer break with a familiar look to it as Marc Marquez continues to dominate the series. What started out as an extremely close contest has subsequently become a benefit for the Spanish ace and he now leads the way by a formidable looking 58 points leaving his rivals with plenty of work to do.

Marquez dominates

Having won his previous nine German Grand Prix races, Marquez was always expected to go well around the tight Sachsenring circuit and so it proved with another sublime performance which left his rivals scratching their heads once more. It was his fifth win of the season and with three additional second place finishes, the only blemish on his record in 2019 is the spill he suffered at round three in America.

A good day for the Repsol Honda rider is taking the lead early and disappearing into the distance whilst a bad day is finishing second. That’s a pretty lethal combination and although there are still ten rounds to go, it’s one that will take some stopping.

As always, he’s riding on the absolute edge as the Honda continues to be a bit of an animal which no other rider has been able to fully tame but such are his skills, he’s able to push the envelope lap after lap, something that, seemingly, none of his rivals can do. If they try to match him in that way, they end up crashing and despite the halfway point of the series not even having been reached, that’s why it’s highly likely Marquez will take the 2019 MotoGP World Championship

Ducati fall back

After taking first and third place finishes at their home Grand Prix at Mugello, Ducati looked well placed to take the fight to Marquez once more particularly as perennial challenger Andrea Dovizioso was, at the time, just 12 points behind the Spaniard.

But since then, they’ve fallen off the pace with third place at Catalunya for Italian race victor Danilo Petrucci their only podium whilst Dovizioso has scored just 24 points compared to Marquez’ 75 – and in those three rounds, the title outlook has changed massively.

Both Assen and Sachsenring aren’t circuits that favour the Ducati machine but the Italian manufacturer can’t fall into their old habits with their GP19 working at some circuits and not others, it’s something they can ill-afford to happen if they want to fight for the championship. What’s worse at the moment is that they’re not able to finish second or third as they’re being out-performed by other riders and manufacturers.

Dovizioso admitted after the German round that he’s struggling to turn the bike hence him being at a disadvantage around the twisty Sachsenring but he also admitted that Marquez, for the moment at least, is simply at another level. The Italian will be glad of the break and will look to utilise the time off to improve the bike and come out fighting at Brno next time out. If he doesn’t, he can again wave goodbye to his chances of becoming MotoGP World Champion.

Vinales fights back; Rossi struggles

It’s been very much an up and down season for Yamaha with Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales having a reversal of fortunes as the season has unfolded. Whilst the Italian legend started his year with two second place finishes in the first three rounds to lie in second overall, Vinales was floundering with just 14 points to his name. But now the opposite is ringing true.

Three successive crashes for Rossi has seen him slip back to sixth in the standings and struggling to finish in the top six, the GOAT continually mystified by his lack of pace. However, there’s clearly nothing wrong with the M1 Yamaha has Vinales has turned his season around by winning in Catalunya and finishing second to Marquez in Germany.

He’s probably disappointed the break has come now when he’s in such a rich vein of form but for Rossi, it’s very much needed. Starting from the fourth row in Germany, he never made any major impression and finished in eighth some 20 seconds slower than his race of the previous year.

That’s almost a second a lap and with a lack of pace compared to everyone else, both he and his team will be analysing rider and machine performance of recent rounds to identify what’s holding them back and how they can get their season back on track.

Crashes halt Rins’ charge

Four rounds into the season, Alex Rins had taken his first MotoGP win and another podium finish to sit in second place in the table, just one point behind Marquez but like Dovizioso, the wheels have come off recently and a crash in Germany followed the same result in Assen at the previous round.

In Holland, he crashed out of the lead and at the Sachsenring he was lying in second place when he suffered a similar fate and he now finds himself in fourth overall and a whopping 84 points adrift of the lead. Unlike previous years though, the Suzuki is fast week in week out and it’s been two rider errors that have cost them rather than a lack of performance. That’s why the Spaniard remained upbeat despite his second consecutive DNF costing him two potential podiums.

“I lost a podium today,” he said afterwards. “Unfortunately, I lost the front on a fast right-hander, I entered into it just a couple of kilometres per hour faster than usual, and that’s why I crashed. It’s a shame but I still feel positive because my pace has been good recently and I know I can get good results again when we come back after the break.”

Crutchlow defies the pain – and the odds

It’s been a tough season so far for Brit Cal Crutchlow as he’s found the 2019 Honda RC213V to be a considerable handful, readily admitting Marquez is doing things with it no-one else can. Indeed, on occasion he’s been out-performed by team-mate Takaaki Nakagami who’s on board the more user-friendly 2018 model.

It looked like things had taken a turn for the worse two days before the Sachsenring when he stepped off his bicycle only to slip on some cobbles and break his tibia as well as damaging his knee ligaments. His chances of taking part in the weekend looked slim let alone managing a result but that’s exactly what he did with a superb ride into third place.

Never one for lacking determination or the British bulldog spirit it showed again that, on his day, Crutchlow is one of the best in the world and if he could just string some consistency together, podium finishes would be a more regular feature in his campaign.

The future?

The German round also played host to a bit of motorcycling history as the first ever MotoE World Championship race took place, the first of six races to take place this season. Races for electric motorcycles have been held at various venues already with a European Championship having been in place for a few years now whilst the Isle of Man TT has held the TT Zero race for a decade.

This was the first round though of an official World Championship with an 18-strong field of riders all on board identical bikes from the Energica manufacturer. With a mixture of former World Champions and riders with experience in all World Championship classes, it was former Finnish World Supersport rider Niki Tuuli who won the five-lap race ahead of Britain’s very own Bradley Smith and former 125cc World Champion Mike di Meglio.

Less than a second covered the leading four riders but whilst the jury’s still very much out on electric-powered motorcycles, there’s no doubt that it will someday be the source of power for all motorcycles. That may still be some years ahead but the progress of this year’s inaugural series will be eagerly watched.

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