Wheelies 30 – 28. Valentino Rossi (-20)

Our annual Wheelies 30 continues with a legendary figure.

If anyone said that Valentino Rossi will finish fifth this season, they would have been called mad. The sad reality of Rossi’s underperformance is far more complex than what we saw on our TV screens.

Though he had a reasonable first part of the season, with a gigantic win at Assen, he never was in a real position to fight for the world championship. Much more than that, Maverick Vinales dominated him throughout the whole year.

Definitely his bad performances were also technically related, as the Yamaha bike was underperforming, but he cannot blame entirely the team. Without his training crash prior to Misano, he would have had theoretical chances to win the championship.

Most likely, 2018 will be his last season. If the bike doesn’t deliver and if he doesn’t step up his game to fight against the young guns, Valentino Rossi will have no chance to win his desired tenth world championship. If he does, he will be once again a title contender as he was in 2015 when he deserved the big trophy.

 

Photo – Yamaha Racing

Wheelies 30 – 30. Alex Rins (New Entry)

Today we start the second edition of Wheelies 30, an annual top 30 which comprises the best riders of 2017 from all the motorcycling competitions throughout the world.

A rookie starts Wheelies 30. As a new entry in this top, Alex Rins seems a very good prospect for the future in MotoGP. The spanish rider had a difficult rookie year in the premier class.

He started the year on a high with a ninth place finish in Qatar, but after an injury, he missed several races. At mid point in the championship, he only had those seven points obtained at Losail.

The second half of the championship was much, much better for Rins. Several top five finishes and the unreal chance to fight for the win in Australia raised several eye brows. His best finish came in the last round, in Valencia, where he ended fourth.

We should not be mistaken by his championship place, as he managed to finished only 16th. In some of the races, he was a main eventer and he’ll definitely be a top gun in the years to come.

 

Photo – www.suzuki-racing.com

 

Valentino Rossi wins his sixth Monza Rally Show

Valentino Rossi won the Monza Rally Show for the sixth time in his career. The MotoGP legend drove a Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2016 spec. After a difficult first day, Rossi came back stronger and won the race.

Marco Bonanomi, a former Audi LMP1 driver, led before the last stage, but, after two off-track adventures, lost the rally by a very narrow margin, six seconds.

The podium was completed by the WRC duo, Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville. They took a dominant lead in the first day, but after a slow puncture, they lost every chance win the rally.

Another notable presence was Tony Cairoli. The MXGP world champion finished fourth and secured his best ever finish at the Monza Rally Show.

Rossi’s win was put in doubts after his car was found to be underweight. He received a ten seconds penalty, but he managed to keep his win.

 

Photo – Autosport

Livio Suppo leaves Repsol Honda

In a major announcement made today, Livio Suppo announced his departure from Repsol Honda. Suppo, who was the Team Principal, has left the team after a successful eight years stint.

In this time, he helped the team to win six constructors championship and five riders championship (four with Marquez, one with Stoner). Before his time with Honda, he worked for Ducati, where he was a main factor in their 2007 success.

Suppo, aged 53, signed with Honda in 2010 and worked as Marketing Director for three seasons. From 2013 onwards he was the Team Principal, a position he held until his resignation.

It is yet unknown who will replace Livio Suppo. Also, there is no information about his future appointments.

 

Photo – Motorcycle News

KTM interested in Johann Zarco for 2019

In a brief interview, KTM’s CEO, Stefan Pierer has suggested that the Austrian team is interested in Johann Zarco’s services from 2019 onwards. At the moment, both Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith are signed for 2018.

Pierer has also stated that he’s interested to motorise a client in order to improve the factory team development. Rumors within the paddock have suggested that Marc VDS will race with KTM engines from 2019 engines and Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder to the team.

Johann Zarco made his MotoGP debut at the beginning of 2017 with Monster Energy Tech3 Yamaha. The Frenchman won both the Rookie Of the Year and Best Independent Rider awards as he finished sixth in the final standings.

 

Photo – Yamaha Racing

Dani Pedrosa wins Valencia thriller, Marc Marquez grabs his fourth MotoGP championship

After a formidable battle throughout the three free practices and the qualifying session, Marc Marquez scored his eight pole position of the season. His championship rival, Andrea Dovizioso managed to secure a place only on the third row of the grid, finishing the Saturday timed practice only ninth.

The debut of the race brought serious drama. Johann Zarco nearly took out both of the Hondas and with two dashing passing maneveurs he led the first part of the race. Behind the Zarco-Marquez-Pedrosa trio, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso had an absurd battle for the fourth. Further back, Yamaha was once again in misery after a shocking weekend with disastrous results.

While the race progressed, the tension in the Valencian air was overwhelming. First to make a mistake was Marc Marquez. While trying to pass Zarco for the lead, he braked too late and saved a fall with his right elbow. Following the recovery, he came back fifth in the race, with no serious chance to win the race.

A few minutes later, Jorge Lorenzo made a stupid mistake in Turn 5 and he lost the bike. Unfortunately for him, he was out of the race. At this point, Andrea Dovizioso had promoted to third but his satisfaction was short lived.

Soon after Lorenzo’s childish mistake, Andrea Dovizioso went out after a similar crash. Following his incident, his theoretical championship chances were over. Therefore, Marc Marquez secured his fourth MotoGP world title in five years and his sixth overall world championship.

The last laps were also very tense. In front, Johann Zarco and Dani Pedrosa exchanged places very often and at some point they nearly took out each other. In the end, it was Pedrosa who won the race and Zarco who had to stick with the second place.

Far behind them, but with the championship already in his pocket, Marc Marquez completed the podium of the race, with a distant third. Behind him, Alex Rins did a sensational race and brought home his Suzuki in fourth ahead of the likes of Valentino Rossi, Andrea Iannone, Cal Crutchlow or Maverick Vinales, who eventually finished only 12th.

In the final championship standings, Marc Marquez wins his fourth MotoGP title with a total of 298 points, 37 more than Andrea Dovizioso, who had to settle for the runner-up spot. Maverick Vinales finishes third, while Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi are the other two riders within the top five.

The 2018 season will start in March at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. Before that, the MotoGP riders will have the first official taste of the 2018 bike on Tuesday and Wednesday, when the first tests for the upcoming season will take place.

 

 

Photo – Honda Racing Corpoation

Johann Zarco in 2017 – Rookie of the Year and Top Independent Team rider

After having matematically clinched the Rookie of the Year title in Australia, Johann Zarco offered another magnificent performance last Sunday at the Malaysian GP. The Frenchman finished 3rd, scoring his second podium finish in the premier class, thus securing the top Independent Team rider title. We will now make a short recap of Zarco s 2017 season.

Johann Zarco lined up 4th on the grid under the lights of the stunning Losail International Circuit for the first round of the 2017 season and his first GP as a premier class rider. The two-time Moto2 World Champion shocked the audience by taking the lead in the very first lap. The Yamaha Tech3 rider managed to slowly but surely get away from the other competitors, but, during the 7th lap of the race, disaster struck – the Frenchman slided out of the race.

This mistake could have seriously damaged his morale, as he threw away a great chance of winning his first ever MotoGP race – but this was not the case for Zarco. The 2015&2016 Moto2 World Champion impressed again in both Argentina and Austin, as he rounded up the top 5 on each occasion.

The first European round of the year, held at Jerez, brought another magnificent performance from the rookie, who finished as the best Yamaha rider and scored a new personal best in the class, a 4th place. This was a warining for the rest of the MotoGP pack that his first podium finish is approaching quickly.

And that was the case indeed, as Zarco scored his first ever podium finish in MotoGP in the very next round – his home GP in Le Mans. Starting from 3rd (his first front row start in the category), Zarco managed to defend his starting position thoughout the whole race, and, in the final lap, he was rewarded for his efforts, as he went up in P2 after the crash of Valentino Rossi. After this excellent result, Zarco increased his lead to 17 points ahead of teammate Jonas Folger, his main rival in the Rookie of the Year battle.

Zarco managed to increase this difference again in the next 2 races. A much more difficult Italian GP brought a 7th place finish for Zarco, but the Frenchman came back to the Top 5 in the next race. The Catalan GP brought a first one-on-one duel between Zarco and Folger. The German held 5th place for the main part of the race, but Zarco made a decisive move on him in the last lap and took P5 away from him.

Up next was the Dutch GP at the historic Assen circuit. Johann Zarco managed to achieve another milestone in that week-end, as he scored his first ever pole position. Unfortunately, race day was pretty much filled with disappointment. The race was a wet one and, after a few laps, Zarco entered the pits to put on the slicks, in the hope that the track might dry out. That was not the case and the Frenchman ended the race in P14.

The following GP at the Sachsenring was another tough one for Zarco, who qualified only 19th. However, he was at his best on race day and made his way through the pack to cross the line in P9. With Jonas Folger scoring an impressive 2nd place finish, Zarco entered the summer break with a slight 13 point lead over his teammate in the Rookie of the Year battle.

Another disappointing race followed in Brno, with Zarco finishing only 12th, but the rookie came back much stronger in Austria and Silverstone, where he finished 5th and 6th, respectively. Jonas Folger did not gather any points in these rounds, so the difference between the two Yamaha Tech3 riders increased considerably – 32 points.

A wet San Marino GP caused Zarco to struggle again, as the Frenchman finished 15th, clinching the last point available. The Aragon GP was a different story, with Zarco coming back in the top 10. He crossed the line in P9, with Folger outside the point zone in P16.

Zarco entered the Asia-Pacific triple header with a 33 point lead over Folger, when the sad news of the German s health problems were revealed. The German had been infected in the past with the Epstein-Barr virus and it seemed like it came back to him. He was taken to Germany for further check-ups, missing the Japanese, Australian and Malaysian GPs.

Zarco took advantage of this and scored his second pole position of the year in Motegi, converting it into an 8th place in the race.

The Australian GP was probably the most exciting race of 2017, with no less than 7 riders battling for the podium positions; and Zarco was one of them. The Frenchman was close to his second podium finish of the year, but he was pipped on the last straight by Maverick Vinales. However, the 4th place was enough to secure the Rookie of the Year title, as the difference between him and Folger increased to 54 points with only 50 up for grabs.

With no pressure on his shoulders at the Malaysian GP, Zarco cruised to his second podium finish of the year. He led the race for some laps, but he was then overtook by the Ducati Team duo. Nonetheless, he took 3rd and also secured the top Independent Team rider title. In this battle, which had not been a main objective for Zarco at the start of the season, he led Danilo Petrucci by 27 points before the Malaysian GP. With Petrucci crossing the line in P6, the difference became insurmountable before the last race of the year.

Irrespective of the result of the Valencian GP, Johann Zarco s rookie season remains a very successful one, filled with performances that no one thought Zarco would be capable of. If Zarco manages to keep himself at the same high level in 2018, he might become favourite to take over the place of Valentino Rossi in the Yamaha Movistar team after ”The Doctor” decides to retire.

photo credit – Moto Revue

 

Title fight goes down to the wire in the final round as Dovizioso wins in Sepang

Andrea Dovizioso got his 6th win of the current season on the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia. Jorge Lorenzo and Johann Zarco completed the podium. 

Rain made its appearance in the dying moments of the Moto2 race and persisted for some time, so the premier class race was declared wet.

Johann Zarco made an impressive start from 2nd on the grid and took the lead from Pedrosa after Turn 1. The poleman was also overtaken by Lorenzo, Marquez and Dovizioso.

The Frenchman managed to pull a gap between him and his followers, as a battle for 3rd emerged between the title contenders – Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso. Having shown on both Friday and Saturday an impressive rhytm at the venue in both dry and wet conditions, the Ducati rider rosed to the expectations and went past Marquez, leaving the championship leader uncapable of fighting back.

Now in 2nd and 3rd, the Ducati duo started chasing down the race leader. Zarco s tyre started to show signs of weakness and his pace dropped considerably. As a result, he was overtaken by both Lorenzo and Dovizioso.

Lorenzo managed to put a gap of more than one second between him and his teammate, but ”SuperDovi” was able to recover it. His mission was eased by a mistake made by Lorenzo in the final corner – the Spaniard ran wide and almost crashed.

From then on, Lorenzo did not cause any headaches to Dovizioso and the Italian got his 6th win of 2017. Jorge Lorenzo scored his third podium finish of the year and a new career best on the Ducati, while Johann Zarco impressed once again in his debut season and clinched the last step on the podium.

Marquez rode a solitary race in 4th, with teammate and poleman Dani Pedrosa completing the Top 5. Danilo Petrucci had an impressive comeback from the last place on the grid. The Italian climbed all the way up to P6, crossing the line ahead of Valentino Rossi. Maverick Vinales crossed the line only in P9, completing another terrible performance for the Yamaha Movistar team, who once again proved that they do not stand any chance in wet conditions. In P8, separating the Yamaha duo, was Jack Miller, while the Top 10 was rounded up by KTM rider Pol Espargaro.

After two difficult GPs in Japan and Australia, Alvaro Bautista came back to point ways with a P11 finish. Bradley Smith followed him in P12, completing another double point finish for KTM. The last points were snatched by Scott Redding, Hector Barbera and Cal Crutchlow.

Riders to have crashed during the race were Loris Baz, Karel Abraham, Sam Lowes and Alex Rins. All riders ok.

In the championship standings, with Marquez only fourth in the Malaysian GP, the difference between him and Dovizioso has been chopped to 21 points (282-261), with 25 still up for grabs. So, the fight goes right down to the wire in Valencia. Maverick Vinales has now secured 3rd, as he has 226 points, 29 more than Valentino Rossi, who will have to defend 4th against Dani Pedrosa, as the Spaniard sits only 12 points behind ”The Doctor”.

photo credit – www.andreadovizioso.com

Michael van der Mark will replace Jonas Folger at Sepang

After being absent in the last two rounds, Jonas Folger will also miss the Malaysian GP. Unfortunately, the german rider didn’t manage to cure his Epstein-Barr virus so far and he will most likely miss the last round of the season in Valencia as well.

Given this problem, Tech3 announced that Michael van der Mark will replace Folger at Sepang. van der Mark, aged 24, will finally make his MotoGP debut after being snubbed by Valentino Rossi’s return to action at MotorLand Aragon.

Initially, van der Mark was announced as the replacement rider for Rossi, but, given the italian’s sudden comeback, he was ruled out for the third spanish week of the season.

Michael van der Mark will make his MotoGP debut next week. The young dutch rider is currently riding for Yamaha in the Superbike series, where he is currently sixth in the standings.

 

Photo – Yamaha Racing

 

Marc Marquez wins Phillip Island thriller

After a dominating performance in the Saturday’s qualifying session, Marc Marquez seemed to be the main rider to watch today in the race. Although he did manage to get a confortable pole position, at the start, the main star was Jack Miller.

The local hero took a marvellous start and took everyone by surprise. His joy was short lived as Marquez who progressed through the field, came back and took back the lead.

When everything seemed to go on Marquez favour, three Yamaha riders chased him down. Valentino Rossi, Maverick Vinales and Johann Zarco took the lead at one point in the race. There were at least 20 lead exchanges in the race.

Behind them, Andrea Dovizioso, was in deep trouble. After a bad start, the italian lost several places and while battling his way through the field, he lost the contact with the main group, which was made up by eight riders.

With several laps left, Marquez regained his first place. Behind him, seven other riders had chances to win the GP. Rossi, Zarco, Vinales, Crutchlow, Iannone, Miller and Rins were still in the contention for the three podium places and subsequently for the race win.

In the end, Marquez won the race, with Rossi and Vinales finishing second and third. Zarco missed the podium in the last few meters of the race. The frenchman was passed by Vinales. For the fifth place, Cal Crutchlow had an intense battle with Andrea Iannone, which ended with the Brit finishing in front of the Suzuki rider.

Local hero Jack Miller finished seventh, while Alex Rins and the KTM boys, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith completed the top ten. Scott Redding and Dani Pedrosa finished 11th and 12th, while Andrea Dovizioso managed to finish only 13th in a disastrous weekend for him and for Ducati. Behind him, Karel Abraham and Jorge Lorenzo were the other two riders who managed to get some points today.

Marc Marquez extended his gap in the championship standings. Honda’s main star has now an advantage of 33 points in front of Andrea Dovizioso and he can mathematically grab his fourth MotoGP championship next week at Sepang. Maverick Vinales is third, but he lost every mathematical chance to win his maiden MotoGP world championship.

MotoGP will return back to action next week at Sepang for the penultimate round of the 2017 season.

 

Photo – Honda Racing Corporation