If you want to see the supreme, utterly sublime, example of all that makes motorcycle racing the best sport in the world you have to watch MotoGP live. Re-mortgage your house, sell your kidney for organ donation or send your firstborn kid to work for $90 a month in the Chinese factory which makes your very expensive branded motorcycle clothing but, whatever it takes, get to see MotoGP from the trackside this season.
Since the first race is in Qatar, and attracts a crowd of less than 10,000, let’s assume that it will be a televisual experience for you. However, before you settle down in front of the TV on March 29, crack open a can of beer and dive into the family pack of nacho chips, let’s try to sort out the Machiavellian labyrinth which is the MotoGP rule book. The reason you need to have some understanding of the MotoGP regulations is that, sadly, they dominate the sport. It won’t be like this next year but it is in 2015 – so here we go.
Please don’t get your electronic baseball bat out of the cupboard because I am not necessarily talking about the rider who buys his Mum the nicest Mother’s Day card or who pets his dog with most affection. This discussion is limited purely and simply to who is going to win the 2015 MotoGP World Championship.
The answer to this question is extremely easy: it will be Marc Marquez. There are a range of reasons but they combine to make the young Spaniard the 4:9 favorite in the bookmaker’s eyes. If you’re not into gambling, this means that you have to give the bookie $9 to win $4 back. That’s what the professionals think about Marquez’s chances of becoming World Champion again.
To put this into perspective, Valentino Rossi will give you 7:1 odds whilst Dovi languishes at 18:1. Go down to the merely brilliant riders, as distinct from motorcycling deities and you get 200:1 for either Scott Redding or Cal Crutchlow or 500:1 for Nicky Hayden – and he’s already been a World Champion!
So what makes Marc such a certainty? None of the following reasons are in priority order because they all share equal importance. However, we have to start somewhere and Marquez has the best bike in MotoGP. He also has a team which knows how to win. If Forward Racing won a GP, they would barely know how to find the podium without a map. By contrast, Honda expects to be on Pole, set the fastest lap and to win. Contra-intuitively, this removes a lot of pressure from the rider. It’s just another day at the office and another win: business as usual…
Marquez is also a unique talent – and I use the word unique having been round GP racing for a long, long time. Not only is he an utterly gifted rider but he is comfortable with himself in the danger zone where GPs are won or lost. It’s a myth to say that he doesn’t make mistakes – he does, and sometimes huge ones. The difference between him and the rest of field is a supreme, God-given confidence that he can sort out any mess. The practical result of this hyper self-belief is that Marc will race closer to the edge of disaster, more often, than any other rider in the championship.
Finally, he has the same relaxed self-confidence which the Honda team exhibits. Marc expects to win in the same way as the sun is hot and water is wet: just because it is.
Yes, he can be beaten if the circumstances flow against him, and Lady Luck blesses other riders, but over 18 rounds it will be Marquez who will do the majority of the winning.
Second will be Jorge Lorenzo. He too is supremely, incredibly talented and, like Marquez, has a good team around him. The problem he faces is that he knows, if everything else is equal, Marc is a faster rider.
Jorge needs a little bit of help to beat Marc every weekend – and currently this isn’t forthcoming. Ideally, he needs a better bike but failing this the old Bridgestone tires which gave such incredible side grip. These tires allowed Lorenzo’s elegant, graceful style to carry the corner speed which gave him two MotoGP Championships. Lorenzo is the racer all motorcycle racers want to be, in terms of utter mastery of a motorcycle and, except for Marquez, he would be cruising to another World Championship.
Valentino Rossi will be third. Vale trains harder, does more preparation and aches to win more than ever – but his time has gone. For me, he is still one of the very best of all motorcycle racers but, although he might beat Marquez occasionally, he will never best him sufficiently often to win the title. Vale was the supreme rider of his generation – Marc the greatest rider of his generation.
Fourth place is very much up for grabs. For sure, Dani Pedrosa will be quick on the right day, on the right track and if he is free of injuries. How often will that happen? Not on many occasions. Dani is of Vale’s time and place. He could never win a World Championship when the opportunity was there, so there is no chance now.
This brings us to the two factory Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone. Dovi is another previous generation rider. He had a factory Honda and couldn’t get near to winning a Championship, so he will never do it on the current Ducati.
Remember that once Ducati do win, the regulations will penalize them so they have no chance of beating Yamaha and Honda. Dovi on the podium? Yes, with the new Gigi Dall’Igna designed GP15 expect to see this a few times.
I rate Iannone too. He is a fabulous rider and is Ducati’s future. If Gigi can do something remarkable with Audi’s development money then we might well see a Marquez challenger for 2016 – but not this year.
The final two contenders for fourth spot are the British pair of Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding – and I know both of them well. Cal is titanium tough. If he went for Special Forces training he would probably be thrown out for being too hard and aggressive. Will you see him on the podium? Yes, for definite.
Cal’s weakness is that he knows no fear, so his LCR mechanics had better be fond of re-building bikes. When he finishes he will do well – but expect a lot of gravel in the Honda’s radiators this year.
This brings us to Scott Redding. Ignore the pre-season test times completely, because in Redding’s case, they mean nothing at all. Scott is a methodical, intellectual rider who applies a cold, logical reasoning to racing. He is also brave, fast and has a very good motorcycle in the RC213V. Unlike Cal, he rarely crashes and has a proven record of being competitive against Marquez from their Moto 2 days. At 22 years of age, he is today’s rider and has his eyes set firmly on Pedrosa’s place in the Repsol team.
Perhaps most of all, with Marc VDS backing him, he is the center of attention in a team which has been his surrogate parent for many years. I am not a gambling man but I wouldn’t mind $10 on Scott taking fourth place by the end of the season.
Contributing Editor |Articles | Our Memorable Motorcycles expert, Frank Melling also is the organizer of the British vintage motorcycle extravaganza known as Thundersprint. Melling began riding five decades ago and remains as much in love with motorcycles as when he drove his first bike into a cow shed wall aged ten. In the last 50 years, Melling has competed in every form of motorcycle sport and now declares himself to be too old to grow up and be sensible.