Ian Marsden considers the standings in the MotoGP series so far, as well as looking at how the riders are getting on in the World Superbike Championship
The early stages of this year’s MotoGP and World Superbike Championships have something in common: both are lead by the reigning champions.
So that’s Jorge Lorenzo in MotoGP, and Jonathan Rea in WSBK. On paper this at first glance looks like bad news for the remaining competitors, and that may well yet prove to be the case. However, neither rider has dominated the opening races in the manner they did on many occasions in 2015.
It is fair to say that once Lorenzo hit the front at the season opener in Qatar the result rarely looked in doubt. The positive for the remainder of the field was that he didn’t disappear into the distance as he did on many occasions last year, even if the final victory was by a fairly comfortable two seconds. Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso finished a credible second, Honda’s Marc Marquez finished third and last year’s winner Valentino Rossi fourth.
It was this week 20 years ago that a sixteen-year-old Rossi made his GP debut in the 1996 Malaysian 125cc race at Shah Alam, finishing sixth. He now goes to Argentina looking to repeat last year’s win and make it career GP win number 113. It was at this race last year where Rossi and Marquez first clashed; the pair came together shortly after Rossi had taken the lead on the last but one lap resulting in Marquez crashing.
A big positive from Qatar is that only two and half seconds separated the top four finishers; exactly what Dorna wanted from the introduction of control electronics. Worryingly though the next man to cross the line, Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, was almost a further 12 seconds adrift. Hopefully as riders become accustomed to the new electronics and Michelin tyres there will be more riders battling at the front.
One rider hoping for a repeat of last year’s result this weekend will be Brit Cal Crutchlow, who finished on the podium in third place last year. Whatever the result, this weekend should once again be intriguing as we see all the teams continue their acclimatisation to the new Michelin control tyres and control electronics.
2016 MotoGP standings to date
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 25 points
2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 20 points
3. Marc Marquez (Honda) 16 points
4 . Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 13 points
5. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 11 points
6. Maverick Vinales (Suzuki) 10 points
Moto2 and Moto3
The Moto2 race in Qatar was clouded in controversy, or was it farce? Seven riders including Britain’s Sam Lowes were penalised with ride-through penalties for jump starts. Lowes went on to put in what was probably the ride of the race, finishing a highly creditable ninth place. Fellow Brit and reigning Moto3 World champion Danny Kent finished sixth in his first race since returning to Moto2.
In Moto3 Scottish rider John McPhee finished 27th, 32.5 seconds behind the race winner Nicollo Antonelli.
World Superbike Championship
Jonathan Rea takes a 29-point lead to round three of World Superbike at the Motoland Aragon circuit in Spain this weekend, where race two will mark the 700th race in the series. Having won three from the four races so far this year, he has an identical record to this point last year.
The margins of victory however have been much closer than last year. It could be that Rea is still acclimatising to the all-new for 2016 Kawasaki ZX10. The competition has also improved; it had to following trailing the Kawasaki almost all of last season. Rea obviously wants to retain his title and in the process become the first rider to achieve back to back wins since Carl Fogarty in 1998 and 1999. What will also be driving Rea will be the fact that he narrowly missed out on claiming the record points gained in a season last year.
At Aragon last year the two race wins were shared by Rea and Chaz Davies on the Ducati, with the pair both claiming second places also. Davies’s main concern so far this season has been the top speed of the Ducati. He will have a new exhaust for Aragon with the hope that the deficit will be reduced.
The big surprise so far this year has been the performance of the Honda Fireblade. Particularly in the hands of Dutchman Michael van der Mark, who has claimed three podiums from the first four races. Team-mate and ex-MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden is yet to match the Dutchman’s pace but is showing signs of acclimatising to WSB and his Honda machine.
WSB 2016 standings to date
1 . Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 95 points
2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 66 points
3. Michael van der Mark (Honda) 65 points
4. Chaz Davies (Ducati) 55 points
5. Sylvain Guintoli (Yamaha) 40 points
6. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 35 points
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