2016 Motegi MotoGP Round Up: The Path of the Sensei

Chasing down a championship lead can be both liberating and extremely stressful. On the one hand, your objective is simple: beat the rider who is leading the championship, and try to outscore them by as much as possible. On the other hand, you have to take more risk, as riding conservatively means you risk not scoring enough points to close the gap to the leader. Finding the balance between the two is always difficult.

Defending a championship lead is just stressful. The best way to defend it is to keep trying to win races, and make it as hard as possible for your rivals to catch you. But winning races means taking risks, and a crash can mean throwing away a big chunk of your lead in a single race. Riding conservatively is not necessarily an easier option: it is paradoxically harder to ride just off the pace than right on the pace, requiring more focus and concentration to manage the race. Giving away points every race can be like Chinese water torture, your rivals closing the gap with each drip. Tension rises every race, and containing it without bursting is extremely stressful.

The Motegi MotoGP race provided a perfect example of both of these situations. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo came into the Japanese Grand Prix knowing that they had to win the race if they were to retain any hope of keeping the 2016 MotoGP title out of Marc Márquez' hands. The job was significantly easier for Rossi than for Lorenzo. Outscoring an opponent by 52 points in four races is easier than trying to make up a deficit of 66 points. Conversely, that put more pressure on Rossi: keeping an achievable target within reach makes winning paramount.

Mission Impossible

Going into Motegi, the calculations were simple. Valentino Rossi had to win the race, and hope for enough competition behind him to put at least three bikes between himself and Marc Márquez. Jorge Lorenzo had to win the race, and pray for a miracle, or discretely hope for a problem or DNF. (Riders never want another rider to crash, but they will take a mechanical for their rivals any time they can get it.) Marc Márquez had to keep Rossi and Lorenzo in sight, limit the damage, and try to make lifting the title at Phillip Island as easy as possible. As far as Márquez was concerned, winning the title at Motegi was impossible. Winning the race, on the other hand, was not.

Márquez turned out to be half right. Not only was he able to win the race at Motegi, but he was also able to lift the 2016 MotoGP title. The first part is all his own achievement. The second part, well he had a little help with that. But he had a hand in that too. When asked at the special championship press conference held after the main press conference, Márquez gave up the key to 2016, and the key to the outcome of the Motegi race. "The others made mistakes, but it's like last year," he said. "If nobody pushes me, I will not make a mistake. So this year, I push right on the limit, so the others make a mistake."

Márquez started applying pressure from the start. He made a strong start, but was beaten to the holeshot by Jorge Lorenzo, the Movistar Yamaha rider setting out his ambition from the off. Lorenzo pushed hard to make a break, opening the smallest of gaps to the chasing horde. Behind him, Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi fought a fierce battle over second for a couple of laps, with Márquez coming out on top. With a firm grip on second, Márquez closed down Lorenzo and sliced underneath the Yamaha at Turn 9, holding his line tight enough to ensure he could defend the lead into Turn 10.

Upping the pressure

Márquez leading the race left Rossi in a tough position. He had his teammate between himself and Márquez, and his goal, he said after the race, was victory, nothing less. His problem was that while Lorenzo was fast, he wasn't fast enough to stay with Márquez. Ahead of him, the gap was opening to the Repsol Honda, and Rossi was stuck behind the high speed roadblock of Lorenzo. He had to get past his teammate, and then he had to close down Márquez.

Getting past Lorenzo was not easy. The Mallorcan had dithered over his front tire choice, eventually going with the medium, after a good feeling with it in FP4. He had preferred the soft, but the warmer conditions swayed his choice. It proved to be the wrong one. After the race, he complained of a lack of confidence in the front and a vibration from the tire. That prevented him from pushing as hard as he wanted.

Getting the rubber right

It is not the first time Lorenzo has complained of a vibration from the front tire, especially with harder compounds. The combination of the Yamaha M1, Jorge Lorenzo's high corner speed style, and the harder Michelins seems to create vibration at the front end. Where the fault lies in that matrix is hard to say. But the fact that neither Lorenzo nor Valentino Rossi have won a race on the Yamaha M1 since early June, when the Italian won at Barcelona, suggests there is an underlying problem with the Yamaha. In the first seven races, Yamaha was victorious five times. In the eight races since, they have not won once. Five podiums in eight races, but zero wins.

Yamaha's front end vulnerability would manifest itself with disastrous consequences once Valentino Rossi got past his teammate. With the gap to Márquez nearly a second, Rossi pushed on to chase Márquez down. A measure of how hard he was pushing was that he set his fastest sector time for the second sector on lap 7. Three corners later, the front end washed away, and Rossi's title challenge ended in the gravel. He remounted and rode the bike back to the pits, where his team looked at his bike. But Rossi had given up. "Today, I wasn't interested in second place," he told Italian media.

Rossi had no explanation for his crash. He had been checking the lap and sector times on his dash, and they were about the same as in previous laps. He was trying to catch Márquez, he said, but he had no intention of trying to pass him in one lap. The crash had happened without warning. He had used the same line, and the same speed as on previous laps, but the front was simply gone.

Finding the limit

The only explanation which Rossi could give was the front tire. The medium was a little too hard for the Yamaha, and he had been able to find the perfect setting with the bike. With that tire, he was always on the limit, and in such cases, the smallest mistake is punished mercilessly. The soft front was too soft, and therefore not an option.

The reason that Rossi had been on the limit with the medium front is because the pace of Márquez left him no choice. Rossi knew what he had to do, and he gave his all to try to do it. Rossi's error was small, but it was fatal to his title hopes. Killed by the combination of the knife edge Michelins and Yamaha's stagnant development of the M1 chassis.

One down, one to go. When Márquez saw 'ROSSI OUT' on his board, he knew it was time to push for the win. The pace he had shown in practice translated into the race, quickly opening a gap over Lorenzo. That, in turn, spelled trouble for the second Movistar Yamaha rider.

Rearguard action

For behind Lorenzo, a chasing trio was closing. Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso was leading a brace of Suzukis, with Aleix Espargaro eventually ceding precedence to his teammate Maverick Viñales. The gap hovered around a second for seven laps, but with two thirds of the race gone, Lorenzo's pace began to falter. Dovizioso closed to within half a second, and then Lorenzo's front end folded as well.

The Italian had seen that Lorenzo was struggling. "I saw Lorenzo riding in a strange way," he said afterwards. But the crash was down to a mistake by the Spaniard. "He touched the white line with the front tire." That has been something of a characteristic of the Michelins this year. "You have to be very careful to avoid the white line," he said.

According to Dovizioso, the crashes of both Yamahas were down to the layout of the circuit and the need to push. "The characteristic of the tire is we have a lot of grip on the rear, but it is not easy to manage on the front," he said. With all of the hard braking at Motegi, it was easy to just slightly miss a braking point and enter a corner a couple of km/h faster than normal. "They didn't do anything very bad," Dovizioso said the Movistar Yamaha crashes, "but the limit is very close and it is difficult to feel when you go over the limit."

Holding it together

Lorenzo had fallen with five laps to go. When Márquez crossed the line and saw 'LORENZO OUT' on his pit board, he nearly lost his head. He had come to Motegi not expecting to win the title, telling reporters he wasn't even sure his team had brought the celebratory t-shirts, presuming that he would get his first real shot at reclaiming the title at Phillip Island. Seeing the championship there for the taking, he forgot where he was. "Honestly, when I saw Lorenzo was out I forgot everything. I missed a gear three, four, five times in the lap. I didn't know which circuit I was at!"

His confusion showed up in the lap times. From doing low 1'46s, he was suddenly lapping six, seven, eight tenths a lap slower. Eventually he recomposed himself, put his head down and focused on finishing the race. His gap to Dovizioso was big enough to allow him the luxury of confusion.

The thrill of victory

Márquez crossed the line with an explosive release of joy. In many ways, winning the title when he hadn't expected it made for a purer, more honest reaction. In most cases, riders arrive at a particular track with a good idea they will be champion when they leave. They have spent the weeks leading up to the race building up expectations, and confronting the emotions of the title. They have had time to plan and prepare celebrations, and run through the various situations in their minds.

So when they do finally cross the line, after the initial thrill of winning, the celebrations can seem a little bit forced. It all feels very contrived and controlled, a reenactment of what the riders believed they would feel, rather than the pure, unadulterated pleasure at winning. This is why, quite frankly, so many championship celebrations are so thoroughly awful. At best they are bland, at worst they are painfully awkward, and if we are lucky, they are at least mildly quirky.

When Marc Márquez finally crossed the line, he had only raw, undiluted joy. It was obvious in every fiber of his being, in every movement, every gesture. Being a professional motorcycle may be many fans' dream job, but the reality is it is a difficult, exhausting, slog. Hours of physical training every day, riding motocross, supermoto or flat track at the very limit, the constant nagging pain of injuries picked up in the inevitable crashes, the sheer mind-numbing tedium of international air travel, hanging around at airports, hanging around in aircraft, hanging around in hotels.

Yes, you get to ride the fastest motorcycles in the world, but only ever at breakneck speed with the constant knowledge that you are a millisecond away from serious injury. When you ask riders at this level if they are having fun, they usually hesitate, have to think, before trying to persuade themselves that they are. Being a MotoGP rider is physically damaging and mentally draining.

Joy unrehearsed

The reason riders put themselves through that torture is for the few, fleeting moments of release which come with winning. Valentino Rossi is most expressive on this front, speaking of the "taste of victory", words usually accompanied by an involuntary movement of his hands to his lips. It is a very visceral, physical thing, this taste. And it is at its purest when it comes fully earned, yet unexpected.

Valentino Rossi is famous for his celebrations, be they for wins or for championships. But my favorite Rossi celebration came at Welkom in 2004, after his first race on the Yamaha when he beat Max Biaggi on the factory Honda. He had not expected to win, so he parked the bike at the side of the track, got off and sat with his back against the armco, head down, his shoulders shaking. He would say later that he was laughing with joy inside his helmet. To us, it looked like he was crying with joy. No matter. It was joy. It was the reason why racers race. The sweet taste of victory.

Mature Marc?

Where did Márquez' championship victory come from? It came from the lessons he learned in 2015, from the title he threw away by crashing out of the early part of the season. It was the hardest lesson of his life, but it laid the basis for 2016. Márquez learned to take risks in practice, not in races, crashing just as often, but only when it didn't count. He learned to be patient, to surrender the battle to give himself a better chance of winning the war. He learned to pick his moments, to push when he had something to gain, to be more conservative when he had something to lose.

His patience had been tested from the start. The bike was not competitive at the start of the season, but he had told HRC's engineers to trust in him in the early part of the season, and he would trust in them for the second half. His trust was rewarded, Honda getting to grips with the spec electronics, and modifying swingarms and other parts to give him enough feeling to overcome the weaknesses of the RC213V.

There had been several key moments: switching to the large wings, which he tested after Brno and used from then on, which helped in acceleration. Electronics improvements, which HRC had brought around the same time. Márquez had learned a lot from losing to Valentino Rossi, about managing the front tire. "After Montmelo, I started to understand a little bit," he said. "I saw a few things behind Valentino. That was the first race I followed him for many laps, he knows the Michelins very well, and I saw a few things." Ironic, almost, that Rossi should be the mentor to the man he hates most.

School of hard knocks

The 2016 championship is testament to the transformation of Marc Márquez. In 2013 and 2014, Márquez proved to the world his incredible talent and ability. In 2015, he learned to lose, and that added the maturity which had been missing. In 2016, Marc Márquez became a very complete motorcycle racer, capable not just of winning races, but also of managing a championship.

That elevated him into an elite group, becoming the youngest rider to win three MotoGP titles, and five Grand Prix championships. He matched his teammate Dani Pedrosa's total for MotoGP wins with 29, and surpassed Mick Doohan for total Grand Prix wins with 55. He is still only 23 years and 242 days old.

They say the 2017 Honda RC213V has a much more user-friendly engine, which sacrifices nothing in horsepower. That should be enough to strike fear into the hearts of the competition. There could be plenty more wins and plenty more titles to add to his name. He is not yet done with the record books.

Opportunity squandered

If Márquez earned his 2016 title – which he unquestionably did – he was helped in no small part by the failings of the Movistar Yamaha riders. Here, too, the roles were reversed: in 2015, Lorenzo and Rossi fought a season-long battle which came down to consistency, while Marc Márquez threw his championship chances away early. In 2016, Márquez plugged away at scoring points, while Rossi and Lorenzo found new ways to throw the championship away.

Valentino Rossi crashed at Austin, crashed at Assen, then crashed in Japan. Sure, he also had an engine blow on him – a consequence of trying to match the speed of the Ducatis and Hondas along Mugello's long front straight – but it was the three DNFs which cost him most dearly. Without them, he would be within a handful of points of Márquez, and we would be talking about how Yamaha had cost him the championship because of the engine blow up at Mugello. Instead, it is Rossi who threw this season away, starting in Austin. That had been his mistake, he told reporters, when he had tried to force his M1 to turn too tightly and hit a bump he knew was there. Assen had been a mistake with the tires, pushing too hard when there wasn't enough grip. And Motegi? By then it was really too late, and he was having to push beyond his comfort zone just to stay in with a chance.

When strength becomes weakness

Jorge Lorenzo, on the other hand, has simply been too erratic. Lorenzo depends so much on high corner speed that he needs tires that give him good feedback from the front and a good feeling on the edge. The 2016 Michelins have changed too much during the year for Lorenzo to exploit his millimeter-precise style. When the tires have been right, and the temperatures have been right within the operating window of the Michelins – one of the two biggest weaknesses of the French tires, along with a lack of feedback from the front – Lorenzo has been unbeatable. When the tires haven't been suited to the conditions, then Lorenzo hasn't been able to adapt his style enough to use the potential of the tires.

That has been most apparent in the wet. It took Lorenzo until Silverstone to truly get his head around the Michelin wet tires, a process which hard started in earnest at Brno. But by then, he had scored two shameful results at Assen and the Sachsenring, and then exacerbated the situation with confusion over tires at Brno. Add in a crash he caused in Argentina, and being taken out by Andrea Iannone at Barcelona, and Lorenzo had given up any chance of being competitive.

In 2017, Michelin are bringing a new front tire which the riders tested at Brno, and raved about. That should solve many of the problems both Rossi and Lorenzo complain about. There is hope for a competitive championship in 2017 yet.

What matters most

There is much more to write about Motegi than just the entwined fates of Marc Márquez, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. There is a solid second place from Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati. Another superb podium from Maverick Viñales, and an excellent ride by Aleix Espargaro, both Suzuki riders showing just how much that bike has improved. There was Cal Crutchlow gambling on the hard front tire, and demonstrating that he is the best non-factory rider on the grid.

There are the Aprilias, both inside the top ten, and Alvaro Bautista showing that both he and the bike are really starting to become competitive. There is a ridiculously brave ride by Bradley Smith, who has no business being on a motorbike with his leg in the shape it's in. There is a solid ride by Mike Jones, who finished his first MotoGP race on one of the most difficult bikes on the grid, the Ducati GP14.2. Not forgetting Moto2 and Moto3.

All this deserves coverage, and that will come in the future. But today, we saw history being made, and that deserves to be at the center of attention. Marc Márquez became the 2016 MotoGP champion, clinching the title in the best way imaginable, at a race where he thought it was impossible. The Honda RC213V is still not the best bike on the grid, but it is no longer the ugly duckling with the vicious nature. Honda have turned a snarling, unpredictable monster into a wild beast that can be tamed. And if ever there were a rider to race to victory on the back of a bucking dragon, it is Marc Márquez.


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Total votes: 261
Total votes: 174

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Comments

Did not see that result coming.  Marquez is more intelligent than I think some people give him credit for.  There have been complaints in the past of his dangerous riding, but he shows that he has learned from the past.  He consistantly learns from his mistakes, even when he does not feel he has done anything wrong.  This year shows that he has taken a further step forward in his race craft maturity.  He has definitely earned this title.  Lorenzo has seemed quite disgusted with a few things.  Rossi has improved his speed and truly become Championship level speedwise again.  But he has made too many mistakes by his own admission.  Which means he has thrown away all the progress he has made as a rider on his own.  Still a Rossi fan above being a fan of every rider on the grid.  But have to admit that was a huge disappointment seeing him crash out.  Glad he admitted to making a mistake in his interview after the race.  But the amount of mistakes he made this year is too much for a man of his experience.  Congrats to Marquez for becoming the 2016 Champion.  He has many more years to go, looks like Vinales MIGHT be his future rival judging by how well he is doing on that Suzuki.

Total votes: 186

I felt that Marquez's 2016 championship celebration was more "real".  His celebration at Motegi in 2014, just felt weird, samurai warrior, sword, cutting a balloon free with the red smoke.  Was just weird to me.  Today, it was just pure, unadulterated, joy.  Was refreshing to see.

Total votes: 208

"... and Yamaha's stagnant development of the M1 chassis."

Ooh, you went there. Harsh but true.

Total votes: 172

It's been a simply incredible season by Marquez. His legend continues to grow as each season passes. It's scary to think since 2010 he's only lost two championships, and one could argue he probably should've won Moto2 in 2011 were it not for the practice accident in Malaysia.

It's very easy to forget as well, that eye injury had a real possiblity of being career ending. That would've been an utter travesity to see such talent gone to waste if he'd had to call it a day. Not only did he shake that off immediately the following season, but he success has been simply relentless. He just wants it that bit more than anyone else on the track.

Before Mugello 2010, he'd never won a race. Now he's already onto 55! If he carries on this rate of success, he could end up around 110 wins by 2023, at the age of just 30. Of course, that's all totally hypotheticial, but it does make you wonder what more will he go onto achieve? How many races can he go on to win? How many more titles will there be? Will he still have that same hunger and desire?

What I'm really interested to see is whether some point later in his career, he'll leave Honda and try and win somewhere else. It would make for an amazing spectacle, trying his luck on another bike. Right now, there's no need to move. He's number 1, has a team that fully supports him, provides him with everything he needs to get the job done, plus he has age on his side. But at some point, he's surely going to want a fresh new challenge in his life, just like what Rossi and Stoner did and what Lorenzo is doing next year.

That, along with all his ambitions must surely be the one he'd love to achieve the most, being able to win another title for another manufacture. If he ever manages that, he would have every right to challenge Rossi for the GOAT tag.

So much achieved already, and best of all, there's still so much more to come from him. What a season it's been. Can't wait for Phillip Island next!

 

Total votes: 191

The Thrill of Victory - That deserves an article of it's own David. Well written piece.

I was thinking just the same thing, Marquez's celebration and the burnout was as pure as Rossi's celebration after his first win on the M1 (I have a huge poster of that in my bedroom). This is why racers race and we love them.

Total votes: 183

To race and win is an incredible feeling you never forget.  To race and lose is equally unforgottable.

Total votes: 193

Maybe it's time for Dorna to look at BSB (Brittish Superbike) and their way of keeping the championship exciting untill the last race?

There would still be the same top riders competing for the title but more excitment for us.

Total votes: 192

The last few years I drifted a bit away from BSB (cost too much time to follow MGP, WSBK, BSB :) )... and although I agree it keeps the championship chase alive and exciting, I couldn't overcome the feeling of it being too artificial. A big chunk of the championship seemingly nullified and crammed in a few races at the end.

Total votes: 187

Be that as it may, I've heard that the series is getting record attendance at a lot of the races, and the sheer number of different bikes and riders winning shows that they are doing something right. Would actually place it above WSBK in the pecking order in terms of entertainment and quality of racing a lot of the time! So would definitely give some time to it, you are missing out :)

Although don't think that format of a shoot-out should be ported over. Some elements are (ubiquitous electronics systems, reductions in data engineers allowed etc.) which I think has helped with the greater parity of machinery and wider spread of results in GPs this year. 

Total votes: 192

maybe next season I'll tune in again wink
BSB was one series my girlfriend (recently wife) was actually interested in lol she even proposed to go to Assen that year. Regularily saying during the season: "These guys are nuts!". Going to a BSB race in GB is still on our bucket list.

 

Total votes: 166

It is an artificial championship conspired in the name of money. Real bike racing fans have no problem with a championship no matter how it plays out, but the fringe fan who cant seem to concentrate on the big picture needs to be entertained.  

Total votes: 181

My favourite BSB season is 1999 - still got the VHS tape, and yes I still watch it once a year. It is that good :)

Seriously, BSB has ALWAYS been the most insane motorcycle circuit racing series on the planet, and they really didn't need to implement the shoot out to keep it that way. The riders and tracks are what make it what it is.

Total votes: 176

The season has been nothing else but thrilling so far. Marc Márquez' winning the title again is much deserved. It's such a delight to see him wrestling the Honda, in a way that would almost make Kevin Schwantz look like a clean rider. Three more races to go this season. Surely, the other guys will be dedicated to beat the new champion. Can't wait to see the who will win.

Total votes: 182

After Friday FP2, I for one was at 80% confidence level that Marquez would wrap the title up on Sunday. It was great to see it transpire. All things considered it was one of the most deserved and hard earned titles recent GP history has thrown up.

Love them or hate them, HRC, with clearly the worlds #1 MGP racer came off a shoddy, if somewhat unknown base at the beginning of 2016 to chip away at what appeared to be the real mission impossible for the team. Well done Marc Marquez and HRC.

Dovi had a much deserved, incident free and very well executed race as did young Maverick. Looking at the current points standings, one can only reflect where Dovi would be standing right now without Iannone, mechanical issues and blah. He would have probably been sitting a debateable 3rd. Big shout out again to Aprilia. Hector Barbera? I'm glad he got the ride and Ducati have kept faith in him for PI. He could so easily have boxed, but he saw the rest of the race as a learning process on the factory bike, so credit to him.

The Rossi/Lorenzo front end folds remind one of the Stoner front end folds back then. Back then, Stoner sucked up the media flack, not Ducati. Now, the Yamaha chassis is coming in for moderate flack, not the riders. So, when under championship pressure at Yamaha, the riders' technical explainations are plausible and the rider data is wholeheartedy accepted as being 100% consistent by the media. When Stoner was racing for Ducati, he put himself on the floor according to the mainstream media back then.

Dovi actually got the whole thing right without him using the exact words: Yamaha's woes were a result of rider errors in judgement. Their ambition outweighed their tallent, so to speak. Ouch! The irony.

Total votes: 218

MM93 told BT Sport's Neil Hodgson that now that the championship is all dealt with he can go back to his win or strawbails attitude to racing.

Could be interesting: 14 points separating VR46 and JL99 for runners up spot. Imagine if MM93 dices with VR46 and JL99 gets a race win that secures 2nd...

Total votes: 186

I wonder if, looking back years from now, this will be the season we point to when determining where Marquez became an absolute legend.  He brought incredible talent to his first MotoGP race, and in his second year looked absolutely indestructible, but this year he demonstrated how well he can adapt his riding style and, maybe more importantly, his temperament, when needed.  

He had a miserable year last year, not just in terms of the racing and crashing but the huge mental strain of his battle with Rossi and the accompanying reactions from fans and media.  I think that combined stress could have crushed many riders, but Marquez responded with a nearly flawless season this year.

I'm not an ardent fanboy of any one rider at the expense of another, and I want to see close racing, but I gotta respect Marquez' ability to wrap up the championship 4 races before the end, and although I know the future is unpredictable I'm not betting against Marquez anytime soon.  

Total votes: 212

but I'll disagree on one point David. It sure didn't start the season that way but recent evidence would suggest the RC213V has slowly but surely morphed into the best bike on the grid.  

I half suspected as much with Crutchlow's complete reversal of fortunes but it was confirmed when Marquez block passed Rossi at Aragon.  Rossi sensed Marquez was coming through and attempted the classic "over and under".  The sight of Rossi pulling alongside Rossi's rear wheel was a pivotal moment for me, because from a virtual standstill that was as close as he ever got down the next chute with the Honda actually having a slight edge.  There could not have been a better demonstration of Honda's success in battling their previous acceleration woes.     

So with Marquez, Crutchlow and to a certain degree Pedrosa all in the ascendency, and Rossi, Lorenzo, Pol Espargaro and Smith all struggling on the M1 the writing is on the wall for Yamaha, and things look decidedly grim for 2017.

Total votes: 193

The RCV's acceleration defecit doesn't affect as much when the track is low grip

Total votes: 158

Its a fine line these riders tread. If MM had fallen during his high speed gravel trap excursion in Germany, if his front end loose at Silverstone put him on the floor not just off the podium the narative would be different. Good fortune is a funny thing. Just ask Dovi.

Total votes: 211

He did a 'Bradbury' in a lot of ways this season, definately on form with a lot of luck, but I'm not buying into all of the predictable hype right now, Marc's mid-season was pretty ordinary-as was the start, Yamaha self-destructed under the weight of a very nasty garage atmosphere, so much talk lately of tests and 'one' pass at Misano-both issues ridiculously over-hyped by the media and definately caught with their pants down by Honda who have improved that bike a lot. I'm still looking forward to the next few races-there will be some surprises.

Total votes: 224

Marc won two of the first three races and finished the other on the podium. How was "his start ordinary"? He had a run of few races when he made bad tyre choices. But he still finished in top four and the best one was finishing on tje podium in Brno, riding on a marshmallow.

Total votes: 185

RC became best bike on the grid, good fortune, sure whatever. Marquez rode an excellent season and deserves the crown. Period.

Total votes: 202

"Underlaying problem with the Yamaha" is phrased strongly perhaps. Here at Motegi the bike is simply not well suited. Rossi and Lorenzo pushed it too far on the brakes in an effort to catch the primary underlaying problem for Yamaha...Marquez on a much improved Honda.

With Lorenzo heading to Ducati I look forward to the Yamaha development for next year. Perhaps it will be more balanced and less wheels-in-line corner speed only. It looks so very frustrating to try and pass the Honda on a Yamaha. When I re-watched 2015 races that really stuck out. Marquez passes Rossi and grabs brakes such that a bike is crossed up across a line and a half in front of the Yamaha. Excruciating! Honda will move forward and have The 93. Ducati is not sitting still, and the Duc - Lorenzo combo is an interesting (if also complicated) prospect. Yamaha? Better keep at it friends. Average Rider, I am with you and then some re confidence in the Yamaha - Vinales marraige. Here comes something to behold.

Anyway, hats off to Marquez for a much deserved title. Motegi showcases his strengths, he was brilliant. And beautiful! Rear wheel off the ground an inch through turn in? The kid is really something special. Binder, same said for you. Great article David. The battle for second will be fierce and I look forward to it, particularly at PI.

Re the person that asked why one would look fwd to a #27 PI return, there are a few things a bit different in this case for me. He stopped so early in age and career. He is still a test rider. He wanted to last yr and didn't get the opportunity. The rider and track have a strong affinity/fit. And the bike is so good relative to who is on it currently. It would be better if he has had more time on the bike recently and stronger fitness of course. If Chaz Davies gets a go I would be pleased too.

Hey - anyone have particular info pertaining to the Suzuki electronics/bike thriving so dramatically in the cold relative to the normal temps?

Total votes: 186

"If Chaz Davies gets a go I would be pleased too." - now there's something I hadn't considered. Chaz and Casey are great mates, Chaz is kicking it on the WSB Panigale - Chaz on Ianonne's bike at PI would be something special!

Total votes: 181

Honda, suzuki, and aprilia improved a lot this season, meanwhile yamaha & ducati stagnate. M1 still so bad at cold race which proved fatal since there are many races with cold temperatures this season, unfortunately until now they can't even fix it yet. M1 struggle building heat into their tyres, thus make them incapable of using harder tires compared to honda. Just look at Tech 3 Pol Esp, at the 1st half of the season he was competitive but after all other manufacturers improving their bikes he was barely inside top 10 now. Meanwhile honda satellites got 2 win and a second podium.

Total votes: 179

It is almost as if Honda decided to do no homework before the season, deciding that since the tires and software would be in flux and would bear little resemblence to what they will see, they decided to wait until the first race to begin tuning. I also wonder if Honda is (legally) using some of their "smart" sensors with the standard software, which actually give them greater capability than teams using dumb sensors and the standard software.

Total votes: 162

...and a great time to be a fan of the sport.  

Despite Marquez's otherworldly talents, I have a hard time imagining how things won't only get tougher for him?  The way I see it, the field is even more difficult to surpass next year.  I don't think there's any reason to panic about Yamaha yet.  To my knowledge, neither Rossi nor Lorenzo have griped about the bike - only the tires.  At the start of the season, it was the best bike on the grid, according to so many in the media.  Michelin have only improved since then, so it does not stand to reason that Yamaha have regressed.  Only one rider with poor fortune and mistakes, along side another rider with confidence issues, are to blame for Yamaha, as a manufacturer, being "inferior" to the Honda, in my opinion.

Rossi was as much a threat for the title this year as he was last year, if not more so.  He was on pole this weekend, let's remember.  I have no reason to think he'll be any slower next year.  Vinales as his teammate is really intriguing, and likely to be a bigger concern for MM next year as well.  

Suzuki, as a manufacturer, have made huge strides. Add to that Iannone, who will be competitive, and an occassional threat to MM and any other potential podium finisher.  

Lorenzo is still TBD on the Ducati, but likely that he will at least be competitive here and there throughout the season.  

And will we see more of Crutchlow's last-half performance into next year?  If so, what might that mean to the title contenders, taking away valuable points here and there?

MM will have his hands full, no doubt.  Perhaps more so than this year.  Funny to think he wrapped up the title with 3 races to go, but I'd say his campaign this year was far from dominant.  

Total votes: 174

Crutchlow - thanks for mention of #35 and his solid performance. He is doing a solid job! Qualifying at Motegi he was less than 3 tenths off of an on - form Marquez.

How many tenths do you think the factory bike is good for over the satellite?
Yep.

And who is getting the factory ride at Phillip Island? Hayden. I wish it were Cal.

Contrast what riders are doing in displaying the potential of the Ducati. I am anticipating cheering on Lorenzo next year, and this is an odd consideration for me!

Eyes turn to our Moto2 front runners and a new up and comer. Zarco/Rins, come on in, the water is scalding hot!
;)
***** for your post Evan, although I disagree that next yr will be tougher than this yr for Marquez. Here's why. The Honda arrived for 2016 as unusually VERY tough to ride. Second, Marquez's experience with the shite cascading from the Rossi clash was deeply destabilizing and troubling. I see your point for the longer view though!

Total votes: 159

How competitive was Dovi vs other aliens while on a factory bike? My recollection is not very, and generally many many seconds behind Stoner and Pedrosa, who are in a similar class to Lorenzo. 

Point being that Lorenzo on the Ducati this year was potentially worth 4 or 5 wins given where Dovi finished. biggest question is just how sensitive to a bike turning is Lorenzo? My opinion is that he will adapt and be far better than Dovi on a bike that is often a high podium near race winning finisher with solid but not quite alien riders. 

lorenzo will be a huge threat for the championship...in my opinion. 

Total votes: 157

Very fair points, and points which I tend to lean towards, myself.  I believe at minimum, he'll be competitive on a handful of tracks next year, but it will be perhaps just as likely that he will be competitive at most or all tracks.  The latter is my hope.  I'd like to see both he and the manufacturer shine.  

I think Iannone showed what a composed (when he was), talented rider can potentially achieve on the Ducati.  Hopefully the winglet ban doesn't have too great an adverse impact on the bike's inherent advantage.  Otherwise, Lorenzo should get on nicely with it.  

@ Motoshrink - good points as well.  There certainly was a lot of peripheral static that may have wreaked havoc on the psychological stability of several riders, thus impacting performance.  

I don't want to be "that guy", already looking for greener grass on the other side of fence, but it's difficult not to wish for a fast-forward button to next season already!

Total votes: 165

Reading what Dovi said regarding the cause of Lorenzo's crash, I looked again at the recording of that moment. I didn't see where his tyre touched that white line, in fact I rewinded again and again and still didn't see it. I'd say from what I saw that the front folded because Lorenzo accelerated too soon, but what do I know. Anyway congrats to Marquez, he totally deserved it. On to the battle for second!

Total votes: 181

"The 2016 Michelins have changed too much during the year for Lorenzo to exploit his millimeter-precise style. "

According to Michelin's Racing Technical Director, in a Q&A that was transcribed on this very site, the tyres haven't changed much - just the teams are better at using them now.

"Q: You had a new profile for the race in Qatar which was a big for step forward. Obviously many other adjustments, and now some of the riders say that the front tire is getting towards what the Bridgestone front was like. What have you done in those four or five months to the front tire?

NG: You’re going to be very disappointed. The main choice of the riders today is the tire we had in Qatar for the race. We made some variation of compounds. We made one variation of construction for Misano, but I will say Misano was a bit special.

For me, a big thing was tune a little bit the compounds to the conditions but it was all of work done by the teams to adapt the bike setup. A lot of work done by the riders to get used to the tires. Even somebody like Marc told me about two races ago, Brno maybe, he had a big moment. He said to me, going through moments like that is where you gain a lot of confidence, because you know how the tires are going to react in this sort of condition. To be able to use the tires 100% you have to know how they react if you go 101%."

Total votes: 164

Lorenzo needs edge grip from the rear tire as much as the front. That's why he struggled with the heat resistant layer in the Bridgestones when they introduced it. The rear tires have changed a lot over the course of the year, started to stabilize after Barcelona, then it started to rain.

Total votes: 174

I will repeat this yet again.  Marc Marquez is the best crasher I've ever seen.  When he does go down, he always seems to mitigate the crash, or should I say mitigate his body damage.  Watch past video.  He'll crash, but hold onto the bike until the opportune moment to let go to mitigate the risk.  Then there are the saves.  Saves no other rider can come close to.  Crashing well, and his saves are part of why he is champion this year.  His crashes have come in practice, not the race, and he's walked away from crashes in practice relatively unscathed.  In his case this isn't luck, it's skill.  Push the limit.  When you exceed it, protect yourself, if you don't save it first.  

With the mentality he has practiced this year, taking points, foregoing the wins, even the podium if necessary, to gain the points, and finish the races....with a new bike and engine for 2017 that has the same power but smoother delivery, it's "game over man".  2017 will likely be a repeat and that will be 4 from 5 in the premier class.  He is half way to Rossi's win total already, and could smash every statistic and record there is.  

Total votes: 197

Quite stumped with the level of maturity shown by Marquez. In a year where he was expected to struggle to show the level of consistency that he has is simply amazing, even for a Rossi fanboy such as me. He truly deserves this championship.

On a different note, am a bit disappointed that I have not seen any acknowledgement from Rossi of Marquez's achievement, unless I have missed it. No matter what the rivalries I think sportsmanship should trump that.

Total votes: 158

Not that it would have kept Marquez from winning the championship, but I do think that The Mugello Engine Failure was a turning point.  Rossi was riding the wave and that win would have have kept him in a better frame of mind rather than playing catch-up all season.

Total votes: 191