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Yamaha have kicked off the 2017 MotoGP season. The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team were the first to present their bike, their riders, their team, and most importantly, their sponsors and color scheme to the world.
Launches being what they are – a show primarily put on for the benefit of their sponsors – there was nothing radical to see. The bikes on display had been painted in the correct colors – the Yamaha blue a little darker, the Movistar M a lot bigger, Monster's sponsorship being visually demoted a little further, the green claw M looking a little too much like Movistar's M – but they were not the actual 2017 bikes, the eagle-eyed MotoGP technical blogger Manziana spotted.
That is unsurprising, if a little disappointing. It makes little sense for Yamaha to fly new bikes halfway around the world from Japan to Spain just to put them on display, then pack them up again to fly them back to Sepang for the tests. More disappointing is the news broken by GPOne.com, that Ducati are to present what is basically a GP16 in 2017 colors.
With the first tests of 2017 fast approaching - track action gets underway next week, with the WorldSBK teams testing at Jerez, followed by MotoGP the week after - teams are presenting their new liveries, new sponsors and new teams for 2017.
This week sees two MotoGP factory teams unveil their new liveries and their new bikes for the 2017 season. The Movistar Yamaha team kick off proceedings on Thursday, 19th January, with the presentation of the 2017 Yamaha YZR-M1, with Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales as their riders. The following day, Friday, 20th January, Ducati follow suit, presenting Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. Both events will be streamed live, for fans all over the world to see.
After last week's announcements from the Circuit of Wales and the Hungaroring, there comes news from two more circuits this week. Firstly, that the legendary Belgian Spa Francorchamps circuit is looking to host a MotoGP round. And secondly, that MSV has taken over the lease to run the Donington Park circuit, also possibly opening the door to a return for MotoGP.
The first news is perhaps the most exciting for MotoGP fans. In an interview with the Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure, Spa Francorchamps boss Nathalie Maillet, said she hoped to bring MotoGP back to the iconic Belgian circuit within the next few years. She had spent a day in Madrid speaking to Dorna bosses, Maillet told DH, discussing the possibility of staging a race. "Making the changes needed to host a motorcycle race is not impossible," Maillet told DH.
The next rider to go under the microscope in our retrospective of 2016 is one of the most interesting of the year. Cal Crutchlow had a season of two halves, but up and down. Here's how we rate the LCR Honda rider's performance last year:
Cal Crutchlow – Honda – 8.5
7th - 141 points
By the time Cal Crutchlow left Le Mans, after the fifth race of the 2016 MotoGP season, his future in MotoGP was being openly questioned. He had just five points from five races, and was twentieth in the championship. He had crashed out of three races, and crashed and remounted in a fourth, in Austin. Things were looking rather bleak.
His results were in stark contrast to the talk of him possibly taking the place of Dani Pedrosa in the Repsol Honda team. Fans responded to such rumors – like Pedrosa's switch to Yamaha – with a great deal of skepticism. Why would HRC want to sign a man who couldn't even finish a race?
The next rider under the microscope in our series examining the 2016 season is Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda rider had been heavily tipped before the 2016 season, but things didn't quite work out the way he had hoped. Here's our assessment of Pedrosa.
Dani Pedrosa – Honda – 7
6th - 155 points
Dani Pedrosa was everybody's dark horse for MotoGP champion before the 2016 season began. In early testing Pedrosa was often near the front, able to exploit the additional grip of the Michelins. Rear grip had always been an issue for Pedrosa. As the lightest rider on the grid, it had been almost impossible for him to generate mechanical grip in the Bridgestone rear tire. The Michelin naturally had more rear grip, offering Pedrosa a chance to exploit all of the tricks he had learned over the years to get the rear to dig in and drive.
As the start of the season neared, Pedrosa started going backwards. After finishing third fastest at Valencia and on the first day of the strange Sepang test, he was much slower in difficult conditions at Phillip Island, then again at the Qatar test. In the opening race, he finished nearly 11 seconds behind the winner, Jorge Lorenzo. Results started to improve after that, with a podium in Argentina, then crashing out of the podium fight in Austin.
We continue our review of 2016 with a look at the man Ducati decided to keep. Here is how we saw Andrea Dovizioso's performance last season, and why Ducati preferred him to Andrea Iannone:
Andrea Dovizioso – Ducati – 8
5th - 171 points
The rumors that Ducati would be signing Jorge Lorenzo immediately sparked debate among fans over which Andrea the Italian factory should keep alongside the Spaniard. Early signs were that it would be Iannone who would stay. There was talk that Ducati had a contract ready for Iannone to sign at Austin. The fans were almost unanimous: keeping Iannone was the right thing to do.
The first week of 2017 has come and gone, and we are a week closer to the MotoGP bikes hitting the track again at Sepang for the first test of the year. Though little of consequence is happening publicly in the midst of the winter break, there are the first few signs of activity. So below is a round up of the news from last week: most of the things that matter, all in one place.
Triumph to Moto2
The future of the Moto2 class looks secure. Reports from the UK and Austria are suggesting that Triumph has finalized a deal to supply the Moto2 class when the current deal with Honda concludes at the end of 2018. From 2019, Triumph will supply a new three-cylinder engine, probably based on the new, larger sports triple they are building for release in 2017.
There had been uncertainty over the future of the Moto2 engine supplier since the beginning of this year. Honda had extended the deal to supply CBR600RR engines until the end of the 2018 season, but as the Japanese manufacturer was stopping production of its middleweight sports bike, it was clear that a replacement would have to be found.
There had been speculation over who might take over the role of official engine supplier. It was clear that the class would remain single supplier - any move to change the current situation would have provoked a rebellion from the teams, who are enamored of the fact that Moto2 costs less to compete in than Moto3 - but the question was who would the supplier be. The candidates were Kawasaki, with the ZX-6R, MV Agusta, and Triumph. As we wrote back in September, in a piece exclusively for MotoMatters.com subscribers, Triumph were the favorites to secure the deal.
The next rider to be put under the microscope over his 2016 performance is Maverick Viñales. Just how did the Spanish youngster fare last year?
Maverick Viñales – Suzuki – 9
4th - 202 points
It was the million dollar question before the 2016 season: just how good is Maverick Viñales? His pedigree was impeccable: wins in every year in Grand Prix, in every class he raced in. Until he got to MotoGP, that is. In his first year in MotoGP, Viñales' best result was a pair of sixth places. Was Viñales a bust, or was he restricted by the performance of the Suzuki in its first year back in the class?
Next up in our review of how the MotoGP riders performed in 2016 is Jorge Lorenzo. Here is our look at how the 2015 champion did last season:
Jorge Lorenzo – Yamaha – 8
3rd - 233 points
Jorge Lorenzo is arguably the fastest rider in the world on his day. Lorenzo's throttle control, physical control of his body, sensitivity to the movement of the bike, and ability to sense and exploit edge grip is second to none. To quote Cal Crutchlow for the umpteenth time when he was riding a Tech 3 Yamaha, "the only time we reach the lean angles that Jorge achieves is just before we fall off."
Our review of the 2016 MotoGP riders continues with the championship runner up. Valentino Rossi ended 2015 just short of a tenth MotoGP title. Here is how he fared in 2016:
Valentino Rossi – Yamaha – 8.5
2nd - 249 points
Though the date has already clicked over to 2017, the world of motorcycle racing is still wreathed in silence. Riders train, factories develop, teams prepare. All of that is done in relative silence, little news of any significance emerging from workshops or factories.
To fill the void until the first of the team launches, when the season starts to ramp up in earnest, we have time to take a look back at 2016, and cast an eye over how the riders fared last season. So it is time to rate the riders' performance in 2016, and award them points out of ten for how they did last year.
The New Year has officially started, the real world of contracts finally lining up with the world of motorcycle racing. Riders who swapped factories are now free of their old contracts, their new contracts having commenced as the world greeted 2017. That also leaves them free to post about the new season on social media again. Aleix Espargaro was so keen to do so that he posted right on the stroke of midnight.
If the riders are excited, that gives fans reason to be excited too. Here are 10 reasons to look forward to 2017.
1. Six factories
For the first time since 2004, MotoGP has six different manufacturers* competing again. Unlike 2004, however, the level at which those manufacturers are competing is much more equal. In 2004, only Yamaha and Honda won races, though Ducati were regular visitors to the podium, and would win more consistently in 2005 and 2006. In 2016, four different manufacturers won races in the dry – Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Ducati – and all four were consistent podium threats.
The Grand Prix Commission has made a couple of minor changes to the MotoGP regulations for the 2017 season, and unlike many rule changes, at least one of them will be met with outright joy by most MotoGP fans.