New kid on the block Maverick Viñales of Movistar Yamaha is clearly set on making his mark, and has risen to the challenge by topping every test in preseason. On the downside, his fellow teammate Valentino Rossi has struggled to demonstrate his potential with a performance that shows him lagging behind his teammate on the timesheets.
Take a look at Sports.net’s MotoGP season preview, ahead of the season opener at the Grand Prix of Qatar:
How the Bookies See it
- Qatar GP Winner: Viñales 11/5, Marquez 5/2, Rossi 4/1 – Paddy Power
- Championship Winner: Marquez 6/4, Viñales 6/4, Rossi 13/2 – Sky Bet
Repsol Honda Team
Marc Marquez is current reigning MotoGP world champion and he is again joined by three-time title holder Dani Pedrosa at Repsol Honda for 2017. Marquez will be keen to defend his crown, and number 26 will no doubt be close behind, hoping to improve on last season’s 6th place.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
Maverick Viñales joins the nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi at Movistar Yamaha this year. Viñales achieved his first premier class race last season and set out his stall by topping the preseason testing in Valencia and Sepang.
Following nine years with Suzuki, where he was crowned MotoGP champ three times, Jorge Lorenzo now moves to Ducati in 2017 and will be keen to retain his form. The newcomer to the team, he’ll be partnering up with Borgo Panigale and Andrea Dovizioso. Ducati reached the top twice in 2016 and will be keen to do better in 2017 with the addition of their new star Lorenzo.
Team Suzuki Ecstar
It is all change this year at Hamamatsu with Andrea Iannone replacing former star Maverick Viñales. It’s clear team Suzuki have confidence in their rider, which is fortunate given the loss of Viñales to Movistar Yamaha. There have been no major tweaks to the bike over winter aside from chassis tweaks, but it’s hoped that drafting in Alex Rins from Moto2 might help them rise again like a phoenix.
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Another shuffle at Team Gresini, with Moto2 race winner Sam Lowes heading the challenge in 2017. Aprila made some great advances in 2016 and will be hoping to top that this year with Sam Lowes and up and coming star Aleix Espargaro.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Jumping from Monster Yamaha, young gun Pol Espargaro will transition to factory headliner in 2017. The 2013 Moto2 world champ teams up with Bradley Smith, who has achieved two podium finishes in four MotoGP seasons.
No changes for Honda in 2017, with Cal Crutchlow staying with his familiar squad this season. With his first two stunning MotoGP wins in 2016, and the title of Top Independent Rider in the bag, Honda are definitely in with a shout this year.
Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS
After winning the 2016 Dutch GP, Jack Miller is in the frame at EG0,0 Marc VDS for 2017, alongside 2014 Moto2 World Champion Tito Rabat. These two former Moto2 riders will be eager to make a steady rise to the top early on in the season.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3
Reigning Moto2 world champ Johann Zarco makes the leap to MotoGP this season and is joined by race winner and former rival Jonas Folger. As both get comfortable in the premier class life, they are sure to gain a foothold during their first MotoGP season having shown promise in preseason testing.
Reale Esponsorama Racing
A change in name at Reale Esponsorama this year, but the faces remain the same, with Hector Barbera and Loris Baz staying for 2017. They’re definitely not to be dismissed following some impressive top five finishes, and will hope to retain their current form on the Ducati GP16 and GP15.
Octo Pramac Racing
MotoGP podium finishers Danilo Petrucci and Scott Redding ride out for the Pramac team once more this season. With Petrucci on the GP17 Ducati and Redding on the GP16, they’ll be manoeuvring their way to the front of the field to ensure some impressive finishes.
Pull&Bear Aspar Team
Partnering Karel Abraham on his return from the World SBK is former 125 World Champion Alvaro Bautista, who moves to Aspar in 2017. Abraham is certainly one to keep an eye on this year, having topped some timesheets at the Sepang test on the GP16 Ducati. Bautista is definitely aiming towards the podium, having previous form in the premier class.
It is telling that Márquez and Pedrosa have made statements that betray an anger that much work is still to be done on the Honda bikes’ engines ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix. MotoGP fans will soon find out if the faults were discovered early enough in preseason to be rectified before Sunday. With this in mind, there are still doubts that Repsol Honda are where they need to be for 2017 to be a stellar year. What is clear is that Márquez is a supreme talent, and he will definitely, with another year’s experience under his belt, remain a star.
Jorge Lorenzo, another rider to keep a close eye on, is definitely a contender for top spot in Qatar and likely Valencia as well, despite possible issues with the Ducati engine.
A whole new crop of rookies who have sharpened their teeth at Moto2 level will no doubt be looking to overcome the sport’s current stars. One such rising talent is Johann Zarco, who rides for Monster Yamaha. The Frenchman has shown enough so far to suggest he is in the running for a podium place, and maybe even one of the top two.
- Sports.net’s Top Tip: Marc Márquez to win the Qatar Grand Prix at 3/1 with Sky Bet