In the second of our ‘Burning Questions’ series, five MotoGP experts predict who’ll take out the 2016 title.
THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM.AU
If MotoGP in 2015 taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.
Coming off a dominant 2014 title defence, Marc Marquez’s quest for three straight crowns evaporated in a series of early-season crashes. Valentino Rossi, 36 years young, served notice that he’d be a force to be reckoned with by winning the opening Grand Prix of the season in Qatar and leading for the majority of the rest of the season. But when the dust settled at Valencia in the 18th and final round of the year, it was Jorge Lorenzo who – just – secured his third premier-class title, all in a season where he led the overall standings after just two races. It was that kind of year.
So what gives in 2016? Can Rossi make up for the crushing disappointment of having a long-awaited eighth top-flight crown elude him? Can Lorenzo keep the hammer down and win again? Will Marquez bounce back? Or is someone else set to muscle in on last year’s front-running trio and make their own title tilt?
In the second of our ‘Burning Questions’ series on redbull.com.au, we put that very question to our assembled collection of MotoGP insiders.
Nick Harris: the voice of MotoGP on the world TV feed, and a hugely experienced authority on the sport for more than three decades.
Matt Birt: Nick’s offsider on the MotoGP world feed coverage, and a journalist with more than 20 years of experience in the paddock.
Chris Vermeulen: the MotoGP race-winner now excels in his off-track role as a MotoGP analyst for Fox Sports in his native Australia.
Dylan Gray: MotoGP’s premier pit-lane reporter and on-the-ground newshound.
David Emmett: editor of motomatters.com and one of the sport’s most prolific and authoritative voices.
The Burning Question: Who wins the 2016 MotoGP championship and why?
Matt Birt: If I had to put my house on it, I’d go Jorge Lorenzo. But I’ve got a feeling that finally this could be Dani Pedrosa’s year. I think the switch to Michelin tyres plays to his riding style more than most. The front tyre doesn’t offer the confidence-inspiring grip that Bridgestone’s front tyre did, and that should favour Pedrosa. He is not as aggressive in the braking zone as Rossi and Marquez, so demanding less of the front tyre puts him less in the danger zone than his rivals. And the paddock has universally praised Michelin’s rear tyre for its phenomenal grip. Pedrosa is the lightest rider on the grid by some margin – so light that generating heat in the rear tyre has been a weak point. That has been negated by the extra grip on offer from the Michelin rear. We’ve seem to have been saying for a decade now that this year could be his best chance, but I genuinely that applies more so than ever in 2016.
David Emmett: Jorge Lorenzo. The Yamaha is the best bike on the grid, and has very few problems with the new electronics. The tyres mostly suit Lorenzo, and he will be able to extract a lot of performance from them at most tracks. He is highly motivated, not least by the amount of abuse he gets from Rossi fans claiming he stole the championship. He will have ups and downs, and face serious challenges again from Rossi and from a much stronger Marquez, but it will be very close.
Chris Vermeulen: It’s just so hard to say. The Ducati has improved as a bike. Honda doesn’t look good at the moment, but are they bluffing? It’s so difficult … but I’d say I’d have to put my money on Lorenzo. It’s great that it’s so difficult to answer – that can only mean we’re set for a great season.
Dylan Gray: For an outside bet, I’m going to go with Andrea Iannone. He’s on a bike that has been proven to be fast, and we know Ducati has worked more on the electronics side than Honda or Yamaha because they’ve been working with Magneti Marelli on their own software. Iannone is one of those guys that while he hasn’t always had that consistency, if he gets a whiff then he can do it. So he’d be a good outside bet.
Nick Harris: I think Lorenzo will retain the title, because when it really came to the crunch last year, he was the best rider. His start in the Sepang test was impressive and this year he needs to hit the ground running.