2016, what a season it’s been for motorcycle racing. At home here in South Africa we have had one of the best seasons in the National Championship. It is great to see how things are advancing, even having a live feed for the final round of the season. On top of that, our South African riders impressed overseas, and that is an understatement. They crushed it!
On the international scene, the two premier championships, MotoGP and World SuperBike went from strength to strength. The WSBK series does struggle to keep up with MotoGP in terms of excitement and following, but I felt this season the series was much stronger and showed signs of the true competitiveness it has lacked in recent years. I really hope to see that continue and for the WSBK series to regain it’s popularity.
I’m writing this however, to comment on the outstanding performances of the season. The riders that emerged victories. Your World Champions!
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Factory Racing Team)
Rea dominated the 2015 season and was out to defend his title in 2016. This has not been done in the World SuperBike series since Carl Fogarty, 17 years ago. This year stated off in familiar fashion. The Kawasaki’s of Rea and Sykes leading the field. The Kawasaki is clearly a great machine. It has been almost untouchable the past few seasons but it does take a certain kind of rider to get the best out of it. Tom Sykes is fast, no doubt about that. He is the pole king. When it comes to the race though, Sykes will get out the blocks quickly and pull a gap on the field only to be caught half way through the race as he struggles with grip issues. This is where Rea comes in. He is one of the smoothest riders out there, the Lorenzo of WSBK.He is perfect for the Kawasaki and gets the absolute best out of it which is why he has been so dominant on board the green machine. It took nineteen races before Rea would finish off the podium. NINETEEN RACES! This came at round 10 in Germany, race 1, the first DNF and non podium place for Rea of the season. Would you believe it, race 2, he finished first. Rea picked nine wins in ten rounds and only finished off the podium one time in twenty races.
Rea showed true form this season as the other manufacturers were looking much stronger this year. Ducati, with Chaz Davies on board, were ruffling the Kawasaki feathers and if not for a few mistakes along the way, Davies may have had a go at the title, especially with the form he showed in the second half of the season.
After round 10 in Germany, Davies was the dominant force taking victory in every race from round 11 to the final round in Qatar. Rea however was consistent as ever, with yet another podium streak, finishing second to Davies in most of the remaining rounds and would not be caught in the championship.
The first rider in 17 years to successfully defend his WSBK title, Jonathan Rea, your 2016 World SuperBike Champion!
Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing)
The King of World SuperSport himself. He has more World SuperSport titles than anyone. Five times World Champion!
2016 was number five for Sofuoglu, breaking his owns records as he was already the most decorated rider in the history of World SuperSport. This season would however not be made easy for Sofuoglu, his rookie teammate, Randy Krummenacher, pushed him through out the season. Impressive for someone in their first year of World SuperSport riding against the King of the class. The first race of the season at Phillip Island would be the first sign of intent from Krummenacher. He raced to victory, while Sofuoglu’s title defence got off to the worst possible start as he crashed out. Sofuoglu came back strong with a streak of four podiums, including one victory in Aragon. After a wet race at the Malaysian round, Sepang, where Sofuoglu finished sixth, he would go on to win the next three races. Sofuoglu was back! Unfortunately the streak would not continue as Kenan crashed out of the French round, meaning he would have to wait till the following round at Jerez to seal the title. He did just that as he cruised to victory. Title number five!
At the final round in Qatar, Sofuoglu sported a red championship winning livery and leathers. He would finish second behind Kyle Smith, by only 0.006 of a second.
Along with his fifth title, Sofuoglu broke the World Land Speed Record on a motorcycle. He rode a Kawasaki Ninja H2R, reaching an incredible 400 km/h.
Your record breaker and 2016 World SuperSport Champion, Kenan Sofuoglu!
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Factory Team)
Marc Marquez became the youngest rider in MotoGP to win five world titles, and the youngest to three premier class titles. He is officially a legend of the sport and at only 23.
Can you believe the talent this guy possesses? With so many years of racing in him, could we see a new G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time)? Rossi fans will not be happy with a question like that, but you can’t deny that Marquez has the time and the ability to go on and win more titles and possibly beat Rossi’s tally of nine. For me, there is only one man who can stop him and that is Maverick Vinales. Vinales has shown what he can do on a Suzuki that is still developing toward it’s true potential. He climbs onboard the Yamaha M1 next season, I think him and Maquez will be going head to head for future titles.
Maquez won his third premier class title in a style that we as MotoGP fans are unfamiliar with when it comes to number 93. We are all so used to the wild and reckless Marquez, gunning for race wins with reckless abandon, his bike all over the place and at times, right on top or underneath other riders, as he makes the impossible pass.
That however was the Marquez of the past. This season we saw a whole new Marc Marquez. A rider that had taken a close look at his mistakes the previous season and had made the decision to ride smarter. It was at times, for me, like Marquez wasn’t even there. I am so used to shouting his name, wondering what the hell he is doing making those crazy moves, that he almost slipped in to the shadows in my mind. Yet, there he was, third in round 1, first in round 2, first in round 3 and third in round 4. Who was this guy, and where did he come from?
It was a tough old season for Marquez in 2015 and it ended in the worst ways possible, suddenly an enemy in the paddock and the subject of much criticism. He had clearly learnt from all this and he was out to prove a point. Tactically, Marquez and his team were brilliant! When the pressure was on he and his team really performed.
Consistency was the key to Marquez’ third title. When he wrapped up the title in Japan, he had eleven podiums out of fifteen races, including five victories. Keep in mind that up to that point there had been eight winners out of the fifteen races, Marc had five on his own. With the pressure off, the old Marquez made an appearance, but I think everyone would agree, he deserved to bring him back. In Australia at Phillip Island, Marquez blitzed the field and it seemed no one could touch him. Unfortunately he fell out while leading by a country mile, handing a deserved victory to Cal Crutchlow. In Malaysia, he seemed to be back in ‘safe mode’, riding well with the leading group. In tough conditions he lost the front end. He would however rejoin and finish in the points in eleventh. With the final round in Valencia, Jerez approaching, Marquez will want to finish off the season strong. Let’s hope we see him back up on the podium after a deserved championship win. Your MotoGP World Champion, Marc Marquez!
Johann Zarco (Ajo Motosport Kalex)
The flying frenchmen is now the first rider to win back to back Moto2 titles and the first to win back to back intermediate class titles since a certain Mr. Lorenzo in 2006 and 2007.
He is also the first two-time Moto2 World Champion, talk about achievements in your CV.
Zarco has pretty much been the epitome of smooth. Jorge Lorenzo will have a new challenger to the title of Mr. Smooth in MotoGP next season as Zarco makes the step up to the premier class. Zarco though can ride pretty well in the rain. The season did not get off to the best start for Zarco. A crazy start to the Moto2 season saw multiple riders penalised for a mass jump start, Zarco was one of them. He would be given a ride through penalty and finish in twelfth. That would not fluster him as he went on to win in round 2 and a third in America. Mugello would be Zarco’s second triumph of the season followed by a win in Catalunya, second at Assen, then back to back victories in Germany and Austria. Zarco’s season then took a slight turn as he finished eleventh at Brno. He would then be at the centre of controversy as he came together with Sam Lowes at the UK round. Lowes, the race favourite, coming off second best. It was uncharacteristic of Zarco. Was he showing his first signs of nerves and weakness?
He slowly progressed in the following races and had nothing to really write home about. Lowes and Rins took advantage and closed the gap on Zarco in the championship.
Zarco kept it together, and with victory in Sepang, wrapped up the title. Let’s see if he can finish off the season in true Zarco style. Backflips anyone?
Your Moto2 World Champion, Johann Zarco!
Brad Binder (Red Bull Ajo KTM RC250 GP)
This is the one I am most excited about and proud of. There is an obvious reason for that being that Brad is South African and he is showing the world how it’s done!
Binder took South Africa’s first Grand Prix victory since 1981, and he did that from the back of the grid! #fromlasttofirst.
Brad Binder showed championship winning form and grit right from the outset. Narrowly missing out on first in round 1 in Qatar. Three podium finishes in three races, then came the big moment in Jerez, brining it home from last place on the grid. From there on out he seemed almost untouchable with victories in the following two round and a second place in Barcelona. Brad’s only real mistake of the season came in round 11 as he crashed out while leading in the wet. Like any true champion, he came back with a bang with another two victories, back to back. Then came his crowning moment, and what a moment it was for him and every South African that follows the sport. Aragon, round 14. Brad rode a brilliant race to second, sealing the championship in the process with four rounds still remaining in the season!
He did not back down after that and reside in the fact that he was champion. He crushed the field in Australia but, as the champion and great guy he is, wanted nothing more than to mention his brother Darryn Binder’s brilliant fourth place! Binder brother’s one, two in Jerez? Now that would be a legendary story, although it already is!
Brad Binder’s efforts have been rewarded as he will step up to Moto2 next season with the KTM Ajo team. Your Moto3 World Champion, Brad Binder!
My word on the MotoGP and SuperBike world champions.