The end of yet another jaw dropping, eye popping and nail biting race at the Sachsenring brought about the start of the mid-season summer break.
The 2017 season has been filled with races like this and I can’t get enough. It’s one of those seasons you will go back and watch again in years to come, knowing that it will go down as one of the greatest seasons in history. Already it is the closest championship, with the top 4 riders separated by just 10 points, and Dani Pedrosa in 5th only 26 points off the top.
After the first two races of the season, I was almost certain that Maverick Vinales was the man to take the title this year, he’s time was surely here. However, how wrong could I have been? Sure, he is still there and he could very well still do it, but he’s got a massive battle on his hands.
Marc Marquez is not going to let his title go that easily. Marquez shot right back in to contention with yet another victory at the Circuit of the America’s. Then Dani Pedrosa showed his intentions and threw his name in to the pot with victory in Jerez, where the Yamaha’s showed their first signs of weakness. They fought back though, and Vinales again took victory at the Le Mans GP.
So a fight between Yamaha and Honda then? Oh no, not so fast. Andrea Dovizioso was not going to hang around and watch everyone else fight it out for glory. The Italian – that everyone thought was the wrong Italian to keep at Ducati – suddenly, out of nowhere, took two brilliant victories on the trot at Mugello and the Circuit de Barcelona.
Then it was the turn of the legend himself, Valentino Rossi. You didn’t think we wouldn’t hear from him did you? Of course not. Rossi rode a fine race in Assen to take his 10th win at the track.
Marquez then truly had his say at the Sachsenring, taking the lead in the championship with his victory. Marquez (129pts.) is closely followed by Maverick Vinales (124pts.), Andrea Doizioso (123pts.) and Valentino Rossi (119pts.).
So the fight we have all been waiting for is finally here this season, or so it seems so far. Yamaha, Honda and Ducati going at it, full tilt.
However, the factory teams have been made to work hard for it by the independent teams. The level of performance seems to be the closest it has been in years. Tech 3 have been the biggest example of this, bettering the performance of the factory team in a few races this season.
Johann Zarco took 2nd place in Le Mans and has been tearing up the MotoGP manual this season. The rookie has taken to MotoGP like Donald Trump to Twitter, zero hesitation. He leads the Independent Championship just ahead of his teammate, Jonas Folger, who has had just as impressive a season thus far. Folger took 2nd at the Sachsenring, fighting Marquez to almost the very end.
Then there’s Danilo Petrucci. The Pramac Ducati man, who is on board the GP17 Ducati this season – and proving the decision to be the right one, has found himself on the podium twice already this season, with a 3rd at Mugello and 2nd at Assen.
There is a rumor going around that Jack Miller may take Scott Redding’s seat at Pramac next season. He will most likely be onboard the GP17 that Petrucci is riding this season, and if so, I think we will have two Pramac riders fighting it out at the front next season. I am quietly confident that Jack Miller is the man for the job. In all honesty, look what he is doing on a machine that hardly belongs on the top 20, never mind the top 10 that he is consistently in the fight for.
Aprilia have come a long way this season with Aliex Espargaro achieving Aprilia’s best result since returning to MotoGP in 2015, with a 6th place in Qatar. Aprilia’s pace seems to be getting much better, that was shown again in Jerez with another top 10, a result that was matched at Assen, and followed by a 7th place at the Sachsenring. It most certainly has not been an easy season for Aprilia, with Lowes struggling to get to grips with the bike and MotoGP, also far too many DNF’s. They are showing massive progress though, and I expect them to be right up there in seasons to come.
Alvaro Bautista and Cal Crutchlow have been right up there for a lot of this season and have showed such promise. However, I feel the pair of them just find themselves in the gravel, face down, way too often which has hindered their progress up the standings this season.
Another rider that has suffered a similar fate this season – and I say this with much disappointment – is Andrea Iannone. Here is a guy that flew through pre-season on his new machine, making everyone stand up and take notice. He was the man to take Suzuki to new heights after Vinales decided to jump ship to Movistar Yamaha. I most certainly thought he could do it, he is most definitely capable, yet he finds himself 16th in the championship, with a best result of 7th and only 4 top tens out of 9 races. Not what we expected for a MotoGP race winner from 2016, and on board a Suzuki that took a victory itself last season and found itself inside the top 10 more often than not. Let’s hope we see big improvements soon in the Suzuki camp, who are also now with a recovered Alex Rins.
KTM were the big new names going into this season. I must say, they are improving leaps and bounds. From their first race in Qatar to the previous race in Germany, they seem to be getting stronger and stronger. At the Sachsenring, both Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith finished inside the points, with test rider Mika Kallio only just missing out in 16th. Not to mention, Pol found himself in Q2 on Saturday, qualifying in 7th! Now that is impressive for a new team in MotoGP.
Then there is Jorge Lorenzo. His season has been up and down, however, mostly down – according to his standards anyway. He started off the season very slowly and only really showed signs of improvement in Jerez, where astonishingly, he found himself on the podium. However, he slipped back down the field again until Barcelona where he picked up his next best result of 4th. Lorenzo has started a few races strongly this season but just doesn’t seem to be able to keep the pace just yet.
It has been a great season thus far. Highly entertaining and exhilarating racing. If it carries on this way and we end up down to the wire at the final round in Valencia with a number of riders still in with a shot at the title, it will certainly go down in the history books. MotoGP, it just keeps getting better and better!
This is my word on the MotoGP 2017 season at the midway point.
(Pictures via Everything MotoGP Facebook page.)