It has been suggested to me year after year that I should start following the MotoGP championship. Like most motorsport fans, I knew about the series and was familiar with the sport’s superstars like Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez, yet I had never sat down and watched a race. After getting my hands on BT Sport I decided that 2016 would be the perfect year to start watching the sport and thank God I did. In a year that has seen nine different winners, more crashes than ever before and a driver of just 23-years-old winning his fifth championship title, it has most defiantly been the best motorsport championship of the year.
NINE DIFFERENT WINNERS
One of the stand out stats from the championship this year has been the variety of winners. Nine different riders have clinched first place over the 17 races this year, with the possibility of a tenth winner at the season finale this weekend at the Circuito de la Comunitat Valenciana. Among the winners have been 2015 MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi and this year’s championship winner Marc Marquez.
However the season also produced some winners that weren’t so predictable.
Australian Jack Miller was the first surprise winner of the year, taking his first MotoGP victory at Assen. It was evident the odds weren’t in Miller’s favour as the rider came into the weekend with the likelihood of him winning the GP being 1000-1. Miller became the first Australian rider since Casey Stoner back in 2012 to take victory at the chequered flag in the premier class series. Miller also became the first Independent Team rider to win a premier class race since Toni Elias at the Portuguese GP in 2006.
“Australian Jack Miller became the tenth youngest premier class victor in history, the twelfth member of Australia’s exclusive MotoGP™ winners club and it took him just 24 races just to break into the top ten, this achievement happening just three weeks prior to his win.” – motogp.com
The next unexpected winner was that of Andrea Iannone in Austria. The Ducati rider, in addition to his team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, put on strong display during the weekend; the Ducati duo placing their bikes on the front row of the grid, Rossi splitting the two. On race day, after clinching pole position on the Saturday, Iannone took the win in spectacular fashion.
It was the first MotoGP win for the rider and ended a drought of wins for the team, 101 grand prix since Casey Stoner won with Ducati in 2010. The team also finished in a 1-2 during the Austrian GP weekend, their first since Phillip Island in 2007.
Next on the first-time winners list was Briton Cal Crutchlow. Cal won at a damp Czech Republic Grand Prix and became the first British rider since Barry Sheene in 1981 to win a premier class race.
The championship then headed to Silverstone with British rider Crutchlow taking a win the round before. It was here yet another rider would win their first MotoGP race.
Maverick Viñales became the seventh different winner in the 2016 season, taking home a win for himself but also the first win for Suzuki since they returned to the premier class championship.
The incredible tally of different winners continued to grow as the season progressed, with Dani Pedrosa taking his 29th premier class win and first victory in the 2016 season in Italy and Andrea Dovizioso taking a win last time out in Malaysia.
“Eight winners is awesome, but a ninth would simply give us more ammunition to boast about MotoGP™ being the most spectacular, adrenaline-fuelled and high octane Sunday afternoon motorsport therapy there is going. It is rare you get to witness a once in a lifetime event, and a ninth winner in MotoGP™ is just that, with it never previously happening in the illustrious 68-year history of the World Championship.” – motogp.com
This list of winners should be enough for MotoGP to be taken as a serious challenger for the best motorsport series of the year, however the stats for the series got bigger and better as the races went on.
CAL CRUTCHLOW WINS TWO RACES
You wait for a British rider to win a premier class Grand Prix for 35 years, then the same guy goes and wins two in a year! In a performance that makes him one of the best British motorsport stars of the year, Cal Crutchlow proved he deserved his seat in MotoGP with two stunning victories – one in wet and one in dry conditions.
His first win of the year came in August when he won a rain-hit Czech Republic Grand Prix and became the first British rider to win an elite-class GP since the late Barry Sheene.
Crutchlow, who described his first MotoGP win as “the best day of my racing career”, headed to the next round as the most recent MotoGP winner and where better to go than Silverstone. The fans were fired up and in full support for their Czech Republic GP winner at Silverstone, where Cal would finish in second place on race day.
Cal would then become the first British rider to win the Australian GP in October. The race at Phillip Island always provides an exciting and interesting race and Cal was delighted to take home another victory, this time being with dry track conditions.
He is the first Briton since Sheene in 1979 to win for than one MotoGP race in a season.
MARC MARQUEZ WINS TITLE
At 23 years and 242 days old Marc Marquez clinched his third MotoGP championship title, his fifth title in total. He became the youngest driver in the history of the championship to achieve the above and now has a stunning selection of stats next to his name.
With 55 wins, 64 pole positions and 72.4% of his 89 podiums being in MotoGP* he became the second Spanish driver to win three MotoGP titles, the other driver being Lorenzo.
*stats correct as of October 16th when Marquez won championship title.
MOST EXCITING MOTORSPORT
“MotoGP continues to be a fantastic product. It’s an event that is appealing and exciting to the masses, especially Malaysians. It offers 4-5 hours of great racing from Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP. I think that is a huge factor right now and helps make MotoGP, I think, the most exciting motorsport event.
“When I came here in 2008 [our target] was to grow MotoGP as big as Formula 1, now it seems to have been reversed! MotoGP has grown hugely and F1 is another story.” – Dató Razlan Razali, CEO of the Sepang International Circuit.
It is not just me who is enjoying the action on track, important figures in motorsport are paying close attention too. The quote above has stuck with me throughout writing this blog.
Alright, so a CEO of a circuit might not be the most influential person in motorsport but it is a start. At a race track that does see both the Formula 1 and MotoGP, to hear the CEO of the circuit talk about the growth of the two-wheeled sport and how it is ‘the most exciting motorsport’ in comparison to Formula 1 is a bold statement.
It isn’t just business men and women that have noticed the growth in popularity of MotoGP, various motorsport outlets have started to include coverage of MotoGP – including that of AUTOSPORT in their weekly magazine.
Although the outlet has been covering the championship since 2007, the decision was made to feature the two-wheeled championship in their magazine and give it the “Autosport treatment” as editor Edd Straw described.
“When regular readers get to page 54, you will probably have cause to exclaim, “what the hell is MotoGP doing in Autosport magazine?” While occasionally grand prix motorcycle racing has been talked about in these pages, this is the first time we have committed to full coverage in the magazine.
“This move is to serve our existing readers, those who love car racing and rallying but who have an interest in MotoGP and would enjoy seeing what might be called the Autosport treatment applied to it by our new correspondent, Mitchell Adam.” – Editorial note by Autosport editor Edd Straw at the start of the year.
A RECORD NUMBER OF CRASHES
Writing about crashes being a good thing is always a tricky subject. Obviously nobody likes seeing drivers being hurt, however sometimes a driver sliding off their bike can spice up a race, especially if that driver is in high point-scoring position.
Motorsport.com published stats this week that show there has been an increase in the number of falls in all three classes of the championship, however the most notable is in fact in MotoGP. With 215 falls being counted in 2015, the number has risen to 275 this year*.
The most number of falls goes to Miller and Crutchlow who have both fallen 24 times over the past 17 races (Miller entering 14 of the 17 races and Crutchlow entering all 17 races this season). The least amount of falls from a rider that has competed in all races this season is Rossi. According to motorsport.com, the racing icon only fell 4 times during his season in MotoGP*.
For me, the Italian Grand Prix last lap battle remains a highlight of the season. It was the first race I sat through the entirety of, mind you I spent most of it on the edge of my seat rather than reclined on my sofa. With Rossi’s heart-breaking retirement just nine laps into the race, as a result of a technical problem, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez were left to battle it out for the race victory – and boy did they work hard for it.
Just 0.019s separated the two riders as the crossed the finish line. Damn. The victory looked to be Marc’s as the two fought their way around the track on the final lap of the race, however Lorenzo claimed the win in a final push that lead to the photo finish. The 0.019s that separated Lorenzo and Marcquez was the closest premier class finish since 2011, when Casey Stoner stole the win from Ben Spies in Valencia by 0.015s.
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