With MotoGP concluding in an epic showdown in Valencia last weekend, Marc Marquez being crowned the 2017 World Champion in a bonkers 30 lap race to the chequered flag, it cemented the decision for me that MotoGP is currently motorsport’s hottest property.
I have been following the two-wheeled championship since the Mugello round in Italy last year after acquiring BT Sport on my TV. Since that first-action packed race and a mind-blowing last lap battle from Marquez and then-champion Jorge Lorenzo, I have been hooked. For me, at this moment in time, it remains the only racing series that without fail has me on the edge of my sofa every race, jumping up and down and shouting at the television: surely how motorsport is meant to be, right?
Where other mainstream motorsports have failed in my expectations over the last couple years, MotoGP has risen from strength to strength.
This time last year I wrote a similar article, analysing if the premier motorcycle class had in fact been the best motorsport championship of 2016. Many of you online agreed with me, however the debate and difficulty of “getting into a sport with two wheels” remained a popular comment. This time though, for me, there is no question: MotoGP has hands down been the most enjoyable, exciting and action-packed motorsport championship I have seen in years.
Although MotoGP witnessed a total of nine indiviual winners over 18 races in 2016, with four of those being first-time wins for the riders involved, 2017 welcomed five different winners and a fierce championship battle from Honda rider Marc Marquez and Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso. Although only three teams took their riders to victory and all being manufacturers, Honda, Ducati and Yamaha, the power of privateer team Tech 3 blew away media and fans alike with their hugely impressive performance on year-old Yamahas and two rookies that truly tore up the rule book in 2017.
Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger redefined the term rookie this season, with Zarco displaying a frankly criminal set of skills from race one in Qatar. The French rider decided to start as he meant to go on, leading the first third of the Qatar Grand Prix before crashing out and picking up his only retirement of the season. However his performance only continued to get better as time went on, securing 13 finishes in the top ten, nine of those in the top five and three podium finishes – his most recent being in Valencia over the weekend, finishing in second only +0.337s behind winner Dani Pedrosa.
In addition to Zarco showing the field that he meant business, the 2017 season started well for Maverick Viñales who won three of the first five races, with the first two being back to back. Joining Movistar Yamaha MotoGP for 2017, replacing Lorenzo who had joined Ducati and pairing up with new team-mate MotoGP Legend Valentino Rossi, Viñales had big boots to fill but managed to do so with ease at the start of the season. Unfortunately for him, championship hopes soon drifted away as Marquez and Dovizioso soon started gathering up wins too. By round 11, Viñales, Marquez and Dovizioso had all secured three wins each. Unfortunately for Yamaha, their misdirection in their chassis ultimately lead to their downfall in 2017.
However Dovizioso and Marquez soon rode off into the sunset with together, taking away any chance for Viñales to win the title. A sad story but gave us a fascinating two-way battle for the championship. Marc Marquez, a 24-year-old riding God who managed things on a bike that seemed impossible, hunting down his fourth MotoGP championship and his sixth motorcycle title. Andrea Dovizioso, someone who had only won two MotoGP races before the 2017 season was underway, a talent on the Ducati with such promise did not seem a contender for the championship before the year got underway.
Race by race, the top spot on the podium switched between Marquez and Dovizioso. San Marino, round 13, the two tied on four wins each. Jump to Japan, round 15 and the same thing, five wins for each rider. Then came the penultimate round in the calendar and Sepang. How did that finish? Yes, you guessed it. We headed to the season finale with both riders with six wins to their names but Marquez leading in points.
The finale proved to be as dramatic as the 17 races before it. Marquez on pole, yet when the lights went out it was Zarco who again wanted to show his worth and displayed a stellar start eventually overtaking race-leader Marquez. Team orders soon became into play when 2015 MotoGP Champion and new to the Ducati team for 2017, Jorge Lorenzo, disobeyed orders to let championship contender and team-mate Dovizioso through. Lap after lap the Spaniard denied Dovizioso the position before they both crashed and retired the race in separate incidents. However Marquez didn’t get off scot-free. Just laps before the two Ducati’s found themselves in the gravel, the now-champion almost lost full-control of his bike, sliding along and using the left-hand side of his body to keep him from crashing out of the lead.
With a spectacular showdown around the iconic Valencia track over the weekend, and bringing with it the end of a exhilarating and totally bonkers season, it confirmed for me that MotoGP was definitely motorsport’s best championship at this moment in time, something I had really already decided upon when watching my first Grand Prix last year.
It offers everything you want.
Insanely fast speeds, brave and bright riders who aren’t afraid to push themselves to the maximum, dramatic crashes and impossible saves (Marquez I’m looking at you), great tracks and dedicated fans. The only difference being that they are on two wheels.
I suppose the purpose of this blog post is a big plead from me to you to give MotoGP a chance. If you don’t have access to BT Sport then highlights are available on Channel 5’s catch up service here in the UK. MotoGP themselves also offer an engaging and informative resources through their social media and website.
March 2018 can’t come soon enough and I expect you to be watching as next season kick-starts in Qatar. Will it be full of shocks, suspense and surprises? Of course it will, it’s MotoGP.