MotoGP – Neil Hodgson's 2018 season preview

Discussion in 'Racing' started by Simon, Jan 23, 2018.

  1. Simon

    Simon Professional storyteller
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    Neil Hodgson is a BSB and WSBK champion and a MotoGP commentator for BT Sport. He’s got his finger on the pulse in the MotoGP, WSBK, and BSB paddocks and his encyclopaedic knowledge of bike racing make him perfectly placed to preview the season ahead.

    MOTOGP
    “I’m really excited about this season. Last year was the best season I can ever remember and it had everything – drama, rivalry, high and lows – this really is the golden era of MotoGP and it has never been so unpredictable.

    “Yes, Marc Marquez won the title, but Ducati’s Number Two rider Andrea Dovizioso pushed him hard right to the wire, and the season was packed full of twists and turns and saw an awful lot of different riders finishing in the top three.

    “Just how hard he was pushing is reflected in the number of times he crashed. In 2017, a season where his six wins and eight pole positions helped him and Honda complete the hat-trick of rider, team and manufacturer world championships, he crashed 27 times and incredibly escaped unscathed – his crash count is one more than the 2017 tallies of Valentino Rossi (four), Jorge Lorenzo (nine), Maverick Vinales (seven) and Andrea Dovizioso (six) combined. In fact, Marquez has yet to sustain a serious injury in his five years of racing in MotoGP, whereas most of his rivals have broken at least one major bone or joint — or worse. An impressive feat for someone whose career tally of MotoGP races (90) is almost matched by his career tally of MotoGP crashes (83).

    “That’s an incredible achievement, and the fact that he susses everything out in practice means he has the confidence to lay everything on the line come race day. It’s this ability to push harder than anyone else that means he’ll still be the benchmark for 2018. Honda has spent the winter extensively testing the 2018 bike, and I’ll expect him to be competitive from the off. He’s only 24, and just three titles away from equalling Rossi’s total – don’t bet against 2018 being lucky number seven.

    “Dovizioso had the season of his life and will be buoyed by his results from last season, and the fact that he went into the last race and still had a chance of winning will give him enormous confidence. He has grown in stature as a rider and now has added a combative element to his riding. He managed six race wins last year, and I’m sure he’ll be right at the front in 2018.

    “The factory Yamahas were disappointing last year. Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales both had strong starts to the season, but both struggled with grip mid-season and their performances suffered more as the season went on. It was strange to watch, and you can be certain that the Japanese manufacturer is working tirelessly behind the scene to ensure it won’t be repeated this season.

    “This will be a pivotal season for Rossi. If he’s competitive he’ll continue racing into 2019 and beyond, if not he’ll hang up his leathers. It’s that simple. And his team-mate Viñales will be doing everything he can to ensure he’s the top gun in the Yamaha camp. He’s fast on his day, and if he can find a bit more consistency, and lose a bit of emotion, he’ll be right at the front. The one shining light for Yamaha last season was rookie Johann Zarco on the satellite Tech 3 bike. He was a revelation, and was not afraid to rub shoulders with the so-called ‘aliens’. He’ll definitely be among the top riders, and I fully expect him to take his debut victory in the premier class very soon.

    “And what about Jorge Lorenzo? The Ducati rider joined the factory last year to great fanfare, and while he had a strong season, he didn’t set the world alight. He’s on a lot of money, and his refusal to follow team orders in the final race of the season means he has a point to prove, especially to his team. He needs to re-establish himself as the team’s Number One, and he can only do that with a season of strong results.

    “The Brits face another tough season. Scott Redding has moved to Aprilia, and he needs to put in some strong rides to prove he deserves his place on the grid. He’s a talented rider, and on his day he’s plenty fast enough, especially in tricky conditions, but he needs to learn not to use his tyre up. If he can manage his rubber effectively he’ll be fine. Sam Lowes rode the wheels off the bike last year, with limited support from the factory, and he still lost his ride. I hope Redding has more luck.

    “Cal Crutchlow is more difficult to read. He’s a grisly, hard rider and really determined, and Honda clearly values his feedback, but he struggles with consistency. One race he’s threatening the top three, the next he’s struggling in the midfield. Having said that, no one tries as hard as Cal, and I’m sure he’ll take the odd podium here and there.

    “Bradley Smith had a torrid debut season on the KTM last time out and he’s literally riding for his career. If he can rediscover his pace, he’ll comfortably be inside the top ten and pushing for a top six finish. If he doesn’t then I fear he’ll lose his seat. KTM has huge backing from Red Bull and the paddock is full of rumours that they’re lining up Johann Zarco for Smith’s ride win 2019, so he needs to deliver.”

    Neil Hodgson has joined forces with Niall Mackenzie to create a new insurance company – Mackenzie Hodgson. Specialising exclusively in motorcycle insurance, the company prides itself on offering riders the right cover at a competitive price while providing best service and attention in the case of a claim.

    For more details visit http://www.mackenziehodgson.co.uk or call 0330 343 8751
     

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