Rested and raring to go as they say for what is going to be an intense second half of the season, it’s all been pretty cordial up to now but be prepared this championship is about to get lit; pressure will mount, tempers will fray and dreams will be crushed.
Five title contenders have emerged and ahead of entering into the make or break phase of this incredible season, here’s my weigh on the crown chasers with a little help from a bunch of people that know a little more then me:
1. MARC MAQUEZ – 129 points
Winner in Austin & Germany
I’ll be honest and say I was actually surprised it was Marc who took the mental trump card, going into summer break as our new championship leader. I think many expected 2017 to be a dog fight between Vinales and Marquez but when Marc had the second crash in France, I started to doubt whether this would be another year that would see him do the double. In saying that now I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him check out for the rest of the season and slowly but surely edge out the competition, I don’t think he’ll run away with it but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him add another title to his tally.
2. MAVERICK VINALES – 124 points
Winner in Qatar, Argentina & Le Mans
In a way you’ve got to feel a bit for Vinales, he had so much expectation placed on his shoulders at the start of the year as the new boy in Yamaha and he delivered, first in Qatar and then in Argentina. He took the points lead, lost it, got it back and lost it again. MotoGP is not only a battle of the most skilled motorcycle riders in the entire world but an intense mental game. He’s gone from nothing but praise for the M1 he started the season with to airing a few frustrations with the direction of development, eyeing electronics as his answer for their recent struggles but I think that in turn has shown a few cracks. Starting the season he was the definition of quiet confidence but recently he’s shown a slightly more frustrated manner. If he regains his confidence in the M1 again, he has every capability of serving it to the other title contenders and in that case I still really fancy his chances.
3. ANDREA DOVIZIOSO – 123 points
Winner in Mugello & Catalunya
Andrea’s back-to-back wins and Vinales’ DNF in Assen gave Dovi his first taste of the top of the MotoGP championship leader board. There would not be a dry eye in the house if this guy was to clinch his first MotoGP world title. He’s already bagged two wins and we know the Ducati goes well at the upcoming Austrian GP, he also bagged the top spot in Malaysia in 2016, so there already are another two potential victory spots. He needs to keep scoring solid points, I really think Dovi could be a dark horse this year if lady luck stays on his side (/he avoids getting taken out by other riders…), he’s got a winning attitude this season, I’m totally sold by it and I like that in a way he doesn’t have the same kind of expectation placed on him in comparison to the likes of Marquez, Vinales and Rossi.
4. VALENTINO ROSSI – 119 points
Winner in Assen
Valentino is our fourth rider to have taken a turn leading the standings earlier this season from Austin and loosing them to Vinales ahead of Mugello. Like Vinales it’s been a season that has had some tough weekends, add to that his motocross accident but that win in Assen was like a turbo boost. Germany wasn’t exactly an easy weekend either but he just didn’t look as phased by the challenging build up to race day, he looked solid in comparison to the other tough weekends they’ve faced so far this season. There’s no beating around the bush, in the second half of this season it will be crucial to be stood on the podium at every single race, even on the tough weekends if the infamous title number 10 is to be awarded.
5. DANI PEDROSA – 103 points
Winner of Jerez
Dani has had some really impressive performances this season, the Dani Pedrosa of seasons past has returned and boy have we enjoyed watching. The flip side of those podium and race winning moments have been the two non-finishes and the weird weekend in Assen where he couldn’t keep any heat in his tyres. He’s at the bottom of the points pile but not by much, he’s not my personal shout for the title this year but again he’d be another rider that would make millions smiles if he was to make me eat my words.
Freddie Spencer – 3 x Grand Prix World Champion @Freddiespencer
It’s fascinating to observe the issues week-to-week, which are somewhat tyre-driven.
Marquez is such a talented rider he can work around some of the issues with the Honda and I would put my money on Marc. Certainly at the beginning of the season I would have said he would win the championship, with Maverick Viñales second and probably Valentino Rossi third.”
I think Rossi’s focused now and you never know, Marc could always make a mistake. The real battle we’re waiting for is the one between Maverick Viñales and Marc Marquez because they were great competitors when they were younger but they went their different ways. In fact, a lot of people say that when they were younger Viñales quicker than Marc.
Wayne Gardner – 1987 500cc World Champion @TheWayneGardner
All top five riders at the moment are all good riders. It’s going to be a great championship and it’s going to be close. But I wouldn’t say they were any better than we were in the past because they are on different machines and technology has changed and improved. I think there is always a handful of good riders and that doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter what era.
I think that Vinales is an exceptionally talented rider with his head screwed on. Marquez just has big balls. I wouldn’t say the bike is very good but he just over-rides it every time.
There’s the wily old fox Vale. When he’s under pressure Rossi comes out and performs so don’t write him off. I think he’s the wild card amongst the crowd.
Tai Woffinden – 2 x FIM Speedway World Champion @TWoffinden
This year’s MotoGP season has been the toughest in years and after round 9 in Sachsenring the championship is still wide open. What’s making the championship even more thrilling is that the satellite teams have been able to produce several top 3 finishes.
To pick a winner is very difficult as the top 5 riders are within 26 points. My personal pick is Marc Marquez. He won the last GP in Germany and he is leading the championship even if he had 2 DNFs in the first 9 rounds. Marc is a rider who has been there and done it so he knows what is needed to win a world championship.
Gavin Emmett – BT Sport @gavinemmett
With Marc Marquez sitting on top of the championship it probably seems a bit on the obvious side to go with the Spaniard as my pick for the title, but there’s been something about him this year that has always convinced me the crown will be his once more. Yeah, yeah, sounds like a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ but on BT Sport I urged people to climb on him at long odds when I was commentating during the Italian GP and he ended up finishing sixth. It might have looked silly then, but I just wish now I’d have had the courage in my conviction to do the same!
I can honestly say I haven’t ever really swerved from that belief – even when Maverick won the opening two races, and Marc was racking up more crashes than anyone else in the championship. Whilst he was employing his unique way of finding the limit, the focus has firmly been on his rivals - whether Viñales in his debut season with Yamaha, Lorenzo and Dovi and their contrasting fortunes at Ducati, and of course Rossi revitalised in his quest for number 10. Marc’s been out of the limelight and just getting on with racking up the points.
It really is a lottery this year as to who the tyres will work for every weekend, but the 93’s the one for me who will always get the most out of his bike over the course of a season.