A new challenge
In our 2019 preview, we’ll note all the runners and riders and do our best to showcase what to watch and who to watch. 2019 holds the prospect to be a great season, with two Multiple Premier Class World Champions in the same team once again and a whole roster of huge talent across the whole grid, avid and casual fans of motorcycle racing are surely in for a season full of two-wheel drifts, fender rubbing, drama filled action on the cloud 9 of top level sport. So as we continue our preview of the 2019 season, probably one of the biggest rider/driver swaps in not just motorcycling but motorsport in general has dominated the media and for good reason and as such, there is only one place we can start with :
Repsol Honda Team –
Marc Márquez #93
Jorge Lorenzo #99
Amplifying the anticipation for the 2019 MotoGP season is the prospect of seeing two titans of the sport not only go head to head but go head to head in the same team. Jorge Lorenzo, joins Repsol Honda to partner Marc Márquez. In one of the most riveting lineup in motorsport for years, can Repsol Honda avoid bitterness and division in their team and stroll to another championship?
Marc had an immense season last time out, practically unbeatable at more than a handful of events, leading into 2019 there are so many unanswered questions. Can Lorenzo truly challenge Marc Márquez? Are we going to see Marc Márquez’ raw talent shine through and dominate? Or will we see Jorge Lorenzo get to grips with the bike quickly and surprise Marc? Only one thing is certain if Jorge does get on with the Honda quickly, we are going to have a monumental title challenge from both Honda riders, and an intense, inter-team rivalry to go with it.
Ducati Team –
Andrea Dovizioso #04
Danilo Petrucci #9
Continuing Honda’s form with another fantastic rider lineup is Ducati. After winning races last season but somehow falling shorter than they had managed in 2017, eyes will be on Ducati to make their package far more competitive on a consistent basis. The only way Ducati can have a successful season, one feels, is by winning the championship. And with the testing in 2019 so far, Pre Season suggests Ducati have a very strong package on their hands, with both bike and riders firing on all cylinders.
Andrea Dovizioso has it all to do with a relatively mediocre season last time out and with a competitive team mate to get a handle on it looks like this could be a make or break season for Dovi. New to the factory outfit, but not to Ducati, is Danilo Petrucci an extremely talented rider and normally very comfortable behind the screen under changing conditions or in the full wet. Definitely Petrucci’s form in the factory seat will be very heavily referenced, seeing him on the same machinery as Andrea Dovizioso will ultimately see him compared to Jorge Lorenzo and it’s on this basis that the interest in Danilo’s performance at Ducati will manifest itself.
Yamaha Factory Racing –
Maverick Viñales #12
Valentino Rossi #46
Yamaha. Probably the most disappointing performance (on the basis of expectations) from all of the factory teams last season. Fighting more for scraps than for victories the previous season was one to forget, only marked by one win to Viñales, who struggled all season long. Valentino Rossi came close on a few occasions, but one felt it was more down to the rider than the motorcycle.
Maverick has started the 2019 campaign with a new leaf turned, signified by his usual decision to change his number, from #25 to #12. Hopefully it gives him the boost he and Yamaha need to tackle the M1 Yamaha onto the podium on a regular basis. Valentino, on the other hand, in the twilight years of his career, still manages to surprise even his most zealous of fans, by extremely good performances on Sundays but unfortunately has just lacked the icing on the cake to get the results that his potential could achieve, Malaysia being the prime example.
Team Suzuki Ecstar –
Joan Mir #36
Álex Rins #42
Suzuki probably have the most underrated packages of all the factory teams and based on last year they easily punched above their weight, almost beating Yamaha to 3rd place in the constructors championship proceedings in 2018. They also have arguable one of the best rider line-ups of the entire grid. Fresh, hungry, young and talented riders, with no baggage of past MotoGP dramas.
Joan Mir comes into the Suzuki family with a very admirable performance in Moto2 last season, coming in after his winning Moto3 title and getting up to speed immediately. Joan will no doubt be a better fit for Suzuki [who are still developing and learning their equipment] than Andrea Iannone was, but will he have the skill and speed to match it from the off? It will be very interesting to see how Mir stacks up against Rins, who has done himself very proud in 2018, and could have easily ended up a race winner on multiple occasions. There are definitely questions to be answered, will Suzuki be more competitive than they were last season? Could they fight for race victories on a consistent basis?
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing –
Johann Zarco #2
Pol Espargaró #44
Another interesting line up for next year, is at KTM. KTM stalwart Pol Espargaró is joined by the probably the 2nd most aggressive rider after Marc Márquez, Johann Zarco. KTM need a field a great package for 2019 because it feels like if KTM don’t push on, then they might not last in the championship much longer, which would be a real shame but given how closely matched KTM and Aprilia have been all season long during 2018, it proves that fielding a new bike is very difficult and really goes to show how well Suzuki have done to get their bike that far up the grid.
Pol, surely slingshot into a positive 2019 with both KTM’s and his first [albeit slightly fortuitous] podium at the last run out in Valencia. Metronomically consistent, Pol had a great season all things considered, to tick off a podium for himself and KTM will be of great value to KTM and Pol moving forward. Meanwhile Johann Zarco comes in as a potential disruption to Pol’s clear position as primary rider having had a great season, with multiple podiums and easily had the speed to win at various tracks last year. If Zarco can maintain his pace throughout race distance, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the future but whether the KTM can provide such a platform, remains to be seen.
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini –
Andrea Iannone #29
Aleix Espargaró #41
It’s hard to say objectively whether Aprilia had a good season or not in 2018, on the one hand, they scored higher than KTM at a significant number of races, and on the other hand, they weren’t able to produce a package capable of capitalizing on the madness in the season finalé at Valencia which saw Pol Espargaró and KTM break their podium duck and ultimately caused them to lose out on the coveted 5th place in the constructors and only going home with the wooden spoon. They will surely hope to at least beat KTM and hopefully get a bunch of top 5 finishes. Aprilia’s line-up for 2019 is an interesting one, they have the wild [and self-titled “Crazy Joe”] Andrea Iannone alongside the cool and calm Aleix Espargaró who, like his brother Pol, seems to be metronomically consistent.
Andrea has a lot to prove, given that there were accusations leveled at him during his Suzuki career that he didn’t work hard enough and didn’t give his everything to develop the bike and team, although despite these rumours, matched the teams season best result of 2nd place at Philip Island in Australia. The move to Aprilia should really mark a new start for Andrea, hopefully we see a more resolute approach and a willingness to develop the Aprilia beyond what has already been achieved. Aleix on the other hand, has nothing to prove, having already shown that he can get everything out of the bike and even more on top of that, this season for Aleix appears to be one of opportunity, if the Aprilia package is enough, hopefully he can capitalize on this and break personal records and achieve greater things during 2019.
LCR Honda Castrol –
Takaaki Nakagami #30
Cal Crutchlow #35
LCR on the whole had a good season, not what they would have wanted by the end of the season, but probably better than they expected before the season began. With the same line-up as last year [the only team on the grid to do so] they’ll be in a good position to build on last seasons handful of Crutchlow’s podiums and singular win. The key to LCR next season will be staying competitive above the likes of Suzuki and primarily Pramac Ducati with both bikes in the top 5 in every race.
Cal has a great opportunity to push on from last season having been, at the very beginning of the season, a championship contender. Cal’s 2018 slipped away into the midfield, struggling for late race pace and a consistent performances for top 3 finishes, one wonders what’s in store for Cal at LCR Honda for 2019. One thing is for sure though, Cal got the most from the LCR package last season and if things blend more into their favour, could easily mount a sizable title challenge. Nakagami has a lot of work to do, it really feels like he’s been thrown in at the deep end without any floats, having struggled last season, lets hope the 6th place he managed at the last race in Valencia kick starts a positive chain reaction into 2019.
Alma Pramac Racing –
Jack Miller #43
Francesco Bagnaia #63
Pramac had a great season last time out, and going better than that in 2019 is going to be a tough task. Finishing 5th last season does not flatter them at all, constantly fighting for positions above their station, the only shame is that they only had the one podium to show for it, although a very smart 2nd place finish in France. With the popular Aussie, Jack Miller retained for 2019 and the addition of rookie Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia, Pramac look set for another solid season if Bagnaia can get to grips early on and Miller can improve on last year.
Miller, having been bested by Petrucci probably would have liked to have done a bit better, despite running on a year old bike. Miller certainly has the talent, and probably will end up with a fully fledged factory drive in the future, but for now he’s to cut his teeth yet again on a satellite bike, hoping for podiums rather than midfield scraps. Bagnaia comes to the MotoGP party with a fantastic season in Moto2 where he managed to beat the gifted Miguel Oliveira, although only winning the championship by 9 points, never seemed in doubt of becoming champion of the second tier. Can he translate that performance to MotoGP?
Petronas Yamaha SRT –
Fabio Quartararo #20
Francesco Morbidelli #21
New outfit to MotoGP, the Sepang Racing Team essentially have an expectation free season ahead of them, which bodes positive problems as well as negative ones. Nobody will expect regular top 5s from the Petronas sponsored organization but having not competed in MotoGP before, experience will be at a premium for the young Malaysian team with most of the experience resting on the shoulders of ex-Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli. The highly rated Fabio Quartararo joins the SRT outfit from a decent Moto2 season having bagged a win, and would have bagged two had there not been a technical infringement resulting in disqualification, so seems like a promising appointment.
Morbidelli has the hard job of being the most experienced rider in the team, but given that all his MotoGP experience revolves around on an out of sorts satellite Honda, switching to Yamaha cannot be an easy task. Quartararo on the other hand although a rookie, still has something to prove given his reputation put upon by many people around the sport regarding his talent and ability. Can the SRT package come good and challenge for top Satellite honours?
RedBull KTM Tech 3 –
Hafizh Syahrin #55
Miguel Oliveira #88
Something of an unknown is Tech 3’s KTM campaign in 2019. Although Tech 3 themselves are a known quantity, having battled for victories more than on a few occasions, They enter 2019 with not only a satellite setup, but a satellite of a noncompetitive bike and that makes things very difficult to be positive about. That said, the one thing Tech 3 do have, is two fast riders.
Hafizh Syahrin, coming from a decent relatively mistake free campaign in his rookie season on the Yamaha will yet look to do better than last season. Having shown glimpses of what he’s capable of, he’ll be certain to maintain that on a consistent basis, or risk fading into obscurity. Miguel Oliveira arrives in MotoGP with the Tech 3 team in 2019, having just lost out to Pecco Bagnaia for the 2018 Moto2 title. He’ll be looking to maintain his form from 2018, although difficult, he has the ability to show his pace relative to the other KTM’s on the grid and such, should be his focus.
Reale Avintia Racing –
Karel Abraham #17
Tito Rabat #53
Rounding out our season preview is the Reale Avintia squad. Consisting of the veteran Karel Abraham and the talented Tito Rabat, 2019 could provide a decent platform for the Avintia efforts going forward.
Karel Abraham will hope to tackle the midfield more readily and make fewer mistakes. His Achilles heal has always been dropping the bike mid to late race distance. Should he wring that out of his race efforts we might yet see Abraham score decently during 2019. Tito Rabat rounds out the grid, having no shortage of talent, Avintia Racing can look to Tito for the true pace of their bike. It would not be out of the question to predict Tito getting into the top 10 and beyond in 2019.
MotoGP kicks off this weekend the outlined schedule is below (All times GMT) :
Moto 3 Race : 14:00 10th March
Moto 2 Race : 15:20 10th March
Moto GP race : 17:00 10th March