10 Reasons to Watch MotoGP in 2017
The 69th grand prix season is rapidly approaching and with new riders, a new manufacturer, and some significant team changes, the 2017 season is sure to be an exciting one. Here are 10 reasons you should spend your Sundays watching MotoGP this season.
1. New Talent
New talent on the grid is vital to keeping MotoGP competitive and the highest level of motorcycle racing in the world, so it comes as no surprise to those who follow Moto2 that Alex Rins, Johann Zarco (2016 Moto2 Champ), Sam Lowes and Jonas Folger will be stepping up to the premier class.
Rins will make his MotoGP debut with new teammate and former Factory Ducati rider Andrea Iannone aboard the Ecstar Suzuki Team GSXRR. Last season the GSXRR proved itself to be a competitive bike and saw a handful of podiums as well as Suzuki’s first premier class victory since 2007. Lowes, who finished 5th overall in Moto2 last year, will be riding for Aprilia Gresini. The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team will be made up of promising Moto2 veterans Jonas Folger and Johann Zarco, who are no doubt eager to make a name for themselves in their first year in MotoGP.
Every world champion in the Premier Class started as a rookie and had what it took to be the fastest. The 2017 season even includes a Championship contender who only two years ago saw his premier class debut, which brings us to reason No. 2.
2. Maverick Vinales
The 22-year-old Spanish rider will be leaving the Ecstar Suzuki camp for the Movistar Yamaha team to ride what is widely considered to be the best bike on the grid. Vinales entered the premier class in 2015 where he won the "Best Rookie Award." In 2016 he went on to win his first podium and then his first Grand Prix victory in the MotoGP class.
Although his first podium may have been a result of several riders ahead crashing out, he spent the remainder of the 2016 season proving that he can win races as a result of his talent, so much so, in fact, that when Movistar Yamaha found themselves in need of a new rider, Vinales was their first choice. The skill possessed by the No. 25 rider, combined with the Yamaha M1 makes Vinales a realistic contender for the 2017 MotoGP World Championship.
The decision to leave Suzuki for Yamaha couldn’t have been an easy one for the young Spaniard. With Suzuki he would have had a good bike and done well, bagging at least a few podiums per season. However with Yamaha he will be expected to consistently win races, if not a championship title.
Vinales has been vocal about his 2017 season aspirations making it abundantly clear that he has his eyes set on the World Championship for his first season on the M1. Equally vocal has been current World Champion Marc Marquez who has described Vinales as “a tough rider” and “competitive for the title,” making it increasingly clear the No. 93 Repsol Honda rider sees the new Yamaha pilot as a genuine threat to his fourth Premier Class championship.
Vinales has in two seasons managed to capture the attention and admiration of thousands, myself included, making him a very good reason to watch and follow MotoGP this season.
3. The Tires
2017 will be Michelin's second season as the official tire sponsor and supplier for the premier class. The 2016 season saw more than its share of crashes as a result of the new tires, most notably riders losing the front end during corner entries. Luckily for the MotoGP riders, this year the folks over at Michelin have used the ample amounts of data collected in 2016 to iron out many of the kinks from last season. The Michelins should become far more consistent and predictable tires in 2017.
Many credit Cal Crutchlow's win at Brno in 2016 to his tire choice.
With any luck they should be as effective and sticky as the BridgeStone Battlaxe Tires were in their final MotoGP season. Last season the new tires clearly worked better for some bikes and riding styles than it did for others. Michelin claims 2017 will see more of a final product in contrast to 2016’s tire that was more of a constantly evolving work in progress.
4. KTM’s Entry
Although KTM’s wildcard entry into the 2016 Valencia GP ended in a DNF due to mechanical problems, the Austrian manufacturers of the RC16 GP machine will undoubtedly add a new element to the current grid. For 2017 KTM has signed Bradley Smith and 2013 Moto2 champion, Pol Espargaro.
KTM’s first season in MotoGP should mostly be a learning experience for the new factory team, collecting valuable data to further develop the RC16. However, the Austrian factory team has reason to hold out hope since Suzuki won a Grand Prix in their first two seasons after re-entering the premier class. On paper the 240+hp V4 beast appears to be a real contender.
It's crucial to remember that this is not KTM’s first experience building GP machines. They’ve been building engines and machines for smaller displacement classes for some time and with more than some success. That’s not to say KTM doesn’t have experience building liter-sized GP machines. In 2005 the “Ready-To-Race” manufacturer supplied 990cc V4 engines to Kenny Roberts' Proton Team KR machines. With its MotoGP project team consisting of literally dozens of experts, it’s clear that KTM is taking their premier class entry very seriously.
5. Jorge Lorenzo
One of the most highly anticipated changes to the 2017 MotoGP roster is Jorge Lorenzo’s move from the Movistar Yamaha Team to the Factory Ducati Team. Lorenzo has made a name for himself with his laser-precision, ultra-consistency, and his “riding on rails” cornering style, bagging three premier class titles along the way (in addition to his two 250cc World Championship titles).
Lorenzo and Rossi celebrate on the podium at Motegi. Their relationship has not always been so rosey. (Photo courtesy Yamaha Racing.)
In recent years Ducati has gone from a camp known for chewing up and spitting out promising riders’ careers to becoming a team producing an extremely competitive machine that's consistently the fastest bike on the grid (top speed not overall lap time). The Desmosedici’s raw power on the straights demonstrates its advantage over the other bikes. As a whole, team manager Luigi Dall’lgna has turned the Ducati Corse team around. With a solid bike, Ducati is aiming for its first world championship title since Casey Stoner’s superhuman abilities led to him piloting Ducati’s then sub-par machine to victory in 2007. Lorenzo very well may be the rider the Borno Panigale-based manufacturer needs for a successful, title winning season.
It’s no secret that Valentino Rossi and Lorenzo don’t get along. The wall erected between the two riders in the Movistar Yamaha garage is a testament to this. There’s never been any love lost between the two world champs. In 2011 and 2012 Rossi signed with Ducati and went on to have two of his worst seasons in the premier class, leaving the nine-time world champion eager to get back on a Yamaha. While Ducati’s current GP machine is blatantly superior to its 2011-12 machine, Lorenzo hopes to step out of Rossi’s shadow by doing what the Doctor could not: win a world title aboard a Ducati.
6. New Numbers on Old Bikes
Lorenzo’s move to Ducati resulted in a domino effect of open positions that really shook things up for the 2017 season. His move left a seat at Yamaha which was filled by Vinales who left an open seat at Suzuki, and so on. So while the majority of the headlines about the 2017 season are about Lorenzo and Vinales, a substantial number of other riders will be joining new teams for the upcoming season.
Andrea Iannone left Ducati for Suzuki after a two-year contract with the Italian factory team. The 2016 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 riders, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro both jumped to the KTM camp, leaving both seats in the Yammy Tech 3 garage open to be filled by MotoGP rookies Folger and Rabat. Aleix Espargaro’s Suzuki contract ended at the end of 2016, leading the #41 rider to sign with Gresini Aprilia. The Aspar Ducati Team welcomes two new riders for 2017: Czech rider Karel Abraham returns to MotoGP from his 2016 FIM SuperBike World Championship, and Alvaro Bautista will begin his eighth season in the premier class.
The 2016 MotoGP season was one of the silliest "Silly Seasons" we’ve seen in quite some time, with all the new contracts in 2017 we can expect a riveting season of racing.
Rossi entered the premier class in 2000 and has since won seven titles, most recently in 2009. With all the new talent it’s easy to overlook the 37-year-old Italian, but that would be a mistake. In 2016 Rossi proved that he is still competitive and isn’t ready to hang up his leathers just yet. He found himself at the top of the podium twice in the 2016 season and would have likely spent more time there had he not lost the front end on several occasions.
Valentino Rossi wheelies across the finish line in second place at Sepang 2016
The additional tire development in the previous year should benefit the iconic VR46 rider in particular. Countless riders have come and gone in Rossi’s time in the premier class. He’s ridden 500cc 2-strokes, 800cc and 1000cc inline fours and has managed to adapt enough to stay at or near the top. Rossi has been open about his plans to retire, making it clear that when he stops enjoying racing motorcycles, he plans to hang it up. Before that happens, however, there’s a realistic chance that the world’s most famous motorcycle racer may yet bag one more title.
8. Evolving Aerodynamics
Innovation is always a good reason to tune into MotoGP. Last season saw the rise and then fall of the aerodynamic winglet. Many of the riders in the premier class had some serious reservations about the new supplementary aerodynamic attachments. Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa questioned how the officials could make proactive safety steps and then seemingly undo said steps by adding winglets which Pedrosa likened to blades.
Ducati had spearheaded the winglet movement, debuting theirs first in 2015. By the 2016 season, every bike on the grid had winglets. Regardless of whether teams or riders liked them the winglets did give a slight advantage, which dropped lap times by 0.1-0.2 seconds. That small amount of time multiplied by the number of laps in a race made a substantial enough difference that every team adopted the technology.
It was announced around the end of last season that winglets would be banned in the 2017 season. There was also a fear in the sport riding community that winglets would soon be the newest go-to accessory for aspiring squids who don’t feel their helmet mohawk makes them disliked enough, luckily the new regulations took care of that.
With the ban of the winglets we can expect teams to look for other aerodynamic advantages to get an edge over their competition. Every team has likely spent a good amount of time in a wind tunnel over the past few months. With teams officially unveiling their 2017 bikes and liveries in recent days it’s suspected that some teams may be keeping aerodynamic advantages up their sleeves until the season’s first race. This means the bikes we’ve recently been shown may not be the actual 2017 machines.
9. Best of the Best (of the best of the best of the best...)
It’s difficult to have even a tenuous grasp on the level of performance exhibited in MotoGP racing. Simply put, these are the very best of the very best. Even those who routinely find themselves at the back of the pack are among the most elite motorcycle racers on the planet. Additionally the multi-million dollar prototype machines used in MotoGP are the best and fastest bikes money can buy. The venues hosting each race are the nicest circuits in the world without question. Throw in two good commentators, a few helicopters for aerial shots and you’ve got a uniquely entertaining sport.
The lack of predictability greatly adds to the intensity of Grand Prix racing. Unlike baseball or football where the audience can anticipate moments of intensity or action, (such as right before the snap or pitch) MotoGP racing can surprise you at any second. You never know when a rider might go down, which makes every single turn, especially in the final lap(s), some of the most dramatic television ever seen. Lastly, MotoGP racing comes with the risk of serious injury and even death. It may be rare and inarguably tragic when it does happen, but this lethal element enhances the experience. These are modern-day gladiators who risk everything several times per week. I don’t know of another sport in existence that can make these same claims.
10. It’s Free and It’s Easy
One of the most frequently questions asked about MotoGP is where it can be viewed. Traditionally, watching MotoGP in North America requires a premium cable package on top of an existing cable subscription. Other expensive options such as “VideoPass” also allow fans to watch MotoGP racing but the cost prevents many from doing this. Fortunately it’s 2017 and YouTube exists, as do a number of generous Europeans who are willing to post races in their entirety hours, (if not minutes), after the completion of the races. I’ve been watching MotoGP races on YouTube for several years and have been really happy to have discovered this option.
MotoGP isn’t being financially supported by people watching races on YouTube, so if you do regularly watch this way, at the very least buy a shirt or hoodie to support favorite team or rider. There is also a pattern whereby posters include the name of the race winner in the title. After a decent amount of complaining this trend should decline, but you’ve been warned. Even with these downsides, it's still pretty great to wake up on Sundays and turn on the race for free. If you can afford it, pay for the cable package, if not, money is no longer a reason not to follow MotoGP.
11. Wet Weather Gambles
So it occurs to me that RideApart may take issue with my encouraging readers to watch MotoGP on YouTube, since, you know, it might not be 100-percent legal (That's correct; RideApart does not condone watching MotoGP illegally. Those riders' families gotta eat –Ed). So, I've thrown in an 11th reason just for good measure.
Another reason the tires in MotoGP make the racing more enjoyable to watch, (beyond giving riders access to superhuman lean degrees) is because of the affect tires and tire choice have on races when the weather isn’t ideal. If a race starts in the rain, riders will opt for rain-tires. If the rain stops and a dry line on the track begins to form, riders have to make a critical decision that will greatly affect the outcome of where they finish.
Stopping in the pit lane and switching to a bike with racing slicks can allow a rider to go faster than riders still on rain tires. But the rider will lose time when stopping in the pit lane to swap out bikes. Choices must be made by the rider while on the bike racing flat out, which isn’t the easiest place to do quick math in your head. This is an aspect of Grand Prix racing that really mixes things up, allowing unlikely races to sometimes bag unexpected victories, such as Jack Miller who won the Assen GP last season with 1 to 1,000 betting odds before the race.