Christmas and the New Year are long forgotten as the much anticipated MotoGP™ season kicks off with a three-day test at the Sepang International circuit in Malaysia on Monday. Spearheading the British challenge is Cal Crutchlow after his historic 2016 season. The Isle of Man based Midlander riding the LCR Honda became the first British premier-class winner since the late Barry Sheene 35 years ago and followed that historic win in the Czech Republic with a pole position at the British Grand Prix and a second win in Australia. It’s a big year for 31 year old Crutchlow as he strives to become the first British Premier-class Champion since Sheene, whose last world title was in 1977.
It’s also a massive year for Oxfordshire’s Bradley Smith. The 26 year old has been working flat out to achieve a full recovery to his seriously injured knee to start his career as a factory rider. Together with his former Monster Tech3 Yamaha team-mate Pol Espargaro, they launch the Austrian KTM team’s attack on MotoGP after so much success in the smaller classes and in off-road competition.
Gloucestershire’s Scott Redding remains with the Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati team for a second year after a difficult first season. The highlight was a third place at the Dutch TT in Assen but the 24 year old, who is still the youngest ever grand prix winner, will be seeking some more consistency on the Ducati GP 16 machine.
Completing the British foursome is Lincolnshire’s Sam Lowes who makes his MotoGP debut on the factory Aprilia. Last year the 26 year old won two Moto2 grands prix and moves up to join Aleix Espargaro in the Italian team. He missed most of the post season testing because of injury, but returns to face the considerable challenge fully fit.
It promises to be an amazing three-day test in the heat and humidity plus the constant threat of rain round the superb 3.444 mile circuit next to KL International airport. Never in the 69 year history of grand prix racing have there been so many team changes coming after a 2016 season that brought nine separate winners.
Three times World Champion Jorge Lorenzo joins last year’s Sepang winner Andrea Dovizioso at Ducati. Lorenzo is replaced at Movistar Yamaha by the impressive 22 year old Spaniard Maverick Vinales who joins nine times World Champion Valentino Rossi to form a formidable partnership. His place at Ecstar Suzuki is taken by fiery Italian Andrea Iannone who won his first MotoGP race for Ducati last year. Moto2™ and Moto3™ race winner Alex Rins is Iannone’s new team-mate, while the double Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco makes his MotoGP debut for the Monster Tech3 Yamaha team where he is joined by another Moto2 race winner, German Jonas Folger.
While all the toing-and-froing was going on last season Spaniard Marc Marquez regained his world title for the factory Honda team. Both Marquez and his team-mate Dani Pedrosa remain with Honda to fight to retain the title.
It should be an equally close or even closer fight in 2017. We may not find the winner in the next three days but it will give us an indication of what lies ahead – Exciting times.
2.6 MILLION FANS FLOCK TO WITNESS MAGNIFICENT MOTOGP™ SEASON
Motorsport fans voted on their feet, with over 2.6 million attending the magnificent record breaking 2016 MotoGP season. Despite plenty of wet summer weekends, the average crowd attending each grand prix was just under 150,000.
Other impressive statistics emphasised how the season was enjoyed, with some staggering social media and television figures.
Motogp.com received 85 million visits with 235 million pages being visited. MotoGP on twitter attracted 1.97 million followers. There were 11.7 million Facebook Likes, 3.6 million followers on Instagram and 1.07 million YouTube subscribers.
Total broadcasting hours was over 23,000 with 369 million homes in 207 countries reached by continental networks while on the ground over 9000 journalists from 62 countries attended the grands prix.
While other motorsports turned their backs on long standing European venues MotoGP continued to receive massive support in France and Germany while in the Far East a record breaking crowd attended the Shell Malaysian Grand Prix. The biggest weekend crowd of the season was at the Red Bull Ring in Austria when over 215,000 fans packed the sold out circuit on its return to MotoGP. Both the final round in Valencia and the GoPro German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring attracted crowds of over 200,000. Both Italian venues at Mugello and Misano attracted race day crowds of over 100,000 as did the Dutch TT in Assen and Valencia. The Octo British Grand Prix continued to grow in popularity with a weekend crowd of over 155,000 at Silverstone.
These are figures that can’t be ignored in 2017
2017 MOTOGP™ CALENDAR
Grand Prix of Qatar
Losail International Circuit
Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina
Termas de Río Hondo
Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas
Circuit of The Americas
Gran Premio Red Bull de España
Circuito de Jerez
HJC Helmets Grand Prix de France
Gran Premio d’ Italia
Autodromo del Mugello
Gran Premi Monster Enery de Catalunya
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Motul TT Assen
TT Circuit Assen
GoPro Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland
Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky
NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich
Red Bull Ring – Spielberg
Octo British Grand Prix
Gran Premio di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini
Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
Gran Premio Movistar de Aragón
Motul Grand Prix of Japan
Twin Ring Motegi
Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix
Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix
Sepang International Circuit
Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana
Comunitat Valenciana – Ricardo Tormo