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2010 MotoGP Season Preview

It’s that time of year again, people…

Time for the smell of burning rubber and sweaty leathers.  The 2010 MotoGP season is about to kick off!

(Now I watch as ¾ of my readership turns for the hills…  heh.  Ingrates, the lot o’ ye!  You can at least skim through the pretty pictures.  If you’re a lady, you can go check out Dys’s Ladies’ Companion, and harass her to update one for this year so you can ogle Bautista and gawk at the hair farm that is Simoncelli.)

17 riders (and a few wild cards) will contest 18 races in 14 countries on 4 continents, starting this weekend under the lights at Losail, Qatar and ending on November 17 in Valencia, Spain.

So, last year MotoGP went to a control tire (Bridgestone) and thereby some of the racing tightened up.  If you were one of the four men that came to be dubbed, variously, the Supermen or (my favorite) the Aliens, that is.  I’ll not bore you with details (which can all be found in my 2009 season review anyway) but suffice it to say that the big question this year is which of the Aliens will come out on top…and, to a lesser extent, can anyone actually break the hold they had on the championship this past year?

Five rookies join the grid:  2009 250cc champ Hiroshi Aoyama, 2008 250cc champ Marco Simoncelli, and 250cc title contenders Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera.  Judging from the testing times, though, the rookie to watch will be 2009 World Superbike champion Ben Spies from Longview, Texas, USA.  Spies shocked the WSBK paddock by winning the title as a rookie – something that had never before been done – and he’s been consistently fast in testing, occasionally knocking on the door of Rossi, Lorenzo, and Stoner.  No less an expert than Kevin Schwantz has said that Ben will win a race this year.  (Of course, Kev might be biased.)

This is the penultimate year of all-800s – new rules changes for 2012 will also allow 1000cc bikes back onto the grid for the first time since 2006, with some restrictions, and they can run alongside the already-developed 800s (as the 4-stroke 990’s did with the 2-stroke 500’s for a season).  It’s also the first year of the new engine restrictions, as each team is only allotted six engines for the entire 18-race season before they start to incur points penalties.  So sending your bike cartwheeling through the gravel trap to ingest a handful of dirt just got a lot more problematic, and nobody knows how that will all work out.

But the real story of this season is likely to be the silly season – the contracts of the champions and runners-up for the championship for the last 4 years will all expire at the end of this season.  Nicky Hayden, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and Valentino Rossi will all be free agents, and the bidding war for their services is highly anticipated.  Where they all go will probably not be decided until the Brno round in mid-August, and probably not before the Indianapolis round in late August.

Which means that the paddock will be swirling with rumors in Indy for those of us (like yours truly, and a few other cool people) in attendance.    The dominos will start falling once the first one signs.  Who will go where?  Can Rossi and Lorenzo continue to co-exist?  Will Hayden get the boot after last year’s poor showing on the Ducati?  Can Stoner patch up his relationships with Ducati Corse after they more or less questioned his heart during his illness last year?  After basically ignoring every other rider (including Hayden during his championship season) to build a bike around Pedrosa, will Honda lose his services to a higher bidder offering theoretically a better winning package?  Will Rossi send the entire nation of Italy into a tizzy by climbing at long last onto the red Bologna beast?  Or, even more unthinkably, return to the Honda team that he left in a huff in 2003?

We’ll have to wait long months to find out.  In the meantime, time to have some fun.  Prediction time!

Rider, team, odds of winning the championship

#46 Valentino Rossi, Fiat Yamaha:  3:2

Why he might win: I learned my lesson last year:  Never, ever, bet against the Doctor.  When he absolutely needed to, he turned it on.  His Catalunya finish against Lorenzo ranks right up there with his 2008 Laguna Seca battle with Stoner, and the infamous 2004 Jerez bump with Sete Gibernau.  A challenge brings out the best in Rossi.  And this year, by god, the man will have some challenges.

Why he might not win: Stoner will surely not drop out for a handful of races this year; after his return, he was as fierce on the Ducati as ever.  Stoner and Lorenzo have each individually pushed Rossi to the brink in the past two years.  Can he withstand a challenge from both, and still come out on top?

#27 Casey Stoner, Ducati Marlboro:  2:1

Why he might win: See above.  He’s back, he’s bad, and he’s done it before.  He’s been as strong in testing as ever.  The 2007 champ has got to be considered a favorite.

Why he might not win: When the chips were down, Rossi has tended to have his number.  And this year, Stoner will have to contend with Lorenzo as well.  The questions from last year, and the crashes under pressure from 2008, will still have to be answered.  Can Stoner keep it up for a full season?  We’ll have to see.

#99 Jorge Lorenzo, Fiat Yamaha, 2:1

Why he might win: Lorenzo made The Leap last year, going from a promising rookie to a bona fide championship contender.  Rossi will not race forever; it’s hard to believe, but The Doctor is on the north side of 30.  Yamaha may be looking to the 23-year-old Spaniard as their champion of the future.  It’s hardly a bad bet to make.  Lorenzo gave Rossi all he could handle at times last year, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it again.

Why he might not win: When they were handlebar to handlebar on the last lap, Rossi pulled it out each time.  Also, and this is not a significant knock on Lorenzo, he just hasn’t done it yet.  Stoner and Rossi have each worn the crown.  Lorenzo will have to seize it once to truly prove himself to his critics.

#26 Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda, 5:1

Why he might win: Pedrosa has been settled at or near the top of the charts for nearly every race for years.  At some tracks, he has dominated.  He’s the only man who was consistently capable of hanging with the above three men all year.

Why he might not win: In an effort to close the gap to the Yamaha, Honda has switched from Showa to Ohlins suspension this year.  While his teammate Dovizioso has blossomed with the new suspension, Pedrosa has struggled, falling farther down the timing charts in testing.  But the hugest concern still remains:  throughout his career in the premier class Pedrosa has never been able to win a race from behind:  every win has been one in which he broke away from the field, seized the lead in the first lap or two, and never had a significant challenge.  To be a champion, Dani must find more than one way to win.

#11 Ben Spies, Tech 3 Yamaha, 75:1

Why he might win: He’s fast – within striking distance of Rossi, Lorenzo, and Pedrosa during the tests.  He proved all the critics wrong by crushing the WSBK field last year as a rookie, and he hadn’t even seen most of those tracks before.  Many of the same tracks are on the calendar for MotoGP this year, so he won’t even have to learn most of the tracks on the fly.  He’s also raced against notorious AMA hardass Mat Mladin as a teammate and bested him; mind games on the paddock will be unlikely to trip him up.  His teammate Colin Edwards, the top non-Alien last year, will be attempting to cement his reputation on the paddock by mentoring a new champ if he can’t be one himself.

Why he might not win: He’s a rookie, still, and on his first season on the GP bike.  This ain’t no Superbike.  It requires a different riding style, as Edwards will be telling him.  He may be the latest new thing, but he still has a ton to prove.

The field:  200:1

And that’s being generous.  Your 2010 champion will be one of the above men, folks.  And I’d almost bet all my guitars that it will be one of the first three.

Over/under on race wins per rider

Rossi: 7
Stoner: 6
Lorenzo: 4.5
All others: 0

Argue with me, race fans!  In a few more days, the lights go up, the gloves go on, and it’s all semantics.

Let’s race!


4 Responses

  1. I don’t know enough to argue with ya, I’ll just say I’m going to root for Spies. I like the thought of a rookie taking it all and reminding those jaded riders what it means to just run it WFO. Unless he turns out to be a snot nosed punk, then I’ll root for Rossi. Also, glad that the 1000’s are back! Bill will be hopping up and down this weekend (as will I).

    I’ll be rooting for the American boys as well, but for the whole shebang, I think basically none of them have a shot. In the meantime, I’ll be sporting my #46 gear…

    The return of the 1000’s will definitely help out the Americans (and normal-human-sized riders) at the expense of this horde of diminutive Italians and Spaniards who dominate the series right about now!

  2. One of these Marcos is not like the other…. because one is Hawt(!) and the other is Sideshow Bob.


    Now I’ll go read the actual article. Well, okay, now I’ll work, and later I’ll read the actual article. 😀

    OK, I’ll just make you read it before I play RB! 😉

    Oh, and I love Nicky and I hate that damn straight-billed hat. And Dani is wearing his usual, “I have a stick so far up my ass that it’s scratching my scalp” look. And Vale? Vale looks like all y’all are lucky he took his meds this morning or he’d be effing shit up. Odd, that one.

    At least Nick let the cornrows experiment die a horrid death before he ever went to the world stage, eh? Now if only Simo would lose the fright wig.

    Agreed, Vale looks strangely un-Vale-like. Maybe he’s thinking about Biaggi?

    Simo will never, ever make the Ladies’ Companion guide. Holy mother of Elmo.

  3. some really good work… would you be interested in writing motogp content on http://www.isport.in – we’re a collection of blogs!

    kunal shah

    Thanks, Kunal! I’d be interested, but probably not this year. Just too much other stuff going on. I only really heavily write about GP about 4 times a year – season’s beginning, season’s end, the Indy GP (which I attend), and maybe one other odd post at a random time.

    But if you want to link to the Indy GP posts in late August, feel free!

  4. Ahhh, another fantastic pre-season write- up, TB!! I’m so excited, can’t wait for Qatar!! I know zip about Spies (yes, I know, shame on me!), so will have to do a bit of reading!

    As usual, I want the wonderful Doctor to thoroughly kick everyone else’s arses, whether this happens, who knows- as you say, there’s a helluva lot of competition this year, and it’ll be VERY interesting to see how the 250 newbies do. And I hope Stoner comes to the aid of the party a bit more this year- I demand a good shit- fight between Rossi and Stoner this year. Bring it on- I can’t bloody wait!!!

    Ellie! I should have remembered to email you that I was done with the preview.

    I still haven’t watched the Moto2 race – will tonight, probably, assuming my DVR correctly recorded it. But the GP race – HOO BOY that was a huge blast to watch. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

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