Who's who on the 2018 MotoGP grid?
It's the eve of the first round of the new MotoGP season, but who are the favourites, dark horses and leftfield tips to look out for?
Reigning triple World Champions – rider, constructor and team – going for more of the same in 2018. Has the hard-to-handle in recent seasons Honda RC213V with its at times overly-aggressive engine been tamed? Pre-season would suggest so.
What more can be said about the six-times World Champion? The defending MotoGP title holder will be the man to beat this season, and the RC213V’s progress since last year makes the Spaniard an even more fearful prospect for his rivals.
He’s won Grands Prix for 16 consecutive seasons now, and can never be counted out of the title talk. Could 2018 finally be Pedrosa’s year? Find out the sacrifices he’s made for his title bid…
They brought in Jorge Lorenzo last year on a big-money deal, but it was existing Ducati man Andrea Dovizioso who came close to winning the title as he battled Márquez all the way. Under Gigi Dall’Igna’s guidance the Desmosedici has gone from almost hopeless to title hopeful, without losing any of its inimitable character.
Last year’s runner-up spot has placed more pressure on the Italian to deliver in 2018, but he’s up for it. No longer an underdog, but a title favourite, Dovi has the self belief, ability and machine to push the limits once again.
Jorge Lorenzo #99
If the pressure is on Dovi for what he showed last season, the pressure is on Lorenzo for what he didn’t display. He now has a year on the Desmosedici under his belt… Can he take a big step up in 2018 and repeat the glory of his Yamaha years but in red?
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
There’s no nice way of saying it. The Yamaha is struggling. A switch in tyres and compounds by Michelin last year threw the manufacturer off-kilter, and the frustrations at a lack of a fix were well observed by its factory team riders. Both riders clearly believe they can get this project back on track, having each renewed for a further two years in blue.
Maverick Viñales #25
His early-2017 form was blistering, but that already seems a long, long time ago given the turmoil the former Moto3 champion has gone through since then. Testing has revealed the Yamaha M1 still has the issues that kicked off the downward spiral last season, but have they managed to pull something out of the bag to help Maverick deliver on undoubted promise as a title tip?
Valentino Rossi #46
We start this season like we have for the last eight, by asking the same question: Can The Doctor rack up a 10th GP title? Recently turned 39, and freshly recommitted to Yamaha until at least the end of the 2020 season. He’s the oldest rider on the grid in 2018, but also the most successful. Can he?
LCR Honda CASTROL
Lucio Cecchinello’s exciting team expands to a two-rider line-up in 2018, with rookie Takaaki Nakagami joining the experienced Cal Crutchlow.
Cal Crutchlow #35
The Brit receives full Honda factory support in the LCR set up, taking on full testing duties for the likes of Márquez and Pedrosa in return for new parts, updates and full backing from the Japanese manufacturer. Can he covert that into success in 2018 and build on his two MotoGP wins?
Takaaki Nakagami #30
Stepping up from Moto2, Nakagami becomes the first full-time Japanese rider in the premier class since 2014. He has two Moto2 wins to his name and is a talented rookie who should adapt well to the top class. 2018 will be a learning year.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3
It’s been an eventful off-season for Hervé Poncharal’s team. First, there was Jonas Folger’s announcement that after his successful rookie year the German was stepping away from the sport to focus on his health. Then followed the announcement that this year would be the last in a 20-year relationship between Tech 3 and Yamaha, with the French team switching to KTM machinery for 2019. Can they sign off their partnership with Yamaha with a bang?
Johann Zarco #5
An impressive, to say the least, debut in the top class last year produced three podiums, a few near misses for a win, and a demonstration that Zarco isn’t scared to stick it to the big names. He frequently out-paced the factory Yamaha riders, and in 2018 he will surely take his first MotoGP win. An outside shot for the title?
Hafizh Syahrin #55
Brought in at the very last minute following Folger’s announcement days before the first test of 2018, the first Malaysian in the premier class has impressed in pre-season. The pressure is on Poncharal with his choice, but his track record has proven plenty of times that he knows a seriously talented rider when he sees one.
Team Suzuki ECSTAR
Looking to put a disastrous 2017 season behind them, Suzuki stays with the same rider line-up. In search of a first win since 2016 – they failed to podium at all last season – both riders know the GSX-RR better after their respective first years on it. Can they deliver?
Alex Rins #42
A tough rookie season in 2017 was affected by injury and missed time on the bike, when Rins had been touted as a great prospect when stepping up from Moto2. His 2018 pre-season testing form has hinted at brighter times ahead in 2018, and there Spaniard could be the more likely of the two riders to bring home a first victory.
Andrea Iannone #29
There’s a question mark over the Italian: can he add to his 13 GP wins (one of those in MotoGP)? Suzuki has improved the bike, but will Iannone’s application match?
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
A year on from its MotoGP class debut, KTM has made the kind of progress other newcomers to the elite category could only dream of. Aiming for a first podium in 2018, and with a deal with Tech 3 for 2019 already done and dusted, the Austrian manufacturer is on a seriously upward curve.
Smith has earned the trust of KTM after a 2017 season that by his and their standards wouldn’t have been what they both desired. Smith’s had to bear the bulk of the pre-season testing workload with test rider Mika Kallio, due to team-mate Pol Espargaró’s injury issues.
The Spaniard, like his British team-mate, heads into his second season with KTM in 2018, and will be targeting his – and KTM’s – first podium in MotoGP. His pre-season has been affected by injury, so his ability to push in the early-season rounds is an unknown.
Alma Pramac Racing stick with Danilo Petrucci (#9) and bring in Jack Miller (#43) for 2018. Both riders have MotoGP podiums to their names (Miller a win), and both have the potential to deliver some serious results this year on factory machinery.
EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda have brought Moto2’s 2017 1-2 up to MotoGP for 2018 in the shape of Franco Morbidelli (#21) and Tom Lüthi (#12), while another team integrates a rookie into its set-up as Reale Avintia Racing Ducati give the nod to Xavier Simeon (#10), who’ll race alongside Tito Rabat (#53).
The Aprilia Racing Team Gresini have an experienced formation in the form of Aleix Espargaró (#41) and Scott Redding (#45), and have an improved machine for 2018, and the renamed Angel Nieto Team Ducati, in honour of the late legend, has Karel Abraham (#17) and Alvaro Bautista (#19) on its bikes this year, completing the MotoGP grid.