Valentino Rossi is still a force this season
Valentino Rossi dominated this weekend and enjoyed a perfect race by starting on pole position, recording the fastest lap throughout the race and claiming the race victory to close the gap at the top of the world championship.
At the age of 37 many people thought that the Italian legend’s time had passed to be seriously competitive and despite last season’s title charge, he would slip down the pecking order this year. A slow start to the season with a fourth place finish at the season’s opening race in Qatar was followed by a fortuitous second place in Argentina after Andrea Iannone wiped out his team-mate at the final turn took Rossi from fourth to second when he himself was too far back to make a move preceeded a rare crash in America last time out.
A dominant weekend in Spain which saw the Italian rider top the timesheets in Free Practice 3 before a dominant display in the race which saw him lead from the front without ever being seriously threatened reaffirmed that he is a serious contender to win the world championship.
Binder is the real deal
Brad Binder has been a regular contender at the top end of Moto3 races for a while now whilst he chased that elusive first victory. No-one will be surprised that he is now a race winner but the surprise came in the manner of victory, which will surely be talked about for a number of years.
The South African rider had qualified in second place behind Nicolo Bulega but was forced to start from the back of the grid after his bike was inspected after qualifying which discovered an error with the software that had been running. The error was a minor technicality which involved a KTM engineer making an altercation to the official software and saved the mapping with a new filename on a USB stick which was sent to MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge and Dell’Orto, the software manufacturers. This was officially homologated but with the old filename and subsequently showed as an error during post qualifying scrutineering. Despite an appeal, Binder was sent to the back of the grid.
Determined to make up for his misfortune, Binder set about the task of moving through the field and back to the leading group as fast as he could. The South African made light work of the tail and middle end of the field as he moved into fourth place on only lap nine of the twenty-three lap race. At this point, he began closing down the four second gap to the leading trio of Nicolo Bulega, Francesco Bagnaia and Jorge Navarro. He passed Bulega for third place on lap 15 and had gained the lead on lap 18 where he was able to take advantage of the clear track ahead of him and build a lead of nearly two seconds by lap 21 and he crossed the line an impressive 3.336s ahead of Bulega in second place.
Sam Lowes: Moto2 World Champion?
Sam Lowes continued his impressive season start by claiming a dominant race victory which moved him ten points clear of Alex Rins in the World Championship. The English rider was fast all weekend as he set the second fastest time in Free Practice 2 and 3 before setting the fastest time in qualifying to lead the field ahead of Jonas Folger and Sandro Cortese. He held off an early challenge from Folger before pulling away from the field to win the race by 2.480s ahead of Folger and Rins.
Whilst this was Lowes’ first race win of the season, he has been the most consistent rider in Moto2 this season with second place finishes in Argentina and America building on a slightly disappointing ninth place finish in the opening race of the season in Qatar. Rins and current world champion Johann Zarco have all had perfect weekends so far this season, but it is Lowes consistent performances that see him topping the standings at this point.
Whilst a ten point lead in the championship easily overturned, Lowes still has a long way to go before he can be crowned world champion but few would bet against him at this point of the season and attention will slowly turn to next season the deeper into the season that we get. Lowes has a contract with KTM for their MotoGP return in 2017 but if he continues his form of the opening few races throughout the season then more and more team managers in MotoGP will start to seriously look at the young English rider as a serious option in the top level of the sport. If he were to win the world championship this season, then he may find himself with several more options for his debut MotoGP season.
Viñales open to Yamaha move
Speculation has raged over who should replace Jorge Lorenzo when he departs Yamaha for Ducati next season, with Maverick Viñales being the name on everyone’s lips after his impressive MotoGP career so far. Speaking after the race on the prospect of filling the Spaniard’s boots in the garage alongside Valentino Rossi, the Spaniard said:
When you see Yamaha are first and second, and me and Aleix are fifth and sixth, it make you think a little bit.
This was a somewhat blunt assessment of the situation and he could be unveiled by Yamaha as soon as the next race in France, which would leave Suzuki looking for a replacement for the impressive Spaniard. Suzuki would love to retain him, but few could resist riding the M1 Yamaha which won the world title last season and may well do so again this year. Any rider would jump at the chance and if successful, it would continue an impressive career for Maverick which would see him go from Moto3 to a factory Yamaha in MotoGP in just 3 full seasons. There’s little doubt that he has the talent to compete at the top level of the sport, and a Yamaha move may just be the final cog to take him to a world championship contender.
Laverty has the pace to compete
Eugene Laverty continued his excellent start to the season by finishing inside the top ten, which continued his run of points finishes this season. His ninth place finish added to his excellent fourth place at the weather affected Argentina Grand Prix. He’s finished twelfth the other two races in Qatar and Texas which shows the talent the Irish rider has at this level. He finished last season with only nine points which left him in 22nd place in the overall standings as he struggled with the Open Class Honda. This season saw his Aspar Team switch to Ducati bikes and already there has been an upturn in fortunes as the Italian factory continue their return to the top of the sport. With 28 points at this stage leaving Laverty in ninth place in the World Championship there is no reason to doubt that he can’t continue to finish in the points regularly this season.