After an unbelievable 2018 a new season is dawning, and with it comes plenty of questions and challenges…
After Andrea Dovizioso’s (Ducati Team) victory at a rain-soaked Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, the time had arrived to close the curtain on yet another unforgettable MotoGP™ season. Now, the focus is firmly on 2019 – a year that has so much in the offering.
motogp.com share 10 of the key points to look out for at the Valencia test, which commences on Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st of November.
1. Marquez vs Lorenzo – a domestic duel
The arrival of five-time World Champion Jorge Lorenzo to the Repsol Honda Team after two years with Ducati, to race in the same colours as seven-time World Champion Marc Marquez is – arguably – the most anticipated move in recent MotoGP™ history. It’s certainly one of the main talking points ahead of 2019, with Marquez claiming there are now no excuses for him. If Lorenzo beats him, it’ll be on the same machinery, but how quick can the ‘Spartan’ adapt to the RC213V? People like MotoGP™ Legends Mick Doohan and Kevin Schwantz have had their say, but it’s time for the real talking to be done on track.
2. Rossi eying that lucrative tenth
He may be turning 40 before the 2019 campaign begins in March, but there’s still plenty of fire left in the nine-time World Champion. An improved Yamaha at the end of 2018 has seen light appear at the end of the tunnel, and if the bike is on song next season, Rossi is undoubtedly in the hunt for that tenth crown.
3. Four ravenous rookies arrive
2018 Moto2™ World Champion Francesco Bagnaia is joined by runner-up Miguel Oliveira, race winner Fabio Quartararo and Rookie of the Year Joan Mir. Bagnaia takes a seat in the Alma Pramac Racing garage to ride a proven race-winning GP18, while Mir hops onto a Team Suzuki Ecstar machine that is now a weekly podium contender. Oliveira will be buoyed by KTM’s first premier class podium as he joins Red Bull KTM Tech 3, with Quartararo competing on the new Petronas Yamaha SRT. Who will hit the ground running and who will spring a surprise in 2019?
4. Iannone arrives at Aprilia
A return to an Italian factory is in store for ‘The Maniac’ after spending two years with Suzuki, which saw him pick up four podiums in an impressive 2018 campaign. A race winner with Ducati and said podiums with the Hamamatsu factory prove one thing; Iannone is a fast rider. Can he help turn the Aprilia – alongside Aleix Espargaro – into a more competitive machine in 2019?
5. New colours
After a 20-year relationship with Yamaha, Tech 3 will switch to KTM machinery as they line up with two full factory RC16s next season. And with a couple of huge prospects like Hafizh Syahrin and Oliveira on board, an exciting season awaits Herve Poncharal’s team. Meanwhile, the premier class welcome a brand-new team to the grid in the form of Petronas Yamaha SRT. A new Yamaha Independent Team in the capable hands of rising stars Franco Morbidelli and Quartararo is one of the most exciting prospects to 2019.
6. Zarco makes factory step
After securing the Rookie of the Year title and two consecutive top Independent Team rider accolades, Johann Zarco gets his first taste of MotoGP™ on a factory machine – the KTM RC16. The double Moto2™ World Champion has quickly surfaced as one of the leading riders on the grid, his challenge now? To help take KTM to the top. The Austrian factory will enter their third season and after claiming their first MotoGP™ podium in Valencia, things are looking very good. French motorcycling legends Christian Sarron and Regis Laconi have also had their say on Zarco’s next chapter.
7. Petrucci gets his chance
As the saying goes, patience is a virtue. This is certainly true for Danilo Petrucci, as he rises into the ranks of the factory Ducati Team from Alma Pramac Racing. An impressive six podiums have come the Italian’s way in the colours of Ducati’s leading Independent Team, but now it’s time take his chance after years of persistence. The perfect squire to Dovizioso? Petrucci certainly won’t want to be playing second fiddle. But is a first win on the horizon for the lovable character in 2019?
8. Italian star meets Yamaha
We’ve heard this before, haven’t we? After spending his rookie season with EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda, 2018 Rookie of the Year Morbidelli follows in the footstepsof Italy’s master: Valentino Rossi. With a year under his belt, now is the time for the 2017 Moto2™ World Champion to start displaying the future for Italian motorcycle racing is already here. And with a ‘Spec-A’ Yamaha beneath him, can Morbidelli challenge for the top six, top five or even podiums next season?
9. Top level test riders
As well as a full-time grid oozing talent, test rider roles are now jam-packed with seriously fast riders. Michele Pirro’s P4 in Valencia for Ducati proved – once again – how quick he is on a MotoGP™ machine, while HRC test rider and former Moto2™ World Champion Stefan Bradl’s P9 again provided evidence that he’s more than quick enough to race in the premier class. Then we have Yamaha European test rider Jonas Folger – a podium finisher in his rookie MotoGP™ season – and Bradley Smith, who switches to Aprilia Racing Team Gresini testing duties from a strong season with KTM. And talking of KTM, what can we say about their new test rider: Dani Pedrosa? Three-time World Champion, 54 times GP winner, 153 podiums… in short, we have some incredibly talented test riders on our hands in 2019.
10. Miller and his GP19
A strong year with a season-old Desmosedici GP17 now sees Miller take over the baton as Ducati’s leading Independent Team rider. This means a GP19 is his in 2019, and what an enthralling prospect it is for ‘Jackass’. The Australian is already a premier class winner and with the same equipment as factory riders Dovizioso and Petrucci, it’s an opportunity he’ll be grasping with both hands – more podiums and totting up that win tally will be Miller’s aim in 2019.