16 would have made a better headline but I have a few words of wisdom for the Moto2 and 3 kids as well. Some of them serious, some less so, but all entirely viable in a year we have great expectations from. Between being brutally honest about title shots and jokingly indignant about wardrobe choices, here are my personal (unashamedly subjective but entirely rational) views on 2016:
Navarro will be in the title hunt but might do a Rins and finish 2nd
My appreciation of the Spaniard keeps growing by the minute (ok, more like bi-monthly) and having the implicit status as #1 in his team might help matters too. He’s fast and not afraid of a close fight but rarely reckless, which is always a good recipe. His progress last season might have gone a little under the radar due to various distractions/high profile names, just like Rins in 2014, and for some reason I can imagine him following a similar story. Probably not in favour of his teammate though and hopefully with no premature celebrations.
Literally anyone could win the Moto3 title
That’s not exactly a prediction but, besides the Navarro case I just explained, no one stands (in my mind) as overwhelming favourite. Enea, Fabio, Binder, Fenati, Antonelli, even the highly-rated rookies Mir and Bulega – they’ll all be there and neither wants to see the other win. There’s a chance someone will do a Kent (well, 1st half of the season Kent) but how likely is it for that to happen in a class as notoriously aggressive as Moto3?
Oliveira will finish the season higher up than Kent
This is obviously based on my personal rating of the teammate duo, but all the evidence from this year points to the fact that the Portuguese handles pressure situations much better than the Brit. While Danny’s dominant Lorenzo-ish wins were impressive for a class that is (to put it kindly) a kindergarten on LDS, when playtime turned into rough-and-tumble, Miguel was exceptionally calm and efficient. Moto2 isn’t exactly a church meeting either and Kent might have a niggling bit of pressure from the last time he tested the waters there.
Morbidelli and Marquez will both fare well but never in the same races
A very interesting pairing that I’ll keep a close eye on (as many will), although I see them as somewhat different types of riders that will rarely find themselves fighting for the same piece of tarmac. It all depends on what Alex learned from last season and how quickly Frankie adapts to the new team. I know my theory somewhat discards them from the title hunt but the next prediction sorts that out.
Alex Rins will be champion and move to Tech 3
The first bit is probably the surest bet in this list. Alex has been masterful at times and a rookie in others, but his mistakes were few and far between. And hopefully educational. There’s no immediate reason for him not to be just as competitive and with Tito gone and this Moto2 title seemingly impossible to defend, he’s the obvious heir to the crown. As for the last bit of the prediction, MotoGP teams will have their eye on him regardless of the trophy and out of the top teams both Bradley and Pol’s positions seem a bit endangered right now.
Emilio Alzamora will be giving Livio Suppo a run for his money in the bald spot game
I’m still surprised he has any hair left after spending the last decade or so of his life surrounded by Marquezes, Quartararos and all the kids he grows for Monlau and Estrella. Regular kids are terrible and these are special cases, if 2015 didn’t make that clear already. He’s one trouble down since Fabio left and Enea couldn’t jump fences but I can’t see his life getting any easier in 2016. If things go horribly wrong, the opening show of the Superprestigio next December might be a boxing match featuring him and that overexcited Dainese dude in Rossi’s corner.
Lin Jarvis will seek help for his gin & tonic abuse
After admitting that’s what keeps him sane when his oversized kids squabble, he’s going to need an awful lot of that in the coming year. Sure, the official line says they’re both mature enough to be respectful and mind their own business but that’s not what this year showed, is it? They’ll surely find some passive-aggressive way to express their contempt (with each other or others) during the season. No wounds are closed, they’re merely being kept cold.
Marc Marquez will win at COTA
Because why break a winning formula? And the race is early enough on the calendar so Honda won’t have time to figure out just how much they screwed up this year compared to their rivals. Plus even when he’s slow and loose he’s still the fastest around these parts, just ask Dovi.
Valentino Rossi won’t match 2015’s win rate
Because karma. Or more scientifically put: probability. Even if Honda makes a mess out of the new engine, the new electronics and the new tyres, and in a fantastic turn of events they find themselves fighting with Suzuki instead, Lorenzo will not let last year’s little nuisances impede him again. Even if one of said nuisances is the most successful rider of times past. Plus the rainman rarely rings twice, especially with all the heatwaves predicted (ok UK, look away, this doesn’t concern you).
Jack and Cal will continue to bump into each other
They may have switched teams but that doesn’t mean the fairytale has to end. A very loose definition of a fairytale. Literally bumping into each other will be less of an issue and having the same machine once again, plus one extra year of experience for Jack, makes them more likely to cross fire. As skeptical as I am of the Australian, I do expect him to improve, especially with all the new changes this year.
Bradley will be good but still not get a shot at a factory ride
A case of ‘wrong place wrong time’, Bradley has been with Tech 3 long enough for them (read Yamaha) to consider a fresh change and a factory ride will most likely not be available. Maybe Rossi has a clause saying they have to retire the seat completely, in his honour, once he goes on holiday permanently. Either way, I can’t see Bradley hanging around for another year, not with MotoGP’s constant obsession with ‘revelations’. Maybe ask around if KTM need a hand?
Iannone will still have the upper hand at Ducati but a tougher time than last year
I know the form book says that the GP16 will improve, that the racing will be closer and that Ducati have an advantage having used Magnetti Marelli software before, but I don’t think that means they’ll have it all their own way. The Japanese will not accept them stealing more podiums away and Dovi won’t sit still and watch a repeat of last year. And if the racing is closer, the aliens will get tougher. Which makes it a good opportunity to test whether the Italian could join the club or remain an alien imitation.
Valentino still won’t have realised that things have gone too far
As defensive mechanisms go, falling for the story that best fits your narrative is not a new one. And since the legend still won’t admit that attacking off track was a mistake, he surely won’t calm his legions of keyboard evangelists preaching his unprovable dogma. Then again, admitting mistakes is not in his behavioural pattern. On a related note…
Hector Martin will be asking for overtime compensation
As every move/word out of Marc’s mouth will come under scrutiny, I fear his job won’t be getting any more boring. If he didn’t enjoy writing press releases for all the various bones the kid’s broken lately, the overblown Andorragate and the unsavoury Kickgate, he’s about to serve another meal of that. Hopefully it will also come with a side dish of podium pics. On another related note…
Valentino won’t be getting socks for Christmas ever again
Anything feet-related will be a touchy subject for a while. So will anything red or related to six-legged pests. Or roundabouts and toothy water creatures.
Jorge will stop hugging Dani at every opportunity granted
The King was probably watching this season with a satisfied sigh. The past is the past and they’re both better than their younger versions, but now that Dani is back to full fitness and a real threat, they’ll go back to being respectful rivals. The sort who pat each other’s ass only occasionally.
He’s one hero down, one left standing – better make the most of it. Both Dani and Marc are rational enough not to let a potential title fight get between them and hopefully we’ll get to test that theory this season. Plus, being teammates prone to attending ridiculous events in Asia does help matters.
Yamaha won’t shake VR off so Honda get dibs on Maverick
It’s almost common sense that Maverick will end up with one of the big factories sooner or later. I’m not saying it will happen this year but as far as pre-contracts go, Honda have the better chance right now. If only for having their line-up decisions in their own pocket rather than locked in a safe-deposit box in rural Italy.
The guys will still make poor fashion choices
Marc will still wear camo shorts, either until someone burns them or he turns 30. I’m cheering for the former. Someone should introduce Andrea to turtlenecks before he catches a cold and I’m pretty sure Jorge will find some of his scarves chewed on pretty soon. And Vale should really stop getting fashion tips from gypsy fortune tellers – he’s got a model girlfriend, for Karl’s sake!
And last but not least…
Dani Pedrosa will be World Champion
Before you say I’ve jinxed him, let me remind you that there is no such thing. He finished the year on a high, he has no vendettas pending and a few of the changes this season should suit him. I am not underestimating any of his rivals but it’s possible that Marc will keep throwing it to the ground as there are far too many limits to test this year and Dani’s experience will help there. As idealistic and pleasantly surprised we were in the first half of last season, Valentino will have a harder time repeating it if his rivals are in top form. All the while Jorge might get distracted with managing his dog’s Instagram account and a bit bothered by the lack of smoothness of the new electronics.
But until these predictions are put to the test, I can only wish you a Happy New Season (we’re nearly there!) and may you find someone to look at you the way Marc looks at Dani. Or at pudding.