After a dramatic end to 2015, the 2016 MotoGP™ World Championship is set to be a hard fought, and record breaking, season.
The 2016 season will be the 68th edition of the MotoGP™ World Championship and will run over 18 Grands Prix in four continents and fifteen different countries. After preseason tests in Sepang, Philip Island and Losail the first race will be held in Qatar on the 20th of March, starting an eight-month battle for the title, concluding in Valencia on the 13th of November.
A familiar calendar will see the historic Austrian GP return. Last hosting a round in 1997, MotoGP™ will return to Austria on August 14th at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.
On the eve of the 2016 championship, 26 different riders have lifted the premier class title throughout history. The current MotoGP™ grid has three returning premier class champions: Jorge Lorenzo (2010, 2012 and 2015), Marc Marquez (2013 and 2014) and Valentino Rossi (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009). In addition, the 2007 and 2011 World Champion, Casey Stoner, will return to Ducati as a test rider. The partnership aims to rekindle some of the magic which earned Ducati their first, and so far only, world title in 2007.
Over 20 riders from 12 teams and five manufacturers (Yamaha, Honda, Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia) will form the 2016 MotoGP™ grid. Spain, with nine riders, is the country with the greatest representation. Italy (four) and the UK (three) also have a strong presence in the premier class, both with proud racing histories. Germany, San Marino, Australia, Ireland, Colombia and France also have at least one rider permanently on the 2016 grid. At just 21 years old, Australia’s Jack Miller is the youngest rider of the field while Valentino Rossi, at 37, continues to challenge towards the front even as the oldest rider.
Before the start of any season a rider’s target is always the title, but there are also many old records and new milestones to overcome. Among the Spanish riders there is expected to be a hard battle to achieve the highest number of premier class podiums. Dani Pedrosa leads the way with 100 premier class podiums, but Jorge Lorenzo has already claimed 97 since his MotoGP™ debut in 2008 and aims to overcome his rival in 2016. The Yamaha rider could also overcome the great Angel Nieto in absolute number of podium finishes. Lorenzo has claimed 135 podiums across all classes with Nieto taking 139 and Pedrosa a stunning 141, more than any other Spanish rider.
Indeed the Honda rider could continue to make history if he can achieve at least one win this season. Pedrosa could equal Phil Read’s 52 victories. It would also be Pedrosa’s 11th premier class season of taking victory at least once, the only other rider to have achieved this feat is Valentino Rossi, between 2000 and 2010. Since the 2002 125cc season, Pedrosa has taken to the top step of the podium at least once every year.
The nine-time World Champion, Rossi, faces a new season of hunting for his tenth crown but also has other milestones in his sight. If he were to win a race in 2016, Rossi would become the ninth oldest rider to win a GP, surpassing Phil Read. Britain’s Fergus Anderson is currently the oldest rider to win a premier class race, claiming victory in Montjuich in 1953 at the age of 44 years and 237 days.
Rossi will also have the chance to achieve victory at two circuits where he has never won before in MotoGP™: Austin and Aragon. Marc Marquez looks to extend his domination of America, the Spaniard having won his last nine races in the US. The only track the factory Honda rider has not conquered in the premier class is Motegi. As for Lorenzo, the Spaniard is still searching for wins in Austin, the Sachsenring, Sepang and at the Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina.
Meanwhile the manufacturers continue their own battle as Yamaha look to add to their 65 MotoGP™ victories and close the gap to Honda, who have 103. Suzuki continues to look for their first win since Australian Chris Vermuelen won the French GP in 2007. Ducati’s last victory also came at the hands of an Australia, Casey Stoner’s win at the 2010 Australian GP was the Italian manufacturer’s last. Honda and Yamaha have since dominated, largely thanks to Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez who between them have won every MotoGP™ race since Casey Stoner’s win at Philip Island in 2012 on the Honda.
In 2016, for the fifteenth year in a row, the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo will host the final round of the season and again it may decide the championship as it did in 2006, 2013 and 2015.
Last season saw two entirely Italian podiums, in Qatar and Silverstone, with a fully Spanish podium in Valencia. On 24 occasions riders from the United States have locked out all three steps of the podium. With 23 previous full podiums, Britain, with Cal Crutchlow, Bradley Smith and Scott Redding, has a chance to match and potentially surpass the American record.
In terms of premier class wins it is Spanish riders, with 101 wins, who dominate the record books. Italy are ten victories behind and with several strong riders could challenge Spain for the coveted top spot. Marc Marquez could overtake the experienced Dani Pedrosa in number of MotoGP™ wins, the rider from Cervera has already claimed 24 victories in just three seasons, the same as the legendary Wayne Rainey and four less than his current teammate. 2016 looks set to be another MotoGP™ season for the record books.