The 2018 MotoGP has concluded successfully. And it’s time to take a quick look at all the major highlights of the championship this year.
The 2018 MotoGP has come to a close, as the final round of the season concluded at Valencia in Spain. While the season finale wasn’t a thrilling edge-of-the-seat spectacle, it did offer a bit of a nail-biting tension, as wet weather ensured chaos from the very first lap to the last lap. The whole race was affected by a heavy downpour, and it had to be red-flagged for a brief moment. There were crashes everywhere, and the conditions were so tricky that it sent the likes of Marc Marquez – your current world champion, in case you’ve forgotten – Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi in gravel. In fact, nearly half of the grid got wiped out by the time the chequered flag came out. Still, in the end, it was Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati who won the final race of the season, ahead of Suzuki’s Alex Rins and KTM’s Pol Espargaro, who needs a special mention here because he quite literally dragged his machine in the tough and treacherous conditions so as to get Red Bull KTM their first-ever podium in the premier class.
If you take a look back at the standings in the championship, you’d think that Honda absolutely decimated the rest of the field this year. The team clinched the ‘triple crown’ with Marquez winning the rider’s title, and HRC (Honda Racing Corporation) taking constructors and team championships. However, this isn’t entirely the case. You see, apart from Marquez’s 9 wins and 5 podium finishes in this season, Honda wasn’t anywhere close to the top spot. Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa, who announced a shock retirement from racing after 2018, never made it to the podium this year, let alone win a race. This was Pedrosa’s worst ever run since he joined the team back in 2006. And we all know Pedrosa is anything but a slow rider. LCR Honda’s Crutchlow, who runs a factory-spec Honda as well, had a better season than Pedrosa before getting badly injured in Australia. Consequently, he was forced to miss the final three rounds. He won the Argentina Grand Prix and was on podium on two more occasions this season. But still, it was Marquez who, let’s be honest, single-handedly helped Honda to bag top honours, race after race. On the other hand, Ducati showed clear improvements as the red squad took 7 wins between their riders – Dovizioso was victorious on 4 occasions, while Jorge Lorenzo won 3 races. And they achieved these mostly by beating Marquez in a straight dogfight. Also, it was a clear testament to the fact that the Desmosedici has improved a lot from what it used to be – so much so that many riders believe that it was the ‘best bike’ on the grid this year. At the same time, Lorenzo’s victories in particular were a clear proof that he could have been a championship contender if he’d received the ‘right’ parts early on in the season. Now from next year, he’s off to Honda, and you can’t help but think that both Ducati and Lorenzo are going to miss each other. It’ll always be a case of what-could-have-been had he stayed.
For Yamaha though, they’d want to forget the 2018 season as quickly as possible. Sure, Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales finished third and fourth in the championship, respectively, but this year was Yamaha’s worst run in the premier class! Their one and only win this season came in Australia with Vinales at the helm. However, that win also came after a long and excruciating wait of 25 races – Yamaha’s longest winless streak in the history of the sport. Reason? The engine of the Yamaha M1 was too brutal in its power delivery and the electronics couldn’t quite put the power down effectively, meaning both the riders struggled with acceleration and also suffered increased rear tyre wear.
On the other hand, Suzuki has had a phenomenal season. They were on the podium 9 times and are steadily improving. Rins is showing tremendous potential, and while Andrea Iannone may have been dropped from the team for 2019, he’ll be replaced by Joan Mir, who’s one of the fast rookies to look out for in 2019.
The 2018 season also marked the end of the road for Pedrosa, Alvaro Bautista and Scott Redding. While Pedrosa won’t race anymore, he’s taken up the role of a test-rider with KTM Red Bull Racing. The other two riders, however, have signed up for new challenges – Bautista is going to compete in WorldSBK, while Redding is headed to Bennetts British Superbike Championship in 2019.
There are many other changes, and there’ll be new faces in the paddock next year. More on this in the next write-up though, where we’ll also discuss the winter test.
Andrea Dovizioso ended the season on a high as he won the final race in tricky wet weather conditions.
The season finale at Valencia also marked the end of Dani Pedrosa’s stellar racing career. Jorge Lorenzo (below) will be replacing him in 2019. The KTM Red Bull team also scored their first podium finish.