Four riders split by four points and eight within a victory of the lead… the Championship contenders are ready for battle at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
They say all good things come to an end but that doesn’t appear to be true of the incredibly close battle for the 2020 FIM MotoGP™ World Championship, with every race only tightening the table. You’d be laughed out of the non-fiction section if you described the plot, because we’ve had with more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie mystery. And yet, as the paddock arrives at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to begin the second half of the season, it seems too good to be but it’s very much still true. With four riders split by four points, the top eight within a win, six different winners – four for the first time – and still candidates aplenty to keep that record rolling, it Just. Keeps. Getting. Better.
So, let’s start at the top. Despite two races at Misano that saw him pick up a seventh and an eighth, it remains wily veteran Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in the Championship lead on 84 points. He’s one of only two riders who’ve scored in every race so far, and that’s paying off despite some tougher weekends. The man knows how to finish a race. He also knows how to win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, over three seconds clear by the flag in 2017. Can he get back on top?
If Yamaha have anything to do with it, the answer is no. The Iwata marque are the most successful manufacturer in Barcelona with 12 wins, and this season has seen their pace at a couple of venues leave the rest in the dust. But then the question becomes, which Yamaha? It’s Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) who’s second in the standings, one point off Dovizioso, and his recent form at the venue is impressive. In Moto2™ he smoked the field in 2018, and in MotoGP™ last season he took his first podium. That was after a mechanical denied him in Jerez too, and this season Jerez saw him return unbeatable. But then, Misano 2019 to Misano 2020 was a more difficult comparison…
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), meanwhile, is also on 83 points. But there’s no such thing as equal in the Championship, so ‘Top Gun’ is third because he has one less win than Quartararo. He’s the most recent winner, however, and escaped the field with Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) to end the Emilia Romagna GP in a different postcode to the other Yamahas. Can he do that again?
And then there’s Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT). Too quick to handle in the first race at Misano, the Italian was then struck by illness the week after, so he’ll be one to watch. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) had great pace before a crash last time out too, and his record at Barcelona is enough to make everyone else blush: five of Yamaha’s 12 wins at the venue come from the ‘Doctor’. It’s also an incredible milestone – although he’s been well ahead of the game for a while – as he’ll start his 350th premier class race. And he’s already started more than a hundred more than anyone else! He was Yamaha’s last winner at the track, so it’s a good weekend for the number 46 to try and hit back.
Going back to nearer the top of the standings though, it’s time to talk about Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). It was a stop-start beginning to the season for the sophomore, as he crashed, took a top five, crashed again… and then began a run of form that has gone from Jaws music for his rivals to full-on Psycho. He’s outscored everyone else for a while now, and has been that which, they say, is the key to taking titles: consistent. And not in the top ten, but the top five or the podium. He’s still missing that first win – although he seemed on for it before the Red Flag in Styria – but who can bet against him taking one? It’s Saturday that could make all the difference for the Mayorcan, as he’s been fighting through from further down the grid, most recently from 11th to a seemingly effortless second. If they can fix that… can he become the seventh winner and fifth maiden winner this year?
Almost managing that last time out was Bagnaia, who crashed out of a lead that seemed ominous, and then started diminishing, but nevertheless remained healthy. With Viñales the man getting past and taking his first win of the year – and having already won a good few premier class races – the stat of fifth maiden winner and seventh winner of the season remains attainable for Bagnaia, and he’ll be guns blazing to bounce back. Teammate Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) will likely be in a similar mindset too, with the Australian forced out of the Emilia Romagna GP after his bike ate a tear off. He’s already won a race, but not this year – although he’s been incredibly close…
KTM could be a force to contend with again too. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took another podium last time out and teammate Brad Binder looked likely to fight for one before he crashed, but most crucially the Austrian factory blasted straight back into that fight at the front after a tougher first weekend at Misano. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) sliced through from P15 on the grid to the top five too, and his teammate Iker Lecuona was battling it out before a crash. How will they fare in Barcelona? Was it the test that saw them bounce back, or was the San Marino GP an anomaly?
The Emilia Romgana GP was also a big step forward for Honda. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was back in the top six (he’s also the second rider to have scored in every race), and rookie Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was only just behind him – ahead of Championship leader Dovizioso. Nakagami will want to keep that consistency rolling, and Marquez could be one to watch if that step forward is a permanent one. He’s won three times at Catalunya, once in Moto3™ and twice in Moto2™, which actually makes him the second most successful rider on the grid at the track across all classes… behind only Rossi! What can he do?
There are plenty more names to look out for too. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was MIA last time out but belongs at the front, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) is looking for a move forward, Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) is already a podium finisher on the Ducati… Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) has been on pole at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya too, although with a different factory. Can they get further up the fight for the top ten again?
Four riders within four points, eight within a win of the Championship lead, six different winners so far and a good few names who could make it seven… who’s leaving Barcelona on top? Only time will tell, and this time that time is a little later: tune in on Sunday the 27th of September at 15:00 for the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya MotoGP™ race!
MotoGP™ Championship Standings
1 Andrea Dovizioso – Ducati Team – Ducati – 84
2 Fabio Quartararo* – Petronas Yamaha SRT – Yamaha – 83
3 Maverick Viñales – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – 83
4 Joan Mir – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – 80
5 Franco Morbidelli* – Petronas Yamaha SRT – Yamaha – 64
*Independent Team riders