After two dominant wins, there’s a new rider with a target on his back – and now it’s his home turf.
Le Mans was an impressive victory for Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), but a few weeks and a follow up demolition job at Mugello later it’s time to ask whether it was a little more than simply a first win of the season. Was Le Mans the point at which Marquez’ full hand was played, and Mugello proof he’s the new man to beat?
If we rewind to Jerez and play a little game of what if with what seemed like bad luck at the time, the Championship could look pretty different. Marquez has form in Spain and destroyed the opposition in 2017, and what we’ve seen since Jerez this season has been more than mere ‘form’. That’s enough to merit some questions about the standings: Marquez is two points off the top as it stands, and a win or podium at Jerez would have put him 14 to 23 points clear. And, if one Marquez looking imperious wasn’t enough, the last time Alex Marquez took back to back wins was in 2014 and they came at Catalunya and Assen – the next two tracks on the calendar. Barcelona and home turf will be a test for the EG 0,0 Marc VDS rider, but expect him to come out swinging.
Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP40) will be the first of those aiming to stand in his way. After a ‘win or bin’ beginning to the season, he’s hanging on to the top and Mugello was a big positive despite the number 7 not taking a podium at home – he didn’t crash out and rode back from P15 on the grid to an impressive P4. Those points were valuable, as a single position lower would see him equal on points with Marquez. And then there’s Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP), who is only four points off the top and the third of the three men to have shared the wins so far this year. The Swiss veteran didn’t have the pace at Mugello for the win but he kept it on the podium and consistency is key. After a tricky Le Mans, that’s a good sign and he will surely be a threat again at Catalunya.
Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up), meanwhile, remains a threat as well. Mugello saw his podium run come to an end, but let’s not forget that next up is the venue Speed Up dominated last year with Fabio Quartararo. And then Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) is another who, like Navarro, has hit the ground running this season – and he took pole in Italy. Unfortunately the German is also recovering from having injured his foot in training, but every day that passes means that progresses. And Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) took his first podium last time out, citing a much better feeling – the same he had when he went on a podium spree and took his first win last season…
The trio of riders at the top of the Championship are the only three men to have won so far this year, and they’ll all three be aiming to make sure that remains true in Barcelona. Can the likes of Navarro, Schrötter or Marini get in the mix? Will another new name take to the top? And what can Jonas Folger (Petronas Sprinta Racing) do, replacing injured Khairul Idham Pawi and with experience of the new machines? Tune in from the 14th to 16th June for the Gran Premi Monster Energy Catalunya to find out.
1 – Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA – Kalex) – 88
2 – Alex Marquez (SPA – Kalex) – 86
3 – Tom Lüthi (SWI – Kalex) – 84
4 – Jorge Navarro (SPA – Speed Up) – 73
5 – Marcel Schrötter (GER – Kalex) – 64
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