Septic Peg’s 2017 Crystal Ball: What goes on in MotoGP…

'I have some lovely heather for sale...'
'I have some lovely heather for sale...'

Weather forecasters, pollsters, pundits. Nobody trusts them. Remember Michael Fish? The Brexit soothsayers? BSN’s answer to Russell Grant? For it was we who claimed, somewhat light heartedly, that Shane Byrne might not make the BSB Showdown in 2016. Like all the others, wrong…

Undeterred, Septic Peg - our new crystal ball gazer - marches bravely into 2017 with complete confidence that her ability to pick winners on two wheels rather than four legs will throw unlikely named bookies Done and Fair into panic mode and result in long holidays for BSN’s boss on some Portuguese beach.

When the aforementioned bookies name their odds on the likely championship winners in MotoGP they will, more than likely, have Marquez as a clear favourite. But they’re not certainties to win. And other riders, at much longer odds, may be worth a punt. Those of you who have the mildest interest in football may recall a team called Leicester who started last season at 5000 to 1. They won.

So it might be worthwhile having a few bob on somebody else to beat, for example, Marquez and at much have better odds. That’s the cheapskates philosophy which is why you will never see a bookmaker on a bike. But odds of 10 to 1 are just so appealing.

Individual races, as was proved in 2016, are much more wide open. MotoGP had an unprecendented nine different winners and it could happen again this year. A great opportunity to back anyone except Marquez on a race-by-race basis. But it is consistency that wins championships and so it is understood why the young Spaniard will be a clear favourite. He is reigning champion, he has grown up and in arguably the best team, Honda.

However, as we are focussing on ABC (Anyone But Champions) the bet must go on Jorge Lorenzo. Not just because he would be on longer oddsb ut has a burning desire to succeed after a moderate year. And an even greater desire to succeed with the Ducati team where Rossi failed.

Convinced he has never had the recognition he believes he deserves, nothing would give him greater pleasure than to stand on the podium with the great man a few inches lower. Better still, not there at all. No doubt Ducati has an edge in speed over all others and has won races but, unlike its new jockey, has lacked consistency. If that’s a question for the bike, the question over Lorenzo is the weather. He doesn’t like the rain. Hmm.

Can the ‘greatest rider of all time’ be discounted? Great champions never get bored with winning so Valentino Rossi, even at 38, is a contender. But he is not getting better. His opponents, as Marquez proved in 2016, are. And that includes his new team-mate Maverick Vinales who may not observe his number two status for long. And look out for Andrea Iannone. The 27-year-old Italian, fired by Ducati for crashing too often - including bringing down his own team-mate - could be a real threat on a Suzuki whose pace has surprised everyone.

And the Brits? Well, we now have great expectations of Cal Crutchlow who made history in 2016 by being the first British winner of a Grand Prix since Barry Sheene in the 70s. And did it again. Times sports writer Rick Broadbent gave him his “unsung hero” award ahead of all other British sportsmen. While Cal is undoubtedly a contender, the same cannot be said for Bradley Smith (new bike), Sam Lowes (rookie) or Scott Redding although top tens, or top sixes, must be possible especially for the Octo Pramac man.

Inevitably, tyres will be a great determinant and the judgement of riders and team bosses will, more than ever, decide podium places and maybe championships.

So place your bets. The top four non-favourites are:

Jorge Lorenzo
Maverick Vinales
Cal Crutchlow
Andrea Iannone

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