This weekend (20th March) sees the start of the 2011 MotoGP season, and it looks set to be a thriller. The 17 riders will take to the grid after months of off season testing and development, and they will all be looking to beat last years World Champion Jorge Lorenzo.
This year sees a multitude of rider moves from team to team and the return of a Brit to the grid, in the shape of Cal Crutchlow at Monster Yamaha Tech3. Valentino Rossi rides for Ducati, replacing Casey Stoner who has moved to create a 3 rider line up at Repsol Honda.
Here is the lowdown on this years runners and riders –
Yamaha Factory Racing
No.1 Jorge Lorenzo – Current World Champion Lorenzo will be hoping to make it two in a row this year and will aim to continue the consistency that saw him break many records in 2010. Lorenzo will also be fighting against former team-mate Valentino Rossi for a rival team for the first time in his elite career.
No.11 Ben Spies – From top rookie in 2010 to the factory Yamaha squad, Spies’ MotoGP carrer is progressing rapidly. After challenging for podiums in the latter part of last season on a satellite machine, and some impressive pre-season results, Spies could be a dark horse this year.
No.4 Andrea Dovizioso – Starting his 3rd season with the Repsol squad, Dovizioso has finally established himself as a constant contender for podiums and wins. 7 podiums last year will only come as an incentive to better that result, and claim his 2nd career win, his first coming in ’09. His new teammates will provide an extra challenge.
No.26 Dani Pedrosa – Having finished in the top 3 of the championship for the past 4 years, and missing out on the chance to fight for the number 1 spot in the later part of last year due to injury, Pedrosa must be thinking “when is my time?” After winning 4 races last year and claiming 5 2nd place spots last year, I for one wouldn’t bet against the Spaniard.
No.27 Casey Stoner – Former World Champion and Ducati rider, Stoner chose to make a daring move to Honda after the Ducati practically unlocked his potential in 2007 after impressing in 125cc and 250cc. In the closing years of his Ducati career he seemed increasingly frustrated with poor results and will aim to claim another title, this time in Honda colours. Pre-season certainly showed that this year could well be his.
Ducati Marlboro Team
No.46 Valentino Rossi – The 7 time MotoGP champion (9 times in all elite classes) moves to Ducati this year, in what many in his home country of Italy see as a dream pairing. After guiding Yamaha to the success they have had in recent years, he will be hoping to do the same with Ducati. Still suffering with the effects of his shoulder surgery and, looking at pre-season, an uncompetitive machine, Rossi could struggle this season.
No.69 Nicky Hayden – In his 3rd season with Ducati, the World Champion from 2006 will be looking to add another to his belt. After steadily improving throughout his Ducati career on the notoriously difficult Desmosedici, the “Kentucky Kid” will be hoping to push for podiums after showing promise in the latter part of last year.
No.5 Colin Edwards – Entering his 9th MotoGP season, the “Texas Tornado” will be riding alongside a rookie for the second season in a row. Some frustrating results last season saw him finish 11th in the championship, but he is more than capable of finishing much higher. He will be hoping this years M1 Yamaha will give him the performance he craves.
No.35 Cal Crutchlow – Making the jump from World Superbikes, MotoGP sees a Brit on the grid yet again. A former British and World SuperSport champion, Crutchlow will be hoping to take to MotoGP with the same level of success that he has shown before.
San Carlo Honda Gresini
No.7 Hiroshi Aoyama – After his debut MotoGP season was cut short by a back injury. Having made the jump to the premier class after winning the final 250cc championship, Aoyama will be hoping to make full use of this years RC212V to push for points. Not only that, but he also teams up with former 250cc rival Marco Simonchelli. I wouldn’t bet against either rider appearing on the podium at some point in the year.
No.58 Marco Simoncelli – By the end of last season, the rookie Italian had made steady progress and started to push for podiums. With a year in the premier class under his belt, Simonchelli is my top tip for a surprise result this season, and he has the results to prove he is more than capable as a former 250cc champion in 2008.
No.19 Ãlvaro Bautista – With his debut season wrapped up, it was announced that Bautista would be Suzuki’s sole entry in this years championship. After an up and down season in 2010,with some pre season injuries and multiple crashes, mixed with two 5th place finishes, he will be hoping this year will be a much better experience.
Pramac Ducati Racing Team
No.14 Randy De Puniet – The experienced Frenchman starts his 6th season in MotoGP and will be hoping to finish what he started last year. After some impressive results at the start of the season, he was cruelly ruled out for the majority of the season. Had that not happened he would have finished much higher than 9th, an impressive result on the LCR Honda.
No.65 Loris Capirossi – Having been at Rizla Suzuki for the past 3 seasons, Capirossi will be starting his 22nd championship in all competitions and will be hoping to push for results and claim his 100th podium finish. He also holds the accolade of being the only other rider bar Valentino Rossi to win a race in all 3 of the top classes.
No.24 Toni Elias – The 2010 Moto2 champion makes the move back up to the highest level of MotoGP competition as quickly as he left and will be hoping to prove his worth on the LCR Honda which Randy De Puniet showed can be competitive.
Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP
No.8 Hector Barbera – After being Mr Consistent in 2010, scoring points at every race bar one, with a best finish of 8th. Barbera starts his 2nd season in the premier class after being with with the Aspar team since 2004, starting his career with the team in the 125cc championship and finishing 2nd he repeated that feat in 2009 in the 250cc championship and it was this that Jorge Martinez 'Aspar' placed his faith in Barbera to be his sole entry into MotoGP last year.
No.17 Karel Abraham – Abraham is the first Czech rider to start in the premier class, and after competing in all championships for the past 6 years his career has been a steady progression, coming to a head last year with a maiden podium followed by a maiden win at the final Moto2 race of the season in Valencia, he will be hoping to continue his progression as only the 2nd rookie this year.
Be sure to stick with The Checkered Flag for all the news and reviews throughout the season.