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Technical changes have seen a number of riders impress while several big names have been caught out by the new rules and falls.
The MotoGP™ World Championship marched to the beat of a very familiar drum in Qatar, the technical changes seeming to have changed very little. Although the first three races of the year have seen a number of very familiar names stand on the podium, the championship itself is in a dramatically different position to just 12 months ago.
After three rounds in 2015, Valentino Rossi stood proud at the head of the championship with 66 points while Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez were left scratching their heads as they sat 30 points behind him. But now the opposite is true and a number of Independent Team riders have also managed to make significant gains between seasons.
Riders are still adapting their styles to suit the new electronics and tyres, some adapting quicker than others. Marquez has always been praised for his ability to quickly adapt his style to suit the bike he’s riding be it a 125cc, Moto2™ or MotoGP™ machine. As other riders have struggled to stay upright and adapt their packages to overcome the new challenges of the 2016 season, Marquez returns to Europe as the only premier class rider to finish on the podium in each round. Three podiums, including two wins, grant him the championship lead with 66 points, the same number of points Rossi had at this stage in 2015. After three rounds in 2015, Marquez had 36 points. His gain of 30 points between seasons sees Marquez make the biggest improvement between 2015 and 2016 of any rider on the grid.
Equally impressive improvements have been made by Eugene Laverty, who sits ninth in the championship with 21 points. After three rounds in 2015 he had zero points, the Aspar Team MotoGP rider would only score nine points throughout all of 2015. Not only has Laverty scored 21 more points than the first three rounds of 2016, making him the rider with the second largest improvement, he’s also well on track to making the biggest improvement in a season overall. There’s little doubt that this comes as a result of the new rules and Laverty’s new bike.
No longer are riders such as Laverty forced to fight for just a single point each weekend, they can now regularly battle inside the top ten. The Ducati GP14.2 is clearly more competitive than Laverty’s 2015 Open Honda but the electronics have also made a significant impact as evidenced by Hector Barbera. The Spaniard remains on more or less the same machine as in 2015 but has scored 17 more points than at this same stage in 2015. A change of tyres and electronics have allowed Barbera to show his true potential, now frequently challenging for solid points.
Unfortunately there are also a number of riders who have done worse than in 2015, Andrea Dovizioso having lost significant ground. The Italian is 37 points behind where he was at this point in the 2015 season. Then he had taken three straight second place finishes, in 2016 he has been taken out twice. He can take some solace in the knowledge he was well on his way to ending on the podium in both Argentina and Austin before misfortune struck MotoGP™’s unluckiest man.
It has been a tortuous start to 2016 for Cal Crutchlow, the Brit crashing in all three races and failing to score any points at all. This sees him 34 points behind where he was in 2015. His falls come as a result of trying to override the bike into corners, trying to make up for a lack of acceleration. Honda overall have had the most difficulties in adapting to 2016 situation, Marquez one of the few riders to consistently challenge on the RC213V in the opening rounds.
With his crash in Austin, Rossi ended a 25-race streak of point scoring finishes. This, combined with his fourth place in Qatar, sees ‘The Doctor’ 33 points behind where he was in 2015. He and Marquez have seemingly swapped places, Marquez now leading with 66 points as Rossi did in 2015. Can Rossi make a Lorenzo-esque comeback to take that much desired tenth title?
While he may have failed to finish in Argentina, Jorge Lorenzo is actually in a better spot than he was a year ago. The Spaniard sits second in the championship with 45 points, 21 behind Marquez. After three races in 2015 he was fourth with 37 points and a gaping 29 points behind his teammate. While it may seem Marquez has taken the championship by the scruff of the neck once more, bigger gaps have been closed before. There are 15 races and 375 points still up for grabs and as the first three rounds have proved, anything can happen.
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