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12 days ago
By motogp.com

Mid-season improvers: MotoGP™

The 2016 MotoGP™ has been anything but predictable, regulation changes and strange weather making every race a surprise.

As the World Championship begins the traditional summer break, motogp.com takes a look at who has improved since 2015 and who is still searching for their past form.

The Improvers

Before 2016 started it looked as though Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was on for a repeat of his difficult 2015 season. The RC213V had struggled in testing and taming the aggressive engine with the new spec ECU was taking longer than expected. But then in Argentina he mastered the flag-to-flag race and backed up his win with another in Austin. He’d have to wait till round nine to return to the top step, the French GP a slight hiccup in his season when he crashed and only managed 13th place.

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#DutchGP: MotoGP™ Full Race

Aside from France, Marquez has ridden like a new man and the race in Assen was a perfect example. He’s no longer overly aggressive, riding every lap like it’s the last one. His rivals have fallen and struggled while he’s happily settled for second, something unthinkable to 2015’s Marc Marquez. But his mature approach has given him the championship lead as the summer break begins and has him 56 points ahead of where he was after the German GP in 2015. He’s the MotoGP™ World Championship’s biggest improver; will he be the 2016 champion as well?

The spec ECU has come as a blessing for the Independent Teams, especially those who ran under the ‘Open Class’ in 2015. Riders like Eugene Laverty (Pull & Bear Aspar Team) have gone from celebrating scoring a single point to being disappointed with anything other than a top ten. In 2015 Laverty had scored seven points in the first nine races, taking a total of nine points throughout the whole year. Already in 2016 he has taken a total of 53 points with a best finish of fourth in Argentina. Laverty has scored points in every race and could easily see himself end the season as the biggest improver overall.

Just like Laverty, the new ECU and software has given Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) a new lease on life. The Spaniard is, just like Laverty, 46 points better off after nine races in 2016 than he was in 2015. In Germany Barbera took to the front row for the second time in his premier class career, an incredible achievement given the fact that he is on a 2014 model Ducati. With 65 points, Barbera is also the leading Ducati overall in the championship standings.

The Strivers

Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) began the 2015 summer break with 179 points and the championship lead, a tenth title a real possibility. He had a 100% podium record and seemed unable to put a foot wrong. Unfortunately in 2016 three DNFs have ‘The Doctor’ looking for a cure to his problems as summer begins. He’s taken two wins and two seconds, but is a staggering 68 points behind his 2015 self after nine races. Some races, such as Mugello, haven’t been his fault but crashes in Austin and Assen have been costly.

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There’s a lot of work for Rossi to do to get himself back in the title fight and even more work if he wants to lose the dubious title of the MotoGP™ World Championship’s biggest points loser.

Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) has had an equally disastrous start to the 2016 season. He’s crashed in Qatar, Argentina, France and Barcelona and taken more than one rider down with him in the process. When he’s finished he’s only once been out of the top five but the falls have taken their toll and he’s 55 points behind what he had in 2015 after nine races. With 63 points he’s also the second Ducati in the championship, eighth and behind Barbera.

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#ArgentinaGP: MotoGP™ Full Race

‘The Maniac’ remains unwaveringly confident in his speed and ability, determined to get Ducati’s first win since Stoner before heading off to Suzuki. Could the Austrian GP offer he and Ducati a chance at redemption?

Aside from the electronics, the biggest technical change in 2016 has been the move from Bridgestone to Michelin tyres. While Barbera and Laverty have excelled under the new regulations, Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) has struggled. The Brit was routinely the fastest satellite rider in 2015 and was able to finish inside the top ten with ease during the first half of 2015. In 2016 he has missed the top ten on six occasions and scored 52 points less in the opening nine rounds. Smith ‘s 2016 season has gone in the opposite direction of his teammate’s.