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12 days ago
By Fran Wyld

Closer than ever: another final showdown in 2018?

This is a true golden era of MotoGP™, writes Fran Wyld

Fran began working in racing in late 2015 as part of Dorna’s World Superbike team, before moving to cover the MotoGP™ World Championship as an English language journalist part-way through 2016. English editor of motogp.com since, Fran is also part of the PR and editorial team for the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup, the Junior Talent Team and the British Talent Cup, which begins in 2018. This season, she also takes on commentary duty – including a role as co-commentator for the FIM CEV Repsol.

 

There have been 18 title-deciding season finales in the history of the premier class of Grand Prix racing. Between 1949 and 2017, that all-important Championship trophy has been hanging on a final showdown more than a quarter of the time – and the competition is only getting closer. Since Marc Marquez debuted at the beginning of 2013, three of the five last MotoGP™ World Championships have been decided in Valencia at the last race of the year, which is a stunning 60%. So why would 2018 be any different?

In short, it probably won’t. We’re lucky enough to be experiencing an era of nigh on unseen levels of competition, with the old motorbike racing mantra of “anything can happen” only becoming more and more true. From the nine winners in 2016 – including two Independent Team victors in Jack Miller and Cal Crutchlow – to the less visible numbers, statistically, we’ve never had it so good.

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MotoGP™ Rewind: A recap of the #FinalShowdown

So where do we start with this ‘less visible’ evidence of the epic? 2017 is so full of jaw-dropping stats it’s hard to decide what to include. All 23 full-time riders scored points, three manufacturers took four or more wins, there were six changes of Championship leader and by half way through the season, just ten points covered the top four in the Championship – another record. Oh and the top five? That was the closest ever, too, with Dani Pedrosa in fifth sitting just 26 points off the top. Going into the summer, Marquez’ 199 points was the lowest Championship-leading score after thirteen races since this system was introduced and by Aragon, the eventual Champion was just 16 points ahead of Maverick Viñales in third. You guessed it – that’s another record, with 2017 giving us the closest top three in history at that stage of the season.

It didn’t stop there, with records broken on track creating those in the standings: the Aragon GP was the closest ever top fifteen with only 26.082 seconds between winner Marc Marquez and Tito Rabat, who rounded out the points scorers, and the record broken that day at MotorLand? That had been set in Austria just a few races before. Five of the ten closest all-time finishes in the premier class happened in 2017, and the numbers do not lie. Before the beginning of the year, only five times in the previous 840 premier class races had the top fifteen riders been covered by less than 35 seconds. In 2017, that average was hovering at a third just after the British GP. (If top fifteens don’t impress you, Mugello was also the closest top ten.)

But what do these numbers tell us, more than simply the sum of their parts? They tell us that the competition on track is closer than ever, which leads the standings to get tighter and tighter. In turn, the tighter the margins at the top of the title fight, the more grand finales we enjoy in the final race of the season. The more blood, sweat and tears we put on the line; the more adrenaline courses through us; the more of the purest form of racing we enjoy – and there’s every reason this will only get closer.

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MotoGP™ 2018 Lap of the World

Preseason in 2018 has already shown us a glimpse of the year we have in store, with technical regulations designed to bring in closer racing and close the gap between Independent and factory teams continuing to give us one of the best eras of all time. And the awesome slew of talent on the grid, who have 33 Championships between them, are no mere side note. They are racing and winning in one of the most competitive eras ever, and for that we salute them.

With the addition of Thailand to the calendar, there are now 19 chances for more records to be broken in 2018. There’s another race for the dark horse to gain on the leader, and another opportunity for the heavens to open and play a last-minute joker. Another roll of the dice for those who need it, another hand to withstand for those who don’t.

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