Vinales looking set to star for Yamaha
Marc Marquez's consistency brought him a third MotoGP championship at the tender age of 23 last year, and the Honda rider is a narrow favourite to retain the title this season, which begins under the floodlights in Qatar.
The hugely entertaining 2016 season produced nine different winning riders and several men will be nurturing hopes of mounting a title challenge this time.
After nine years and three world titles with Yamaha, Jorge Lorenzo has switched to Ducati.
It took Lorenzo most of last season to figure out how to get the best out of Pirelli’s rain tyres. His dismal results in the inordinate number of wet races last year, and the effect that had on his confidence, were a big reason why he was unable to defend his championship.
The Spaniard was generally hovering around the fringe of the top ten in testing, but topped the final pre-season test day at Qatar and will be looking for a good start to the season at one of Ducati’s strongest circuits.
Taking Lorenzo’s place at Yamaha is Maverick Vinales. The 22-year-old former Moto3 champion took his first victory in the premier class at Silverstone last season on the Suzuki and finished the year well, with two podiums in the final four races.
He has been consistently at, or near, the top of the times in winter testing and should give his backers a great run for their money.
Vinales’s arrival at Yamaha should also keep the legendary Valentino Rossi on his toes.
Now 38 and in his 22nd season of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, the nine-time world champion has finished runner-up in the standings for the last three seasons.
He lost the title at the final race in 2015 and would have gone close last year but for suffering more than his fair share of misfortune. However, Rossi’s best days are probably behind him now, and he may find the young stars too hot to handle this year.
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