And now for something completely different: as the dust settles on the Spielberg duel, it’s already time to gear up for Silverstone and the British GP – home to some of its own classics. It’s 40 years since the first British GP on the mainland, also held at the track, making even more of an occasion out of a race weekend that never disappoints – and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) is on the cusp of setting a new record, becoming the first rider in history to have 300 premier class starts.
Once an airfield and now a racetrack, Silverstone is a long circuit characterised by its speed and sheer expanse. 5.9km of tarmac houses 18 corners, with Copse Corner Turn 1 for MotoGP™. And, as well as the challenge of the track, there is often the challenge of the British weather to contend with.
Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) shows up at Silverstone with a 16 point advantage over his nearest rival – extending that lead even in defeat in Austria, as Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) moved up to second and Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) down to third. Marquez, a winner at the track in MotoGP™ in 2014, has some serious pace at the venue to stake a claim on increasing his points gap once again. Added to a growing reputation as the master of flag-to-flag races should the weather roll in, the number 93 won’t arrive prepared to settle.
As the rounds remaining decrease and the gap to the top trends the opposite way for Viñales of late, the rider from Roses will similarly be ready for a showdown. Not having shared the podium with Marquez all year despite the two being key title contenders, Silverstone may well see that statistic finally change. Viñales won the race – his first in the premier class – last year, and in some style. If the weather is cooler but remains dry, the script of 2017 so far tells us that could play more in favour of the Movistar Yamaha team. Outside the Championship top three for the first time this year after Austria, there’s never a better place to stage a comeback than the track you dominated the season before.
Alongside Viñales and Marquez as a previous winner at Silverstone is the man set to celebrate the big 300 – Rossi. Of the 299 previous, only one has become a win at the venue, but the ‘Doctor’ has been unlocking the secrets to Silverstone year on year – unbeatable in the wet but faster and faster in the dry. His compatriot, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), also shared that wet weather podium with Rossi in 2015 – and has two previous rostrum visits at the track. Back on the top step with a bang in Austria, ‘DesmoDovi’ is now on three victories for the year: the same as Marquez and Viñales.
Three premier class wins at Silverstone is a different statistic and one exclusively retained for Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo has made Silverstone his land more than any other rider, and has progress and some serious wet weather form on his side as the 2017 event appears on the horizion. Ever closer to the front by the flag and having led in Austria for 11 laps make good reading for the ‘Spartan’. The man who just pipped him to the podium last time out, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), will surely do his best to repeat the feat, however. It could be a more difficult weekend for the number 26 based on track records – but that also seemed true on the road to Spielberg. 151 podiums into his career, Pedrosa is far from out and very much a title contender.
The Independent Team challenge will be another to consider. Home hero Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) was on the podium at Silverstone last season, as well as starting from pole. Since having taken a few more trophies home, the rider from Coventry will be strong – flanked by seriously fast rookies Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger at Monster Yamaha Tech 3. Both have shown pace at Silverstone – and in 2017. Octo Pramac Racing are another independent outfit to be optimistic ahead of the event, with Danilo Petrucci having taken his first premier class podium there in 2015 and Scott Redding’s record a glittering one – including a win in Moto2™. And the home heroes don’t stop there, with Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) fired up and ready to go.
There’s also one more landmark start, as Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) gets ready to make his 250th start – across all classes – and the Spaniard will be optimistic of a good result, with a solid track record.
Come rain or shine, the British GP is a classic event at a classic venue – so here’s to hoping its 40th edition will do that impressive history proud. With a different timetable, it’s 15:30 local time for the race on Sunday – local time being GMT +1.
The British GP in 2016 saw a 1-2 for the two key Championship protagonists this season: Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) and Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). Now, it could be time for a re-run.
It’s 26 points between the two, so Morbidelli will be hoping to turn the tables to keep his advantage. But after losing 17 points of his previous buffer at Brno, there’s no carte blanche and no playing it safe. And that’s the same for Lüthi – who has to push, and has to take every chance.
The joker in the pack for that duel could be Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). With some good pace at the venue in Moto2™ and Moto3™, the rider from Cervera could take the 25 points for his first win outside Spain – or become an important pawn between the two men ahead of him in the standings. Marquez is still in the title fight and could prove a dark horse as the twists and turns of the year unfold, but Morbidelli will want him to be his wingman, as well as his teammate – and Lüthi would equally love the 2014 Moto3™ World Champion to start taking points off Morbidelli.
Also on the podium last year was Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), who is looking to recover some form this year. But the Japanese rider will also be buoyed by news released that he is to move up to MotoGP™ next year, with a result at Silverstone the perfect way to celebrate.
There are plenty more riders to keep an eye on, too. Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) came fourth last year, Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) was in the top ten, and Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team), too – before his awesome form this year. The likes of superfast rookie Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) and rising star Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) can’t be counted out, either.
As well as Kiefer Racing’s Tarran MacKenzie, there will be one more Brit on the grid as BSB race winner Jake Dixon steps in to Dynavolt Intact GP to replace the injured Marcel Schrötter – both sure to be crowd favourites.
At Silverstone, the timetable gets a shake up – with the Moto2™ race seeing lights out at 14:00 – in GMT +1, or British Summer Time.
After another stunning win at the Red Bull Ring, Championship leader Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) is now, incredibly, ahead of Brad Binder’s total at the same time last year. Then, it was 61. Now, it’s 64.
Binder won the title at Aragon to become the first rider to do so, and Mir is on the same path – needing on average to increase his advantage at Silverstone and Misano by 18 points apiece. So the British GP will be all guns blazing – enough of a buffer to take a risk, and enough on offer to make it worthwhile. The pressure would appear to be off, and shifted down the table to those on the chase.
In addition, it wasn’t just the win in Austria that gave Mir such a gain – it was a difficult race for key rival Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) and the Italian came home 13th. How he bounces back now could be key to his end of season form, and his last stand against Mir. Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), meanwhile, is the man in the top three who has both maths and time on his side – he’s remaining in the category for 2018, so to be third in standings now is a job well done, without any added pressure.
One of Mir’s early season rivals, Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), has also missed the German GP and Czech GP through injury, although he came back in stunning style in Austria to ride through the pain barrier to the podium in P3. But now 110 points off Mir, he’ll more be looking to break free of those behind him in the standings – teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio, John McPhee (British Talent Team) and Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate), who are in close company.
McPhee will be the man in the spotlight. The first ever home race for the British Talent Team will give the Brit some extra motivation, especially after a DNF in Austria through no fault of his own. And what is created in pressure by a home crowd can be tempered by support – and there is sure to be plenty of that. There are also two British wildcards looking to impress; City Lifting/RS Racing duo Thomas Booth-Amos and Jake Archer.
The schedule at Silverstone is different. Moto3™ are out on track as usual from 9:00 local time (this time GMT +1, or British Summer Time) on Friday for practice but the race fires up later – set for 12:40 on Sunday. And it’s a landmark race – the 100th of the category since it was introduced in 2012.
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