Just like that, the 2016 MotoGP season is history as is Lorenzo’s very successful tenure with Yamaha.
The 2016 MotoGP season that saw nine different winners, concerns over tyres, plenty of bad-mouthing and the crowning of the premier class’ latest three-time world champion is over. And with it is also over one of the most successful rider-manufacturer partnerships as Jorge Lorenzo leaves Yamaha for Ducati after making his debut for the Japanese giant in 2008.
The Spaniard raced for Yamaha for 156 races and won 44 races, probably none as emphatically as the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix this year, though. The Circuito Ricardo Tormo has always been a happy hunting ground for Lorenzo and he reveled in the atmosphere of his final race in Yamaha blue. An authoritative pole position was followed by him sailing off into the distance like he has done on so many occasions.
Although, after two lacklusture races, Marc Marquez ran him close at the end to remind everyone who had the last laugh in 2016. Following a poor start that saw the world champion fall down to sixth, the Honda rider bided his time before turning it on towards the end to finish just over a second behind Lorenzo.
With title rival Valentino Rossi not even on the podium, it was a good way to finish off the season. Definitely better than a poor eleventh place finish at a rain-soaked Sepang and a retirement at Philip Island.
Those two events saw Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso add his name to the list of winners for this MotoGP season and Cal Crutchlow win his second race of the season, respectively.
Dovizioso’s win was particularly encouraging for Lorenzo who Ducati is counting on to help tame their temperamental but extremely powerful monster. While the bike may not yet be much to write home about in mid-corner, there is no doubting its monstrous power.
It was very clearly on display in Malaysia where despite the rain that caught out many riders, Dovizioso denied Rossi a win with just a twist of his wrist and hanging on for dear life. The red bike shot past and then stayed ahead at the end of the race as Rossi wore out his tyres trying to keep up and gain an advantage over the rest of the lap.
Lorenzo’s super-smooth riding style could well be the last ingredient Ducati are looking for after the failure of Rossi to win a single race in his two-year stint with them prompted a major overhaul of the Italian marque’s technical team. The bike is far more forgiving and rideable now than the ‘evil’ machine that took a rider like Casey Stoner to tame and be able to win races on.
We even saw a hint of that as Lorenzo tested on the 2017 bike during the post-race test session where riders switched to their new steeds. Lorenzo looked smooth and stable on a Ducati, Maverick Vinales seemed to be reveling in his switch to Yamaha and Andrea Iannone got to sample the fruits of the development work done by Suzuki and Vinales.
There was even a change at Honda, which is sticking with its line-up of Marquez and Dani Pedrosa while the LCR-Honda team that Crutchlow rides for gets a little extra help from the factory on account of the Briton’s very solid season. In an effort to rid itself of issues like wheelspin under acceleration – that cost Marquez a win at Mugello – Honda has made changes to the firing order of its new bike’s engine so that the power delivery becomes a lot smoother. Mated to Marquez’s aggressive riding style, it’s a formula that could see the Spaniard dominate proceedings like he did in 2013 and 2014. He certainly is not taking a chance at an occurrence like in 2015 where the new bike chassis left him out of championship contention well before the end of the season.
For 2017 Marquez has made the decision to stick with his current chassis for the start of the season, but with the – theoretically – more forgiving engine.
With the track at Valencia extremely rubbered –in during the test, the times we saw may not be the best guide to the pecking order of 2017. But initial impressions are that there will be equally potent rider-bike combinations at Honda, Yamaha and Ducati, the current big three of MotoGP.
It’s unlikely that we will see nine different winners again, especially if Michelin are able to iron out the visible kinks on display throughout their first year as MotoGP’s control supplier. But the season is likely to be no less absorbing as the one we saw this year. Here’s to high expectations as well as the class of 2016.