For­get Jan­uary, the New Year starts here

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Comment - Gareth Ashman, 01733-468118

While Pope Gre­gory XIII may be for­ever im­mor­talised in the Western world for defin­ing how we mea­sure our year, it’s an­other re­li­gion that has come de­fine mine: Mo­togp. And that means we’re now rapidly ap­proach­ing New Year’s Eve.

With 2015’s dis­ap­point­ing – if some­what amus­ing – end-of­sea­son shenani­gans filed as a rel­a­tively dis­tant mem­ory, the fo­cus is now firmly on the first race of the 2016 sea­son this week­end in Qatar.

Test­ing has been a fas­ci­nat­ing roller­coaster ride, not least be­cause of the game-chang­ing new vari­able af­fect­ing the en­tire Mo­togp grid – the Miche­lin con­trol tyres. Rid­ers have been in­tro­duc­ing them­selves face-first to the tar­mac at ev­ery test as the un­quan­ti­fied Miche­lin front con­tin­ued to catch them un­awares – with prob­lems caused by the front’s ap­par­ent lack of com­po­sure be­ing com­pounded (no pun in­tended) by the huge grip avail­able from the rear.

But while many teams rushed to bring new chas­sis to the party in a bid to negate the tyre is­sues, the French firm shocked them all by rapidly im­prov­ing their rubber.

With most now re­vert­ing to their 2015 chas­sis set-ups as the Miche­lins edge closer to Bridge­stone lev­els of front grip, the fo­cus has started to once again drift back to­wards the rid­ers’ per­for­mances.

Lead amongst them for me has been Scott Red­ding. Yes, Lorenzo has con­tin­ued to be­grudg­ingly wow me with his robotic pre­ci­sion and pace, and what­ever I think of his mind games from last year I’m de­lighted to see Rossi look­ing ef­fec­tive up near the sharp end, but it’s Scott that’s got me des­per­ate for the flag to drop.

Two years ago I was con­fi­dent that he would once again be the thorn that of­ten nig­gled Mar­quez’s side in Moto2. But it never hap­pened. His Honda, it seemed, just wasn’t up to the job. But the fi­nal test at Qatar fin­ished with Scott sit­ting pretty as se­cond fastest. It fi­nally ap­pears that we might get the fight I’d hoped for back in 2014.

As tempt­ing as it is to be­lieve that we could have a Brit Mo­togp cham­pion in 2016, no sen­si­ble money would bet on Scott oust­ing the Aliens – but it’s nice to dream.

Get the full in­side line on Mo­togp in this week’s 32-page 2016 pre­view.

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