Ten Of The Best
If you’ll forgive a moment of self-indulgence, I can reveal that one of my high points, at the end of the season, is getting the mighty annual tome of Motocourse to print—all 320-plus glossy pages of it. It has to be done mighty quickly. Christmas is coming, after all.
And one of the pleasures of editing it for the past 25 years or so is the chance to nominate the editor’s choice of top 10 riders.
This is both easy, and difficult. Easy because it is a whimsical and often obvious choice. By and large, it goes in championship order. The criteria for being chosen, after all, are not that different from competing in the championship. You have to be really good at motorbike racing. Consistently, and really determined, prepared to give up almost everything for it.
There is a certain efficiency to the talent-spotting mechanisms of modern racing. Serious candidates for the premier series tend not to get overlooked. Unless, like the obviously brilliant Jonathan Rea, they get sidetracked into World Superbikes. But this list is about the grands prix.
The hard part is: who do you leave out? And how do you explain it to them, if called upon to do so—and it does happen, more often than you might expect.
Why no Jack Miller, for instance, when he improved so radically? Answer: Because he was inconsistent, and—let’s face it—crashed a bit too often at important moments.
Then why Marc Marquez, when he crashed more times than any other MotoGP rider? (Exactly 23 times, by the way.)
Why indeed. Because he very seldom crashed when it mattered.
And is it really fair to put any Moto3 rider in at all, if it means putting them—even if only by implication—ahead of all but a handful of MotoGP riders?
Well, in the end, fairness has nothing to do with it. It’s a matter of opinion. The riders have had their fun. Now it’s my turn.
All the same, I often wish there could be more surprises. This past season, for instance, two rookies were now and then exceptional. Franco Morbidelli and Hafizh Syahrin were disputing the Rookies Award, admittedly at some distance, but both did better than could be expected. Especially Morbidelli. They both made the top 10 twice; the Italian’s best was a fine eighth in Australia.
And it hardly seems fair to have left out Moto3’s Marco Bezzecchi, after he was only knocked out of championship contention in two late races, Thailand and Australia, through no fault of his own. And in only his second full season.
Then again, champion Jorge Martin, who did make the list, had exactly the same happen to him in Jerez and France, where his assailant was none other than the aforementioned Italian.
So here’s my list, as it ended up, after a few chewed pencils and one too many late nights, and 19 times of paying the closest possible attention to every race.
I’d be interested to hear any of your lists, of course.
Actually, I probably wouldn’t. It’s too late now anyway.
1 – Marc Marquez. Because of his saves as much as his wins. He is in a class all of his own. Obviously.
2 – Andre Dovizioso. If not actually the architect of Ducati’s revival, he is that architect’s sounding board. Pity about his two unforced crash errors early on.
3 – Jorge Lorenzo. Love him or hate him, the turnaround he achieved on the Ducati was awe-inspiring. Can’t wait to see him on a Honda next year.
4 – Valentino Rossi. His worst season, two Ducati years apart, since his first GP year in 1996. Rose above it by just keeping on keeping on. And he’s 39, you know.
5 – Cal Crutchlow. Can’t help liking Cal, but more importantly he was the only other rider to make the most of the difficult-to-ride Honda. Crashed once too often, sadly.
6 – Alex Rins. Finishing the year well always leaves a good impression, and the 22-year-old Suzuki rider did it with two second places. Has a big point to prove next year.
7 – Maverick Viñales. Did break Yamaha’s longest-ever win drought, but was inexplicably erratic. Great riders need to be good on bad days as well.
8 – Pecco Bagnaia. Immaculate Moto2 season with eight wins extended run of finishing in the points to 30 races. Watch him go in MotoGP next year.
9 – Jorge Martin. When Moto2 is so ultra-close, the rider who can reliably find an extra seven or more tenths in a lap is obviously very special.
10 – Miguel Oliveira. So good, but couldn’t beat Bagnaia. Actually, his teammate also won three races, so on second thoughts, number ten is Brad Binder. Either way, it’s tough to be 10th. CN