Originally I was going to go through the team previews alphabetically, but with Aprilia yet to announce a launch date, I’ve changed my mind and will be going through the teams as they unveil their 2017 bikes.
We begin with what potentially is the most exciting tandem this year, with the factory Yamaha outfit.
|Engine||1000cc inline four cylinder|
|Chassis||Aluminium twin tube with aluminium swing arm|
|Brakes||Brembo, 320mm or 340mm front, 2×4-piston callipers. Single disc rear with twin-piston calliper|
Is it any good? We’re not going to find out until it hits the track, but it’s a Yamaha, and it’s going to have two very fast blokes on it, so I imagine it should be alright.
|Out||Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati)|
|In||Maverick Viñales (Suzuki)|
Jorge Lorenzo’s decision to head for pastures new, away from the often-tense situation of being Valentino Rossi’s team-mate, at Ducati left a very big gap to fill, especially considering the departing Lorenzo was world champion in 2015. Dani Pedrosa was heavily rumoured to be taking the spot, but Yamaha decided on a man who will be a world champion one day.
|25 – Maverick Viñales|
|Honours||2013 Moto3 World Champion|
|2016||4th, 202pts, Suzuki Ecstar|
It’s not hyperbole to suggest Mav will win a world title. He really is that good. Regularly outclassing team mate Aleix Espargaro on a Suzuki bike that both riders were outperforming last year, he fully deserves his chance to shine on one of the front-running bikes. Perhaps unfortunately, for him at least, he shares a garage with the greatest of all time.
|46 – Valentino Rossi|
|Honours||9x Champion over three classes|
|2016||2nd, 249pts, Movistar Yamaha|
Insert every possible metaphor for how good Valentino Rossi is here. There’s no better man for Maverick to learn from than the seven-time top class world champion. Sure, he hasn’t won the world title since 2009, but he’s been second for the past three years, finished seventh in the worst of his two years at Ducati (which were terrible), and is Valentino God Damn Rossi. He will be in with a shout of the championship, because he’s Valentino Rossi. How much longer the old dog has left in him remains to be seen, but while he’s still on a bike, he’s a threat.
The team battle
Who will win the mini-league between team mates this year? Probably Vale. Maverick is coming in to a new team, with a new crew (although they’re not new to the team, as they’re the same guys Jorge Lorenzo had last year), having to learn a new bike. He’ll still be very competitive and will give Vale a run for his money, but Vale knows the bike, knows the team, and knows what it takes to be better than the next man. Mav’s time will come, but the master will keep the apprentice at bay this year.