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MotoGP Catalunya 2016 preview

Lorenzo’s dramatic victory and Rossi’s spectacular engine blow-up at Mugello threw the championship wide open. Lorenzo leads Marquez in the championship by 10 points and Rossi by 37 points. Rossi’s heartbroken fans will be hoping to see him bounce back at his Spanish rivals’ home GP. Lorenzo made it a point to let the whole world know just how much he savoured handing Italy a giant yellow present last time out, and looks set to serve up a treat for his home crowd this time around.

Jorge Lorenzo MotoGP Catalunya

Following the events at Mugello, Yamaha released a statement which clarified that both the engine failures experienced at Mugello were a result of over-revved engines on one of the many crests on the track, with the electronic rev-limiter found to be the culprit. Honda have announced Marc Marquez will ride again for the Repsol Honda squad until 2018 beside Pedrosa. Honda must be grateful that the mercurial Marquez manages to put the struggling Honda somewhere near the front every time out. Pol Espargaro has jumped ship to KTM alongside Bradley Smith. Herve Poncharal was left bemoaning the fact that no one wanted the competitive Tech3 bike, a strange consequence of hot Moto2 prospects demanding factory rides to start their careers in MotoGP. Zarco and Rins were indicated to be favoured prospects for the Tech3 seat by the team boss.

Aleix Espargaro’s wounded feelings continue to be a pain in the ass for Suzuki. After lamenting that he was not important to Suzuki despite developing a “Slow bike that was bad at the start”. Espargaro has confirmed talks with Aprilia, Avintia Ducati and two WSBK outfits should Suzuki give him the boot. His bravado may very well have ensured that they do. Rins is tipped to be the top contender for the other Suzuki seat besides Iannone. LCR Honda are keen to retain Crutchlow despite their budget constraints, while Redding may stay put at Pramac for the foreseeable future. Not much has been said about the current Aprilia factory riders, but one or both of them may be shown the door considering Lowes is already slated to take over one seat in 2017.

Vinales is rapidly proving to be a good investment for Yamaha, topping FP1 ahead of Lorenzo. Several riders improved their times during FP2 where Lorenzo headed Vinales by almost a quarter second followed by Cal Crutchlow in third as the fastest Honda rider. Birds in the air whisper of an alliance between Rossi and Vinales, with the pair supposedly drafting each other to improve their times. If this is even remotely true, this will be a strange alliance indeed, perhaps a counterweight to the supposed Marquez-Lorenzo alliance. A close look at qualifying at Catalunya may shed some light on this speculation. Bradley Smith was left languishing in 21st place, a curious development considering the bike he is riding.

Friday was overshadowed by the tragic death of Moto2 rider Luis Salom, who passed away from injuries sustained after crashing at turn 12 during Moto2 practice. The session was abandoned after Salom reportedly slid into the air fence at great speed. He was treated at the track and then taken by road to a hospital where he underwent surgery. He passed away at 16:55 pm local time. As a result, the Catalunya GP will use the F1 layout with a chicane just before the final turn.

Lorenzo struts about after Mugello while Rossi gnashes his teeth at the heavy burden of being 37 points adrift of Lorenzo. Marquez is determined to win again while the rest of the riders slug it out behind him. The Ducati team could do with another podium, while Vinales threatens to make Espargaro redundant with a victory on Sunday. Catalunya promises to be an eventful affair, maybe even more so than Mugello. Lorenzo’s historic defeat to Rossi at the same venue is no doubt fresh in his mind. He will surely seek to avenge his defeat in an even more spectacular fashion. Marquez may spring a surprise come race day as he continues to work silently behind the scenes toward challenging and defeating the Yamahas. The most important question is – What will Rossi do?