MotoGP

Is there anyone that can beat Marc Marquez to the 2020 MotoGP title?

The 2019 MotoGP World Championship is over and before you can say Feliz Navidad we’re already looking ahead to the 2020 MotoGP season with one big question on everyone’s lips – who can possibly stop Marc Marquez from making it seven premier class world titles?

There aren’t too many changes going on down the grid, though the man himself will have his brother joining him on the sister Repsol Honda so it’ll certainly be a different vibe in the garage next year… but can anyone beat him on track? We rank the contenders…

Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)

The rider that has come closest to Marquez over the last three seasons seems to be running out of answers to the questions his rival is constantly posing. Indeed, save for Qatar and Austria where all things considered the Ducati is the bike to have, it was a fairly anonymous – if typically metronomically consistent – season for the Italian and he will need to step up his game in 2020 if he has a realistic chance of beating Marquez

What Dovi should be applauded for though is getting that Ducati working sweetly for him given how many high-profile riders have come and gone after failing to tame the beast. After all, Marquez wouldn’t necessarily be quicker than Dovizioso on the same machine such is its particular sweet spot… in much the same way the Spaniard has that advantage on the Honda.

However, has Dovi’s best chance to win a title already been and gone? Many fear it has…

Maverick Vinales (Yamaha)

On his day, Maverick Vinales is remarkably difficult to beat… by that we mean when he qualifies well, starts well and builds a lead early on, he is tough to catch… and yet, on other days he barely registers his presence.

It’s the enigma that suggests Vinales’ MotoGP career could easily swing between the two extremes – either he’ll never scale to the heights needed to beat Marquez or everything will click into place and he’ll dominate.

Of the plus points, Vinales can get the sweet-handling Yamaha working incredibly well over a single lap and you rarely see him throwing it down the road. His performance at Sepang and Assen were the only time this year that Marquez was comprehensively defeated in a straight fight.

However, Vinales can get bogged down in races if he gets away poorly and he lacks some aggression in working his way back up, a factor not assisted by his Yamaha’s general lack of top speed. Moreover, while his careful tyre management means he’s often producing superior lap times at the end of the race, he’s usually too far back to make much of a difference. That said, the Vinales-Yamaha package on its day is arguably a match for Marquez-Honda (which is more than almost anyone else can say), he just needs to have more of them…

Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)

While it’s the title rivalry everyone still wants to see – even if they don’t quite believe it will now – Rossi will need a big turnaround in 2020 to get him back to the high standard that defined his golden era.

A faster Yamaha in a straight line has been on his wish-list for a while but it doesn’t look like he’ll quite get the M1 he wants as it sticks to prioritising handling prowess over grunt. A change of crew chief shows Rossi is trying to think outside the box (literally), but the longer his victory drought – or any sort of race day victory challenge – drags on the harder it will be to bridge the gap to Rossi or resist the attentions of riders like Quartararo.

Fabio Quartararo (Petronas SRT Yamaha)

From relative unknown to veritable pretender to the throne, the expectation propelling Fabio Quartararo into 2020 is very different to that of twelve months ago and it’s perhaps important to pause and take stock of what is realistic to anticipate next.

A title challenge would certainly be within his skillset based on his performances in the second-half of the year but perhaps a big ask at this stage in his career. However, as he showed in that time, he certainly has the mental fortitude to go bar-to-bar with Marquez, a strength of mind that can only grow with time.

Maybe not the rider that can beat Marquez to the 2020 MotoGP title… but as for 2021, 2022 and 2023….?

Alex Rins (Suzuki)

Arguably the dark horse in this equation, it’s easy to forget Alex Rins took Suzuki to two wins and fourth overall in the 2019 MotoGP standings.

Somewhat unpredictable at times and a little rough around the edges – much like the Suzuki package – Rins has nonetheless adeptly moulded the Ecstar team around him in much the way Marquez has done with Honda, but unlike his countryman there is a sense that there is still a lot more to come from both himself and the Suzuki GSX-RR.

Disappointing single lap pace gave way to some sparkling race day efforts, while his two wins at COTA and Silverstone were as well-judged as they were convincing. He needs to demonstrate greater consistency to mount challenge a rider as dependable as Marquez but the Rins-Suzuki pairing is quite possibly the most exciting unknown of 2020.

Marc Marquez...

As demonstrated all too recently, Marquez may be difficult to beat on track but the track can definitely beat him up when he drops it… which he has done with some alarming frequency recently.

Painful looking falls in Thailand and Malaysia were followed with slower but still bruising tumbles in Jerez and Valencia, prompting the decision to undergo preventative shoulder surgery to avoid future issues.

As dedicated as that sounds, it’s a slightly worrying predicament that Marquez’s own bid to find the upper limit of his superb abilities could leave him on the cusp of something more damaging…

Time will tell

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