Friday, November 26, 2021

2021 Motorcycle Predictions: Revisited

The two-wheel seasons are complete and it was a somewhat normal season for each of the major international road racing championships. Both had slight delays and slightly compacted schedules. There were a few extra trips to the Iberian peninsula. A couple of tracks hosted multiple rounds in MotoGP, but there was some branching out. MotoGP returned to the United States. World Superbike returned to South America and Asia, and a new track in Asia at that. The 2021 season was a step in the right direction, there were even a few new champions, but how many preseason predictions went the same way?

1. Marc Márquez will be in sole possession of third all-time in grand prix victories
Wrong! And this one was a little ambitious on second view. 

Márquez had to win nine races to fulfill this. He won three races, but he was never quite at 100% this season and missed the final two races after suffering a training accident. Márquez was fighting fitness all season. He was good, and he did let a few races get away from him, most notably the French Grand Prix and the Austrian Grand Prix. 

He is on 85 victories, six away from sole possession of third all-time. He could do it in 2022. He needs to come back healthy and stay healthy. It felt like he was getting better over the course of the season, and he did win consecutive races at Austin and the second Misano race. The second victory was aided with Francesco Bagnaia going down, but Márquez also pushed Bagnaia until the final corner at Aragón. 

Hopefully, Márquez is back and faces no more hiccups. All things considered, 2021 was a pretty strong year.

2. Fabio Quartararo will have at least two podium finishes that are not victories

Quartararo's first two podium finishes were victories at Losail and Portimão, but he was then third at Le Mans, won at Mugello and then had a third at Sachsenring and a third at the Red Bull Ring with a victory in the Dutch TT in-between. 

He even had a pair of runner-up finishes at Misano and Austin. 

Quartararo scored points in the first 16 races before he went down in turn five in the penultimate race of the season at Portimão. He ended the season with a fifth-place result at Valencia, the same position he started the season in at Qatar.

It was as close to a flawless season as you can get from Quartararo. After the disappointment of 2020, where inconsistency ruled his season, the Frenchman kept scoring points and nobody matched his results. 

3. Suzuki falls at least one position in the constructors' championship and finishes at least 100 points off the champion
Wrong and correct!

Suzuki was third in the constructors' championship again, but it did finish 117 points behind champions Ducati. Honda was fourth in the constructors' championship, 36 points behind Suzuki. If Márquez was healthy for the entire season, Honda likely tops Suzuki. Márquez scored 142 points in 14 starts, averaging 10.142 points per start. Extrapolate that to 18 races and Márquez finishes with about 182 points. That extra 40 points would have gotten Honda ahead of Suzuki. 

But, it wasn't meant to be. 

4. There will be at least three first-time winners

There were two first-time winners. Jorge Martín took a surprise victory at Red Bull Ring in the Styrian Grand Prix and Francesco Bagnaia won at Aragón. But, that third first-time winner never came. 

What makes it worse is Johann Zarco was runner-up in the first two races of the season from Qatar. Zarco was runner-up in four of the first seven races and then he didn't finish on the podium for the rest of the season. 

Enea Bastianini was third in both Misano races, but distant thirds in each. Pol Espargaró made it a Honda 1-2 in the second Misano race, but he was well behind teammate Márquez. Aleix Espargaró was third at Silverstone.

Those five riders all have yet to win in MotoGP and stood on the podium this season, but not the right step to fulfill this prediction.

5. The American drivers combine for at least 150 points
Wrong! Oof, this is getting tough. 

The American riders combined for 109 points this season. Joe Roberts had 59 points in 13th and Cameron Beaubier was 15th on 50 points. 

Roberts started well, but he was banged up for the second half of the season and did not start two of the final three races and he scored zero points in the final five events. He also had a terrible stretch in the middle of the season, with retirements in Germany, Netherlands, the Styrian Grand Prix and he was then 16th in the Austrian Grand Prix. He scored 50 points in the first seven races, 7.142 points per start at that point. If he kept that up, he was looking at 128 points. 

I did not anticipate Beaubier to score a significant points total, and he performed better than I expected. He led the American Racing with teammate Marcos Ramírez in 17th on 39 points, only two more points than Ramírez scored in 15 races last year. Beaubier stood out at Austin and the second Portimão race where he picked up fastest lap. 

Hopefully, Beaubier continues trending upward and Roberts can be fully fit for 2022.

6. The Moto3 championship will have at least 100 career starts
Wrong! And we went in the opposite direction of veteran. We had a rookie champion. 

Pedro Acosta clinched the Moto3 championship in the 17th and penultimate race of the season with his sixth victory. Acosta started spectacularly. Second on debut, victory from a pit lane start in the second race of the season, a grand prix racing first, and then two victories to follow that. He scored points in the first 12 races and won five of those races. 

Acosta did face a larger challenge in the second-third of the season, but his consistency won him the championship. While Dennis Foggia went on a tear throughout summer, Foggia had too many retirements and when Darryn Binder ran into Foggia on the final lap in the second Portimão race, it ended the Italian's championship hippies and it allowed Acosta to take the title a race early. 

World Superbike
7. At least four riders pick up at least three victories.

No surprise here, Jonathan Rea was the first to win three races and he did it in the first five races of the season. Toprak Razgatlioglu was the next to three victories, reaching it at the 12th race of the season. Scott Redding was the next to three, but after he won the third and fourth races of the season, he would not win again until the 18th race. Michael Ruben Rinaldi won the seventh and eighth races of the season and his third came in the 27th race. 

8. Garrett Gerloff at least doubles his number of podium finishes in full races

Not only did Gerloff not fulfill this prediction, but his total podium finishes went down. He had only two podium finishes all season, a third in the SuperPole race in the opening weekend at Aragón and his only full race podium was the 12th race of the season at Donington Park. It was a better season than 2020 for Gerloff, but it was not enough of an improvement to really celebrate, especially since he was only the third best Yamaha rider. 

9. BMW scores at least 250 points

BMW broke out a bit, scoring 315 points and Michael van der Mark won the SuperPole race from Portimão. BMW had five total podium finishes this season and Tom Sykes won pole position at the Barcelona round. It isn't the greatest results in the world, but it was BMW's most competitive season in a longtime. 

10. Andrea Locatelii will have the best WSBK championship finish for a reigning World Supersport champion since Cal Crutchlow
Correct! Locatelli had to finish sixth or better to fulfill this prediction, and the Italian ended the season fourth in the championship, taking fourth on the final day of the season from Ducati's Michael Ruben Rinaldi. 

Locatelli did not win a race this season, but he was third-place in four races and he finished fourth in 11 times in 37 races. He scored 291 points, 210 points behind Scott Redding in third.

World Supersport
11. Can Öncü leaps into the top five of the championship
Wrong! Öncü was just short of the top five. He was sixth in the championship with 182 points, 70 points outside the top five. 

Öncü did not win a race and he had three podium finishes. 

12. Jules Cluzel will have more victories than runner-up finishes
Correct! After having six runner-up finishes in 11 starts last year, Cluzel won four times in 2021, all in the final six races, with only one runner-up finish this season, which also came in the final six races of the season. He did finish third-place in four races. 

5.5 out of 12. Oof. There were a couple of close ones. A couple would have gone my way if one or two things went differently. It happens.