MotoGP’s winter testing has, for the most part, reached its conclusion. With the knowledge gained from those tests, it makes sense to start looking forward to the 2018 season and the betting odds available. The full results of the Valencia test are available here. The odds below are from Bet365 as of January 4, 2018.
MotoGP Championship Odds
- Marc Marquez: 8/11
- Jorge Lorenzo: 11/2
- Maverick Vinales: 13/2
- Andrea Dovizioso: 7/1
- Valentino Rossi: 9/1
- Dani Pedrosa: 18/1
- Johann Zarco: 18/1
The Favorite: Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez is a heavy favorite, and for good reason. He’s won four of the five MotoGP World Championships he has contested, has looked mortal only for brief periods, and has the ability to recover from motorcycle crashes that are actively occurring. He’s young, he’s consistently fast, he doesn’t crash much, and Honda builds either the fastest or the second-fastest bike on the grid. When Honda does falter, it has been with the character of the engine, which was overly aggressive after the switch to spec electronics and required a change of crank-rotating direction before the 2016 season and firing order before the 2017 season. Last year, early-season struggles allowed opponents to score wins and make the championship competitive until later in the season and later in the bike’s development.
This year, however, Marquez has been happy (and, more importantly fast) with the preseason configuration of the bike, suggesting that HRC are far ahead of their usual development schedule. With no major changes made to the engine ahead of 2018, Honda can focus on delivering the best possible package they can to Marquez and other riders, a nightmare scenario for other factories. Better than even odds might present a little value for the favorite, because despite its obvious dangers, motorcycle racing has proven to be fairly consistent recently.
No factory is more worried than Yamaha, for whom 2017 was the worst season in recent memory. The usually hyper-consistent outfit struggled with chassis dynamics in 2017, and couldn’t settle on a configuration that made both Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales happy. To make things more complicated, Johann Zarco thrived on his bike, a hand-me-down from 2016, and was frequently the fastest rider on an M1, despite not getting the full-fledged, pneumatic-valve Yamaha engine. They brought a glut of different chassis configurations to winter testing, and have a lot of work to do catching up with Honda. While Marquez, Pedrosa, and Cal Crutchlow work together refining their machine to its absolute best, Yamaha still have yet to find a starting point. Valentino Rossi at 9/1 seems a bit cruel for the nine-time world champion, but that number does reflect the difficult road Yamaha have ahead, as well as Rossi’s advanced age. He will be 39 at the start of the 2018 season, approaching the age at which men buy motorcycles as mid-life crises, not race them at the highest level.
The Ducati, despite contending marvellously until the very end of the 2017 season, will need to take another step forward to be competitive in 2018. Andrea Dovizioso, who won six races in 2017 and surprised everyone, may have missed his window, as Honda likely won’t struggle early in the season again and Jorge Lorenzo’s year of learning is now over. On tracks that favor Ducati, Lorenzo will likely be the man to beat, not Dovizioso. Jorge Lorenzo at 11/2 might be the value pick of the bunch, albeit the pick with the most questions to answer. Dovizioso at 7/1 is sadly not a wise pick.
If you’re looking for a true longshot, KTM have made radical changes to their fast-improving bike and might have a recipe for success with their world-beating horsepower and simple steel-trellis frame. Their riders are listed as astronomical longshots, with Pol Espargaro at 200/1 and Bradley Smith at 400/1. The Austrian factory came into the sport with the budget to contend and every intention to do so, and their bike has promise. They can’t be that far off the pace, can they?
We’ll know more when preseason testing resumes at the end of the month in Sepang, but don’t expect wildly different results in just a few short weeks. Look for Marquez to be fastest, the Yamaha’s to be catching up but still inconsistent, and the Ducatis to be still in pursuit of mid-corner speed.