MotoGP: Looking Ahead to the 2011 Season

Alistair HunterContributor IMarch 19, 2011

Casey Stoner in practice for the 2011 season in Qatar.
Casey Stoner in practice for the 2011 season in Qatar.Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images

In 2010, injuries and a wonderful performance by Jorge Lorenzo handed the title to the Yamaha motorcyclist.

His main competitors, such as Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, suffered injuries that took them out of crucial races and out of the title race.

However, 2011 looks as if it will be completely different.

The Italian legend Valentino Rossi has finally moved to the Italian team Ducati, while Casey Stoner moved to Honda and Ben Spies moved into the Yamaha team.

The balance of power has shifted from Yamaha to Honda, after Stoner, Pedrosa and Dovizioso performed strongly in preseason testing.

Meanwhile, Rossi appears to be falling back after joining Ducati, as his bike looks nowhere near as impressive as the Yamaha he rode in 2010.

In the final test, he finished 13th overall after two days in Qatar, where the 2011 Qatar Grand Prix starts this weekend, behind his teammate Nicky Hayden, who finished 10th.

Ben Spies seems to be learning his way well at the main Yamaha team for the first time, and is likely to perform well this season.

Despite this, I suspect that Lorenzo's experience will probably allow him to get ahead of Spies.

A number of midfield names such as Simoncelli, Aoyama, De Puniet and Edwards are likely to push towards Ducati and Yamaha, but they are unlikely to beat the best teams.

However, even Ducati and Yamaha seem to be blown away by Honda's outstanding pace so far, but expect them to launch an epic comeback to be able to battle with Stoner and Pedrosa.

And if Honda continue their impressive pace, they are likely to win the manufacturers championship, as they have three bikes in their main team compared to two for the other main teams.

Personally, I am predicting a championship victory for Casey Stoner, with Pedrosa, Spies and Lorenzo fighting for second place.

But as last season showed, anything could happen. We'll just have to wait and see.