Qatar MotoGP: Vinales looks the one to catch

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Date: 1900, 26/03/2017

Country: Qatar

Circuit: Losail

TV: BT Sport

The talk of testing ahead of the 2017 season-opening Qatar MotoGP has been Maverick Vinales.

The Movistar Yamaha rider topped the timesheets all the way through from Valencia in November to Sepang, Phillip Island and finally Qatar earlier this month.

Vinales’ form has been so good that he has even put team-mate Valentino Rossi in the shade, no mean feat considering the Italian has nine world titles to his name and retains worldwide popularity among fans.

But Vinales’ stunning form has made the rest of the paddock sit up and take notice of his credentials as a genuine world title contender. The Spaniard, who was one of nine different riders to win a MotoGP race last season when he raced for Suzuki, is confident ahead of his first campaign as Rossi’s team-mate.

After dominating pre-season, Vinales, the 9/4 favourite to win the race, said: “We’re not on the bike’s limit, so we can still push a little bit more. If we do the same in the first GP as we did in the test, we can fight for the victory.”

Three-times champion and title holder Marc Marquez, who crashed three times on the final day of pre-season in Qatar, admitted Vinales is one to watch.

Marquez is 12/5 to prevail in the opener and said: “On this track, only Maverick is quicker than the rest.”

MotoGP Championship Betting

Repsol Honda’s Marquez is the 7/5 favourite to retain his title in the MotoGP championship betting and Vinales is second at 7/4.

That means former champions Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have flown under the radar in pre-season testing with what might be described as underwhelming performances.

However, as they have both shown consistently in the past, there is a big difference between doing one-off fast laps and performing well during the intensity of race conditions.

Valentino Rossi Odds

Rossi, who is 11/2 to win a 10th world title, admitted there was ground to make up on his team-mate before the season gets under way with the Qatar MotoGP, for which he is 7/2.

Following the final pre-season test, Rossi said: “So now we have to speak together and try and be stronger for the first race. It looks like the bike has good potential because Vinales is very, very fast.”

Jorge Lorenzo Odds

Lorenzo’s switch from Yamaha, where his personality regularly clashed with the ego of Rossi, to Ducati has created a lot of interest. Having initially struggled, he was finally turning in better lap times by the end of pre-season as he bids to add to his three MotoGP world titles.

Winning the title on a Ducati would be one up on Rossi, who failed spectacularly when he raced for the Italian manufacturer.

But at 7/1 for the title, Lorenzo’s odds reflect the disadvantage he is at having moved to a new team and a different bike. He is also quoted at 5/1 to win the season opener.

Where Lorenzo and Marquez were once the new kids on the block, their fellow Spaniard Vinales is now firmly in focus and is fancied in the Qatar MotoGP betting ahead of the floodlit race at the Losail International Circuit.

Moto GP Championship Odds
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Andrew works at the Press Association where he oversees all the company’s sport betting editorial, having previously worked on the Teletext Sport desk and been editor of the England cricket team’s website. A lifelong Huddersfield Town fan, his preferred way to unwind is to head for the hills on his bike.