MotoGP

The thrilling 2017 MotoGP season so far!

It's now the summer break. Nine action packed races already have taken place.

With five different winners, ten different riders on the podium and only ten points separate the top four racers.

Maverick Viñales, Valentino Rossi, Andrea Dovizioso, and Marc Márquez all have led the Championship and remain in the top four, with Marc Márquez's win at the German GP, he joins the list as leader number four - on the third different manufacturers machine to top the table. With Dani Pedrosa on the works Repsol Honda Team bike, he is also close to the leaders - only 26 points off the top spot.

This remarkable season is not only how the Championship standings are, the wheel-to-wheel action, but also it's the competition throughout the field, making it the greatest shows on earth. Dani Pedrosa's win in Jerez means he joins each of the Championship leaders as the fifth different winner so far - and there are another five men who have stood on the podium in the first half of this 2017 season:

Britain's Cal Crutchlow, on the satellite LCR Honda, Jorge Lorenzo, Factory Ducati Team, Johann Zarco, satellite Monster Yamaha Tech 3, Danilo Petrucci, satellite Octo Pramac Racing and Jonas Folger, Monster Yamaha Tech 3.

This year we've been treated to some of the best ever racing seen in MotoGP™ championship series and it just keeps getting better and better week in, week out.

Gladiatorial duels for the win, elbow to elbow dog fights, five-rider battles, unpredictable outcomes, unbelievable overtakes, top riders crashing out of the lead and high-speed tactics. All are creating one of the most incredible Championship seasons in its history.

Twenty three riders and six different manufacturers line up in the MotoGP™ World Championship this year, in what is shaping up to be a season that will be talked about for years to come.

Now the riders take a rest, have a holiday and recharge their batteries until Brno, when the flag will once again be raised to start another nine incredible races.

This year has been the closest title race in the premiere class's 68-year history.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the top contenders so far and see how well they've done in the first half of the 2017 season.

THE CONTENDERS.

Starting with forth place in the championship.

Valentino Rossi

Points: 119
Wins: 1
Podiums: 4

Last season in MotoGP, Valentino Rossi put together a blistering title attack that few saw coming, the veteran stood on the top step of the podium many times and proved that he did still have the pace to fight with his much younger rivals for the win - even if some results did cost him the title in the end.

Since then, we've all known that if he could combine his speed with the dependability of 2015 (where he also ended the season second overall) then there is no reason why he couldn't be a title contender again in 2017.

In third place we have Andrea Dovizioso

Points: 123       Wins: 2       Podiums: 3

You would have got very good odds at the bookies, at the start of the season, on Andrea Dovizioso being a double MotoGP race winner or even being the championship leader , but the Factory Ducati rider put together two stunning performances at Mugello and Barcelona to double his win tally in only a week - and to establish himself as a dark horse for the title.

He's admitted that the bike's not yet ready to be up there week in and week out though, despite Ducati continuing to improve their Desmosedici GP17 machine at an impressive rate. They've still got issues, mainly the mid-corner steering issue he's been complaining about, but under the genius of Gigi Dall'Igna, those issues seem to be getting a little bit less of a problem every single weekend for Dovi and team mate Jorge Lorenzo.

In second is this years Yamaha new star, Maverick Viñales

Points: 124       Wins: 3       Podiums: 4

Remarkable in pre-season testing, Maverick Viñales showed us that he was capable of mixing it with the top guys, when the season got underway proper, taking wins in the first two races of the year - and he looked set to cruise to the title glory. But with a couple of crashes, the young Spaniard has been brought right down to earth with a bump! (pun intended!).

Struggling with the Movistar Yamaha in hot temperatures, his home races were a disaster, as was a big mistake in Assen and some rather unspectacular wet performances. He's shown some chinks in his armour, and it'll be interesting to see how he will respond to it.

We know he's tough and he's always up for a scrap - but it's still to be seen how he manages when the pressure of fighting for a world title is on his young shoulders.

Now leading the championship is the ever spectacular, Marc Márquez.

Points: 129       Wins: 2       Podiums: 5

Reigning champion Marc Márquez got his season off to somewhat of a rocky start despite taking his now-traditional wins in America and Germany, but also suffering a couple of crashes, in Argentina and another in France to remind him that he won the 2016 championship race not through outright speed and his never say die attitude but through consistency - a lesson that he's now taken to heart.

Running a campaign much the same as last year's now, the Factory Repsol Honda rider has remembered that he still isn't able to repeat the feats of 2014 and ten consecutive race wins despite gradual improvements to Honda's RC213V machine. No longer the wild beast of a bike that it was a few months ago, their problems nonetheless still aren't quite fixed - which is a huge relief to all of his rivals.

Perhaps Marc was somewhat anxious at the start of the season by the arrival of his super-fast former sparring partner Vinales, that means that he's now once again concentrating on a very strategic campaign - striking where he can (his favoured anti-clockwise circuits of Texas and Sachsenring) and taking safe points elsewhere, like he did at Assen and his home race in Barcelona. It's a strategy that's worked for him in the past, and with the championship lead in hand (however tenuous his lead might be) it's working for him again this season. Will he be this years champion again?

The season started in Qatar with the spectacular night race.

This years race did not disappoint, with rain delaying the start, Jorge on his new Ducati, Maverick on the Yamaha and the new Rookies giving a few exciting surprises.

What were the key highlights... well Frenchman, Johann Zarco took most people by surprise by taking an early lead and opening up a massive gap! Only to throw it away a few laps later. What people forget is that he is a double Moto2 champion!

The next surprise was Lorenzo's first outing on the Factory Ducati which was far from where he wanted to be, I think he hoped he would be a lot closer to the front. He finished in eleventh behind Redding, Rins and Folger and was lucky not to lose another place to French rider Loris Baz.

Alexis Espargo, on the new Aprilia MotoGp17, had a good race and came home sixth behind Marquez and Pedrosa. The Italian Aprilia is an exciting new entry to the MotoGP championship this year.

What an opener, this was such an exciting race and a taste of things to come for the Championship!

Now let's take a look at this years Challengers.

Who are the challengers for the 2017 title and who are the rookies of this year!?

Who has a realistic chance of winning this years championship?

Marc Márquez, Spanish

The reigning Champion and three times world champion has not had a great start to this years MotoGP season with a forth in Qatar and DNF in Argentina leaving him behind going into Austin Texas, but the King of the Americas came good to make it five in a row! Can he win the title again this year? He's been rattled a bit by how well Maverick has taken to his new Yamaha, but I think the Texas USA and Sachsenring, German wins have given him some confidence. I'll say he'll finish in the top three if he doesn't win it!

Maverick Viñales, Spanish

After having a fantastic season with Suzuki last year including bringing them their first win since 2007. Nevertheless he was presented an opportunity which will surely carve the future of his career to have Jorge Lorenzo's M1 Yamaha ride. It's been amazing watching him in the pre season tests and indeed how he has taken this into the season, winning the opening two races! Straight away he seemed at home on the Yamaha and he will either win the championship or finish in the top three.

Valentino Rossi, Italian

Rossi is the one rider who has been racing in the top class the longest and the most successful. He is now 38 years of age, would you believe? Plus he IS the greatest racer of all time, along with greats like Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini. I don't think I am the only one who wants him to win that tenth title, an amazing feat. He struggled in pre-season testing but seems to always find something when it comes to race day! Leaving the American race top of the championship could not have been a better start for Rossi but he is realistic and there is a long way to go and he knows that Vinales and Marquez are stronger than ever. That's why I am so amazed by Rossi his attitude and the way he is riding! Valentine Rossi, he could win it but if not, definitely in the top three. He is my tip for the top this year.

Dani Pedrosa, Spanish

I have always liked Dani, his fast precise way of riding, his neat and tidy style, but for him, sadly it's so true that saying "always the bridesmaid never the bride" in the top class - MotoGP that is, let's not forget Dani Pedrosa is a two time 250cc Champ and a 125cc Champ, so he well capable of winning it. Danis' problem is he never seems to keep the momentum going with wins or podiums. One week he's right up there, next he's struggling and then in the past, he has been unlucky and got injured. I think it's going to be the same this year and fourth will be the best he will manage.

Jorge Lorenzo, Spanish

The €20 million man that Ducati think can bring the championship back to them... Not this year though and I think it's a big ask for next too but I could be wrong. This bike need to be ridden fast, hard and ragged and Lorenzo doesn't ride that way and I'm interested to see how he gets on in the wet as the Ducati is good as we know Lorenzo doesn't like the wet! For Jorge, this year, he'll have done a good job if he can finish in the top four, but think Cal Crutchlow or Andrea Dovizioso have other ideas. So fifth or sixth will be his best this year.

Andrea Dovizioso, Italian

He is one of the strongest and most consistent riders in MotoGP over the years and he is very hard to pass! He again has never really had a good crack at the championship. I have a lot of respect for him. The best place he has finished in the championship in is third in 2011 when he rode for the Factory Repsol Honda. I think it will be difficult for him to win with the championship this year with Ducati. As most of the investment is going to Lorenzo and with how strong the Yamaha's and Honda's are. I think anything more than third or forth is going to be tough for Dovi but I'd like to see him finish above Lorenzo!

Cal Crutchlow, British

The Straight talking Cal Crutchlow! It's great watching Cal racing, he is a fantastic rider and over the last few seasons it been great to see a Brit up there winning races, very exciting! The only thing that annoys me about Cal is sometimes he is a bit of a crasher, he pushes too hard when he could bring it home. I'd like to see what he could do on the Factory Repsol Honda, he maybe on it when they oust Pedrosa. But he has got to stay upright and to enjoy what he's doing with LCR and the success he's having. It would be great to see Cal in the top four this year but I think it will be fifth or sixth at best.

Now a look at the Rookies

Johann Zarco, French

Last years and two time Moto 2 Champion he has certainly stepped up! It's been fantastic seeing Johann get to grips with the satellite Yamaha MotoGP bike this season, he is really learning fast and giving it all he's got. I can see him on the podium soon this year and winning too. At Qatar he was amazing and his lap times were fast! He will be top rookie this year by far and also he'll challenge the likes of Dovi and Cal Crutchlow in the championship. But I reckon he'll finish this year seventh or eighth.

Jonas Folger, German

With such an amazing home race coming second, he is a good solid rider although he has never won a championship yet but he was the Rookie of the year in 2009 in the 125cc class. In Moto2, riding for Kalex for the last couple of years he has managed 11 podiums from 54 starts with 3 wins! He looks like he is already at home on the Tech 3 Yamaha and is ahead of Lorenzo, Crutchlow, Redding and Miller in the Championship! Be a good year for him if he can finish in the top ten, currently seventh.

Sam Lowes, British

Great to have another British racer in the top class of MotoGP and on a factory bike too! Sam had a couple of good years in Moto 2 finishing in 4th and 5th position but he must have been kicking himself as he didn't win the championship and could have if he's stayed on in a couple of races. This year Sam has a big challenge on his hands with the Aprilia and has got a lot of work to do. Saying that Espargaro seems to have had some early success with the bike so hopefully it trickles down to Sam, even though, surprisingly, Aprilia are not happy with his performance so far this year? He deserves another year at it!

So that's my mid-term report.

The tough action will continue throughout the rest of the season. Fairing bashing and wheel to wheel combat at every race! It's going to be close, very close.

Who is your money on?

Valentine Rossi, Marc Márquez, Maverick Viñales, Andrea Dovizioso or someone else?

Why not post your name and guess here? COMMENT

Anything can happen in MotoGP and it usually does. May the best racer win!

Next race is the Czech GP at Brno starting on August 4th race day Sunday the 6th I can't wait can you?

My full report will be up here soon after the race. So enjoy the race and then read my report!

- Roland Potter