Neil Hodgson is a BSB and WSBK champion and a commentator for BT Sport. He’s got his finger on the pulse in the MotoGP, WSBK, and BSB paddocks and his encyclopedic knowledge of bike racing make him perfectly placed to preview the season ahead.
“I’m really excited about this season. Last year was the best season I can ever remember and we hand nine different race winners.
“Marquez played the long game and showed a maturity we’d not seen before, happy to take points instead of pushing hard for the win. This consistency saw him take the title, on a bike many claimed was ‘unrideable’, and he’s still the man to beat.
“Vinales has been the fastest man in pre-season testing and he’s adjusted quickly to the Yamaha. He’ll be oozing confidence, and it will be fascinating to see the team dynamics unfold between him and Rossi. Both will be desperate to be the fastest and it won’t be long until there are fireworks.
“Lorenzo is another rider who has switched manufacturers, and he’ll be desperate to show his speed after a so-so 2016. On his day he can be unbeatable, but he had too many off days last season, especially in the wet. The Ducati is fast and it will be interesting to see whether Lorenzo has to adjust his style to make it work.
“Iannone could be the dark horse. He’s fearless and quick, when he’s not crashing, and the bike is proven. He could well be fighting for the odd win if he can keep the Suzuki upright.”
“This season promises to be a classic. Last year, the class was dominated by the best rider on the best bike. Johnny Rea was a class above his rivals, and he had a bike under him that matched his talent, even if there were a few issues with the gearbox.
“This year the already-strong Kawasaki has been upgraded, and I expect it to be leading from the front again. He’s fast, consistent and doesn’t make many mistakes.
“But he won’t have it all own way, and Chaz Davies finished the second half of last season in the form of his life. He’s kept the momentum going into testing and the Ducati Panigale R is a just gets better and better. His new team-mate Marco Melandri has also looked fast in testing, and I can’t wait to see how Chaz deals with the threat.”
“There’s also the news Honda Fireblade, and it will be interesting to see how it goes. Hayden and Bradl are both fast, but the bike is unproven. Expect a few podium finishes.
“And the Yamaha R1 is now in its second year of development, which means the team should kick on. Guintoli has gone, and been replaced by Van Der Mark, who is talented, and hungry. His team-mate Alex Lowes has been instrumental in developing the bike, and his sheer raw talent and speed mean he’s bound to be in the mix too.”
“I love BSB for the sheer enjoyment of watching close racing. There are a handful of riders who are capable of fighting for a win, and there will be five or six riders who will win at least one race, but Shakey Byrne will start as the title favourite for many. He’s experienced, the bike is quick and the PBM team is experienced and proven.
“However, Leon Haslam will also be there. He ran Shakey close last year, and may even have won the title if it wasn’t for the technical gremlins which plagued his season. He’s fit, he has a point to prove and he’s hungry for success. He’s never won a title, which for a rider with his talent is unbelievable, and I really feel this year will be his year.