The 2015 MotoGP season kicks off on March 30, 2015 with the Qatar Grand Prix. That means we have close to five days left before lights turn green, signalling the start of what could very well be another action-packed season of the premier motorcycle racing series in the world.

I’m obviously geeked up for the 30th to arrive and I’m pretty confident that a lot of you share in my excitement. There are a lot of reasons to get pumped up for the start of the 2015 MotoGP season and certainly, there are a lot of interesting subplots that will play out over the next eight months that should make this year another one for the books.

The most obvious plot of the new MotoGP season revolves around Marc Marquez’s quest to win his third-straight MotoGP title. That hasn’t been done since Valentino Rossi won five straight titles from 2001 to 2005. Can Marquez do it? He’s certainly in a great position to do achieve it, although I wouldn’t put it past Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo to make it interesting for the 22-year old defending champion.

That’s only a sample of what we can expect ahead of the 2015 MotoGP season. So to get you primed up for this weekend’s season-opening race at the Qatar Grand Prix, continue after the jump as I answer a few more questions on what we can look forward to for the upcoming season of MotoGP.

Continue reading after the jump.

What you need to know ahead of the 2015 MotoGP season

Who are the major players?

Obviously, Marc Marquez is a name you should remember. He’s not only the reigning world champion, but he’s also been the champion the past two seasons and is gunning to become the first three-peat winner of MotoGP since Valentino Rossi won five straight titles from 2001 to 2005.

Speaking of Rossi, the Doctor is still competing at a high level in MotoGP and is widely regarded as the man who has the best chance of breaking up Marquez and Repsol Honda’s recent dominance in the series. His seven MotoGP titles is second only to the great Giacomo Agostini’s eight titles and a championship this coming season puts him on level ground with the man many consider to be the greatest motorcycle racer of all time.
Marquez and Rossi may be the cornerstones of MotoGP, but this season will also feature a handful of former champions in the field. Marquez’s teammate in Repsol Honda, Jorge Lorenzo, is a two-time world champion while Rossi’s tag-team partner in Yamaha, Dani Pedrosa is considered as the best racer never to have won a MotoGP title.

Can anybody beat Honda’s dominance?

Honda’s won three of the last four constructors championship in MotoGP so it’s understandable why one of its teams, Marquez’s Repsol Honda squad, is the heavy favorite to win the constructor’s title again. The important question in this space is whether or not anyone can beat Honda this season. Common sense will tell you that

Honda’s just on another level completely, but if you dig in deeper, Yamaha’s coming into this season with the goal of unseating the current champion. Marquez admitted as much, saying recently that Yamaha is Honda’s biggest threat to the tite.

How will Suzuki and Aprilia fare in their return to MotoGP?

It’s nice to see Suzuki and Aprilia back in the saddle and competing once again the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. But if you want to be realistic about it, the two manufacturers are still a level or two down the perceived powerhouse teams. Don’t expect either of them to win a whole lot of anything this season, because there’s a good chance that they’ll use this year to prepare for future seasons. It’s not the equivalent of tanking per se, but when you’re talking about setting yourselves up for the future, that’s where Suzuki and Aprilia are right now.

Rules Primer

As far as major rule changes are concerned, the 2015 season won’t have a lot of them. That scenario will likely play out in 2016. That said, it’s still important to understand the regulations of the series, especially if you haven’t been following the sport as often in the past as you’d like.

One rule change that is taking effect this season is the reduction of the minimum weight. Whereas the minimum weight stood at 160 kg in the past, the minimum weight this season is now 158 kg with another possible reduction slated to happen next season. It’s also important to remember that bikes are weighed with an empty fuel tank but items like onboard cameras, electronics, and coolant are all part of the weight requirements.

There’s also a lot of talk surrounding the two categories under MotoGP: Factory Option and Open Class. To understand the rather complicated rules of MotoGP, it’s better to know that regulations stipulate that motorcycle manufacturers fall under Factory Option whereas private teams and smaller teams all part of the Open Class.

The Factory Option basically includes Yamaha and Honda, the two biggest teams in the series, although Ducati is also included in this category, albeit with some concessions headed its way. The biggest difference between Factory Option teams and Open Class teams basically boils down to resources. Since Factory Option teams are allowed to develop their own software during the season, MotoGP put rules in place to help keep competition on an even keel, at least to a certain extent. So if you’re a Factory Option team, the amount of software development you can do is balanced out by regulations that include a ban on engine development during the season, a limited amount of testing, a cap of 20 litres of fuel during a race, and a maximum of five engines throughout the season.

On the other hand, a Factory Option with Concessions class has also been established to accommodate the likes of Ducati, Suzuki, and April. While they still run in the same class as the Hondas and Yamahas this group have special concessions granted to them to make them a little more competitive.

The most obvious ones include a cap of 24 liters of fuel per race, a maximum of 12 engines per season, free time to develop their engines, and unlimited testing sessions. This group is also allowed to use softer tires compared to their Factory Option counterparts, although the extra fuel and tire allocations are subject to results in dry conditions. In the event a team scores a race win, two second place finishes, or three podiums, they’re fuel allowance will be trimmed to just 22 liters per race. Likewise, if a team scores three wins in dry conditions, they’ll lose the ability of using a softer rear tire and will instead use medium and hard tires just like the two Factory Option teams.

There are a lot more intricate rules that fall into play for the 2015 season, but doing so right now will probably be too complicated to understand. So as the season goes along, I’m going to talk about these different rules depending on whether any of them apply from any of the upcoming race results.

Betting odds

Some of you may not be into something like betting on MotoGP, but there are other people who are. So in the interest of public knowledge, defending world champion Marc Marquez is still the odds-on favorite to win at 2/5 odds. Not far behind is Marquez’s teammate, Jorge Lorenzo at 4/1 odds. I’m guessing oddsmakers know which way the title race is going, huh?

But if you want to be a little more adventurous, the two Yamaha riders, Valentino Rossi and Daniel Pedrosa, are the only other riders with single-digit odds at 7/1 and 9/1, respectively. Everybody else, beginning with Ducati riders Andrea Doviziosio and Andrea Iannone at 20/1 and 28/1, respectively, are double-digit odds to make an improbable run at the title. If you really look at how the odds are being offered, the 2015 MotoGP season could boil down to a three-team race involving Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati with everybody else bringing up the rear.

What do you think?
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