2014 Moto3 Season Preview – Follow That!


The first season was exciting enough but Moto3’s second instalment was on another level entirely. From the first corner to the last, 2013 provided non-stop drama and entertainment as the world championship hung in the balance until the very last seconds of racing in Valencia. Three Spaniards went toe-to-toe over seventeen rounds but as Luis Salom and Alex Rins buckled in a stunning final two races, Maverick Vinales took full advantage to snatch the title from under their noses, passing Rins at the last corner in Valencia’s final showdown.

Moto3 is a Grand Prix World Championship in its own right and it would be perhaps a little unfair to label it a stepping stone for young riders but it’s no great surprise to see the new champion moving up to Moto2. Vinales, along with Salom, has joined the championship winning Pons team in the intermediate class and immediately you’d be forgiven for thinking 2014 has Alex Rins’ name on it. Don’t go rushing to the bookies just yet.

2013 was a season dominated by one make of motorcycle as KTM monopolised the top step of the podium. In fact, of the 51 podium finishers in the class all year, only one of those didn’t get their via KTM power with Miguel Oliveira producing the performance of his life to take third on the Mahindra. With that in mind, some may question Estrella Galicia’s decision to join forces with Honda and the early testing times didn’t silence the doubters as Rins and Alex Marquez struggled to even break the top ten at Valencia. Emilio Alzamora and company will have been relieved though by the progress made in the latter stages at Jerez with Marquez taking second overall, boosting hopes that they may be competitive after all.

The quickest man of all in testing was Jack Miller and the highly-rated Australian now has his big chance to become a championship contender after joining the Red Bull KTM Ajo squad. Miller fought bravely against the might of KTM on a Honda-powered machine last year but with the best equipment on the grid at his disposal, his talent will surely be rewarded with a victory, if not more. He’ll face stiff competition from within though as Red Bull Rookies champion Karel Hanika moves in alongside. The Ajo stable also welcomes Danny Kent back into the fold after a year in Moto2 and although the Briton will run on a machine badged as a ‘Husqvarna’, his motorcycle will be the same factory KTM underneath Miller and Hanika.

In name at least, Husqvarna are a newcomer but Moto3 but the most fascinating new entrant comes in the form of Sky Racing Team by VR46 backed by, you guessed it, a certain Valentino Rossi. The MotoGP legend has set up the new squad in the junior class as a way of developing the best talent Italy has to offer and in Romano Fenati, he has one his nation’s shining lights. Victorious in just his second Grand Prix, Fenati is phenomenally talented but like Miller, he was hamstrung by a lack of grunt last season as his FTR-Honda was outgunned. The Sky VR46 team won’t have that problem having acquired two factory KTMs and Fenati is sure to be in the championship shake-up. Teammate Francesco Bagnaia may surprise one or two as well in his second Grand Prix season.

The rapid Antonelli will be exciting to watch (Photo Credit: GO&FUN Junior Team)
The rapid Antonelli will be exciting to watch (Photo Credit: GO&FUN Junior Team)

The revelation of pre-season testing has come in the form of another Italian with Gresini’s Niccolo Antonelli stepping forward. Antonelli faces a big season after showing flashes of potential only to throw his motorcycle at the scenery so far in his career and from the start of pre-season testing he had the look of a man on a mission. The 18 year old totally dominated the opening week’s running at Valencia and although he was reined in by the likes of Miller and Marquez at Jerez, he remains one of the title favourites.

KTM and Honda is seen as the key battle on the technical front but don’t underestimate the challenge coming from Mahindra this year. The Indian manufacturer made huge strides forward last year after their collaboration with Suter and their progress has been recognised by the fact that three other teams have chosen their motorcycles for 2014, ensuring at least eight Mahindras will line up on the grid in Qatar. The best chance of success will of course come from factory riders Miguel Oliveira and Arthur Sissis and in the Portuguese rider, Mahindra have a man with all the tools to go to the very top.

Team Calvo and Mapfre Aspar are sure to have a say somewhere at the front of the grid too despite being weakened on the rider front this winter. Reigning champion Maverick Vinales has departed the Calvo squad for Moto2 with his cousin Isaac filling the void but the team’s secret weapon could in fact be Jakub Kornfeil, the Czech youngster finally getting the chance to prove himself at a top team. The same opportunity has been afforded to Juanfran Guevara at Aspar although the loss of Jonas Folger may prove the difference between podiums and points for them in 2014.

While Moto3 will provide the best chance of a British world champion in Danny Kent this year, John McPhee’s progress will also be interesting to watch. Not only does the Scot have an excellent yardstick to measure himself against in Efren Vazquez, but he also enjoys continuity having being retained by Racing Team Germany and regular points will be the aim.

After the events of 2013, we surely can’t expect this year’s championship to match up can we? Mind you, we asked that question after the inaugural Moto3 season and were proved spectacularly wrong. The only thing we can genuinely expect from the young hotshots of motorcycle racing is the totally unexpected. You won’t want to take your eyes off it.

 

2014 MOTO3 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – TEAMS AND RIDERS
TEAM CALVO – KTM
32  ISAAC VINALES 57  ERIC GRANADO
84  JAKUB KORNFEIL
ESTRELLA GALICIA 0,0 – HONDA
12  ALEX MARQUEZ 42  ALEX RINS
RED BULL KTM AJO – KTM
8  JACK MILLER 98  KAREL HANIKA
RED BULL HUSQVARNA AJO – HUSQVARNA
52  DANNY KENT
MAPFRE ASPAR MOTO3 – KALEX KTM
58  JUANFRAN GUEVARA
MAHINDRA RACING – MAHINDRA
44  MIGUEL OLIVEIRA 61  ARTHUR SISSIS
SAXOPRINT–RTG – HONDA
7  EFREN VAZQUEZ 17  JOHN McPHEE
ONGETTA–RIVACOLD/ONGETTA–AIRASIA – HONDA
10  ALEXIS MASBOU 63  ZULFAHMI KHAIRUDDIN
SAN CARLO TEAM ITALIA – MAHINDRA
3  MATTEO FERRARI 55  ANDREA LOCATELLI
RW RACING GP – KALEX KTM
9  SCOTT DEROUE 22  ANA CARRASCO
AMBROGIO RACING – MAHINDRA
41  BRAD BINDER 95  JULES DANILO
AVANT TECNO HUSQVARNA AJO – HUSQVARNA
31  NIKLAS AJO
JUNIOR TEAM GO&FUN MOTO3 – KTM
23  NICCOLO ANTONELLI 33  ENEA BASTIANINI
INTERWETTEN PADDOCK MOTO3 – KALEX KTM
65  PHILIPP OETTL
MARC VDS RACING TEAM – KALEX KTM
11  LIVIO LOI
CIP MOTO3 – MAHINDRA
19  ALESSANDRO TONUCCI 51  BRYAN SCHOUTEN
KIEFER RACING – KALEX KTM
4  GABRIEL RAMOS 43  LUCA GRUNWALD
SIC-AJO – KTM
38  HAFIQ AZMI
SKY RACING TEAM BY VR46 – KTM
5  ROMANO FENATI 21  FRANCESCO BAGNAIA