2015 Moto2 Season Preview: The Champion Returns


So often, the man who claims the Moto2 world championship is the first name on the wish lists of teams up and down the MotoGP pitlane, virtually guaranteeing the champion’s departure. Without question, a move up to the premier class was possible for 2014 champion Esteve Rabat but the Spaniard has stuck around, instead choosing to chase another piece of history.

Since Moto2 rose from the ashes of the 250cc class, Toni Elias, Stefan Bradl, Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro have all stepped from title-winning Moto2 bikes to competitive machines in MotoGP and therein lies the reason why Rabat has opted against the switch. No satellite Yamahas are set aside for him as there were for Espargaro, nor does Repsol Honda have his name on one of their machines as they did for Marquez. Rabat’s ambition is to compete at the highest level, but only on a machine worthy of his talent.

In the absence of that, Moto2 remains the best option for ‘Tito’ and the 25 year old will become the first rider in any class since Casey Stoner in 2012 to brandish the number one plate in Qatar this weekend, something he takes great pride from, as should his Marc VDS team. The Belgian outfit were a class apart in Moto2 last season with Rabat’s only challenge for the title coming from teammate Mika Kallio. The pair claimed ten of the eighteen race victories including four 1-2s and following their collaboration with Estrella Galicia 0,0 for 2015, the best may have just got even better.

They don’t enjoy total continuity on the rider front though with Kallio departing for Italtrans, his place being taken by the reigning Moto3 champion Alex Marquez. The younger brother of Marc proved his talent and mental strength with a magnificent performance under pressure to clinch the junior class crown last November but 2015 will test those qualities to the limit. Pre-season testing has been heavily disrupted by rain and Alex himself has bemoaned the lack of dry track time as he seeks to make the adjustment so many before him have failed to make.

Alex Rins is the other high-profile youngster looking to make that same transition and the early indications are that he is finding it a little easier than his compatriot. He may have often been the bridesmaid in Moto3 but make no mistake, Rins is far too good for Moto3 and the time may have arrived last year where he outgrew the lightweight machines. Having stepped into Maverick Vinales’ shoes at the Paginas Amarillas HP40 team, Rins knows the standards he will be measured against but the 19 year old has the temperament to cope, has a quality team around him and as he has already proved in pre-season testing, is a quick learner.

Marquez and Rins will fight it out for the honour of top rookie (Photo Credit: MotoGP.com)
Marquez and Rins will fight it out for the honour of top rookie (Photo Credit: MotoGP.com)

A title challenge will probably be too tough an ask even for Rins but there are several familiar names lining up to dethrone Rabat with 15 of the top 16 riders in last season’s championship remaining in the class. The Interwetten and Technomag squads have merged for 2015, forming a Swiss superteam for Thomas Luthi and Dominique Aegerter although ironically, they have deserted the Swiss Suter chassis for the popular Kalex.

Simone Corsi has competed in every single Moto2 season to date and after missing the back-end of 2014 with a broken arm, the Italian will be relieved just to be back. Whether he can become a regular winner remains to be seen though. The same can be said for fellow Moto2 stalwarts Julian Simon and Anthony West at the QMMF team who boast one victory between them since the reinvention of the class five years ago, that coming courtesy of West’s wet-weather heroics at Assen last season.

For a realistic title rival to Rabat, it may be wiser to look at some of last season’s stellar rookies who are sure to offer more in their second Moto2 season. Luis Salom and Jonas Folger both peaked rather early in their debut campaigns with podium finishes inside the opening four rounds but their season’s rather tailed off from there. The recent trend of Moto3 graduates taking a year to find their feet in Moto2 suggests they will be much more consistent this term.

Sam Lowes took a different route to Moto2 but the Briton also showed flashes of brilliance in a mixed rookie campaign. The Lincolnshire rider qualified on the front row at Mugello, led at Assen and Phillip Island, but too often would be brought crashing down to earth by untimely accidents. Testing suggests a serious step forward has been made with the Speed Up chassis and Qatar will be the first indication as to whether a step forward has been made by its rider too. With so many Kalex entrants in the field, perhaps a different make of motorcycle could play to Sam’s advantage.

Sam Lowes will fly the British flag alone this season (Photo Credit: MotoGP.com)
Sam Lowes will fly the British flag alone this season (Photo Credit: MotoGP.com)

Lowes ended the final test as the fastest rider by a full second, that margin owing more to changing weather conditions than outright pace, but even in dry conditions the 2013 World Supersport Champion has looked impressive. Johann Zarco has matched him stride-for-stride though on his Ajo Motorsport Kalex and the Frenchman may well be a wildcard, in more ways than one, in the coming season. If points were awarded over the winter, these two would be heading to Losail with a major head start over the rest.

There can no denying that the domination of Kalex on the 2015 is a shame with 22 of the 30 regular entrants on board the Bavarian chassis, a far cry from the inaugural Moto2 season where over a dozen constructors were involved. Aside from Lowes, Simon and West on Speed Ups, the only riders to go against the grain are rookie pair Florian Alt and Zaqhwan Zaidi on Suters and Tech 3 trio Ricard Cardus, Marcel Schrotter and Louis Rossi.

Despite the lack of variation on the chassis front, Moto2 continues to provide a thrilling spectacle with tremendous strength in depth. Virtually half of the riders have a Grand Prix victory to their name and four of those have won titles, either in the junior class or in Rabat’s case, Moto2 itself. For many, this series is the last stop on the road to MotoGP stardom and 30 riders start this season looking to show the world that they are ready for the big league.

It could be argued that Rabat has already done just that but he has his own agenda in 2015, becoming a back-to-back Moto2 champion. Back against him at your peril.

 

2015 Moto2 World Championship – Teams and Riders

ESTRELLA GALICIA 0,0 MARC VDS – KALEX
1 Esteve Rabat 73 Alex Marquez
PAGINAS AMARILLAS HP 40 – KALEX
39 Luis Salom 40 Alex Rins
DERENDINGER RACING INTERWETTEN/TECHNOMAG RACING INTERWETTEN – KALEX
12 Thomas Luthi 70 Robin Mulhauser
77 Dominique Aegerter
ATHINA FORWARD RACING TEAM – KALEX
3 Simone Corsi 7 Lorenzo Baldassarri
DYNAVOLT INTACT GP – KALEX
11 Sandro Cortese
TECH 3 – TECH 3
23 Marcel Schrotter 88 Ricard Cardus
ITALTRANS RACING TEAM – KALEX
21 Franco Morbidelli 36 Mika Kallio
QMMF RACING TEAM – SPEED UP
60 Julian Simon 95 Anthony West
SPEED UP RACING – SPEED UP
22 Sam Lowes
FEDERAL OIL GRESINI MOTO2 – KALEX
19 Xavier Simeon
AGR TEAM – KALEX
49 Axel Pons 94 Jonas Folger
PETRONAS RACELINE MALAYSIA – KALEX
55 Hafizh Syahrin
TASCA RACING SCUDERIA MOTO2 – TECH 3
96 Louis Rossi
IDEMITSU HONDA TEAM ASIA – KALEX
25 Azlan Shah 30 Takaaki Nakagami
OCTO IODARACING TEAM – SUTER
66 Florian Alt
SPORTS-MILLIONS-EMWE-SAG – KALEX
2 Jesko Raffin
APH PTT THE PIZZA SAG – KALEX
10 Thitipong Warokorn
TEAM JIR – KALEX
4 Randy Krummenacher
AJO MOTORSPORT – KALEX
5 Johann Zarco
JPMOTO MALAYSIA – SUTER
51 Zaqhwan Zaidi