MotoGP will welcome its most exciting crop of rookies for many a season in Qatar this weekend but don’t be fooled into thinking Moto2 is devoid of world class riders. With an eclectic mix of riders young and old, the intermediate class could well be described as the past, present and future of Grand Prix racing all in one field.
Certainly in Moto2’s past is its reigning champion Marc Marquez who has made his long-awaited step up into the premier class along with Andrea Iannone and Bradley Smith, two others that would have been considered part of the elite in last year’s line-up. Of the 2013 runners and riders, all of the pressure will surely fall on the 21 year old shoulders of Pol Espargaro.
The younger brother of Aspar MotoGP rider Aleix was a constant thorn in the side of Marquez last year, taking the title race down to the penultimate round in Australia and on his day, was capable of leaving everybody, including Marc, trailing in his wake. His victory by a Moto2 record margin at Phillip Island showed exactly what he’s capable of.
As a result of the winter’s big story, Pol is the only member of last season’s dominant quartet that will line up on Sunday. With the much-publicised departure from the class of Marquez and Iannone, Thomas Luthi will have been expected to carry the greatest threat to Espargaro’s chances of taking the title but the Swiss rider was the unfortunate victim of a horrible accident in testing at Valencia. On the final day of the opening pre-season test, Ratthapark Wilairot lost control of his Gresini Suter which slammed into Luthi who was riding just ahead. The impact caused a broken right arm and collarbone and the Interwetten rider is unlikely to be seen until round three at Jerez, allowing Espargaro a two-race head start in the title race. In the meantime, Luthi’s place will be taken by former 125cc race winner Sergio Gadea.
There are plenty of other riders lining up to take on the championship favourite with Britain’s Scott Redding sure to near the front of the queue. A key rule change since the end of last season may have a significant impact on his chances with Dorna now introducing a minimum combined weight limit for bike and rider. In the past, the taller Redding would have been disadvantaged in a straight line compared to the slighter riders but the playing field has now been levelled in that respect. In a class which already has a control engine and control tyre, that can be no bad thing.
Redding and Mika Kallio form an unchanged line-up at Marc VDS while Tuenti HP 40 retain their three-pronged Spanish attack with Esteve Rabat and Axel Pons joining Espargaro and the former will have 2013 earmarked as a breakthrough year. Both teams will be running the class-leading Kalex motorcycle and will be joined by the Italtrans squad who will run Takaaki Nakagami and 2009 125cc champion Julian Simon, one of six Grand Prix world champions in this year’s field.
Toni Elias is the only one to have tasted success in this class having won the inaugural Moto2 title back in 2010 while Simon and Luthi will be joined on the grid by fellow 125cc champions Mike Di Meglio who has found another new home at JIR and Nicolas Terol who has shown signs in testing that his second Moto2 season will be much more productive than his first.
The most exciting addition to the class must be that of reigning Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese who moves up with his own Kalex-backed Dynavolt Intact GP team. The German’s career took a while to get going but his move to the factory KTM squad last year gave him the platform to fight at the front. In such a chaotic class, Cortese showed the consistency required to put a title-winning campaign together and was head and shoulders above the competition by season’s end. A move up to Moto2 is the next natural step in his career and Sandro should be regularly contending for points when the season starts.
The rivalry between Cortese and his Red Bull KTM Ajo teammate Danny Kent was one of the stories of 2012 with little love lost between the two and they have a change to pick up where they left off with Kent signing for Tech 3. The Briton ended his Moto3 career with victory in the season finale at Valencia, pipping Cortese in the process, and should be one of the main challengers to the German for rookie of the year. Louis Rossi may have other ideas on the second Tech 3 Mistral 610 but the young Frenchman has trailed his teammate in testing so far.
Britain will have three riders to watch out for this season as Kyle Smith makes his Grand Prix debut with Blusens Avintia, partnering Toni Elias. The Yorkshireman hasn’t taken the familiar route into Moto2 having spent the last three years in the Spanish Stock Extreme championship where he was a regular frontrunner. After finishing as runner-up to former Moto2 rider Carmelo Morales last year, Smith has earned his place in the GP paddock and it will now be up to him to maintain it. It is hoped that Gino Rea will join his compatriots on the grid at some point but after a ride with ESGP fell through, he will be relying on wildcard entries.
Moto2 has earned a reputation as one of the closest and most entertaining championships anywhere on two wheels and this year promises to be no different. This class is one of the final steps on the road to MotoGP stardom and with 32 riders on the grid chasing that dream, the action looks set to be as fierce as ever.
|2013 Moto2 World Championship: Teams And Riders|
|Tuenti HP 40 – Pons Kalex|
|40||Pol Espargaro||49||Axel Pons|
|Interwetten-Paddock – Suter|
|Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex|
|36||Mika Kallio||45||Scott Redding|
|Technomag carXpert – Suter|
|4||Randy Krummenacher||77||Dominique Aegerter|
|Came IodaRacing Project – Suter|
|NGM Mobile Forward Racing – Speed Up|
|3||Simone Corsi||15||Alex De Angelis|
|54||Mattia Pasini||88||Ricard Cardus|
|Italtrans Racing Team – Kalex|
|30||Takaaki Nakagami||60||Julian Simon|
|QMMF Racing Team – Speed Up|
|95||Anthony West||97||Rafid Topan Sucipto|
|Blusens Avintia – Kalex|
|9||Kyle Smith||24||Toni Elias|
|Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2 – Suter|
|18||Nicolas Terol||81||Jordi Torres|
|Maptaq SAG Zelos Team – Kalex|
|19||Xavier Simeon||23||Marcel Schrotter|
|JIR Moto2 – Motobi|
|63||Mike Di Meglio|
|Federal Oil Gresini Moto2/Thai Honda Gresini Moto2 – Suter|
|7||Doni Tata Pradita||14||Ratthapark Wilairot|
|Idemitsu Honda Team Asia – Moriwaki|
|Arguiñano & Gines Racing – Speed Up|
|17||Alberto Moncayo||44||Steven Odendaal|
|Dynavolt Intact GP – Kalex|
|Tech 3 Racing – Tech 3|
|52||Danny Kent||96||Louis Rossi|