Countdown To Qatar: 2013 Moto3 Season Preview


There were a few questions asked when Dorna closed the book on 125cc Grand Prix racing in favour of the new Moto3 World Championship for 2012 but with its first season in the books, those questions have been emphatically answered. The junior class would regularly produce the closest and most entertaining races on a Grand Prix Sunday and everything would point to another thrilling season lying ahead.

Eleven of the seventeen races in Moto3’s inaugural year had a winning margin of less than a second with five of those decided by less than a tenth of a second, proving that the new format was a roaring success. With a full grid for its second season, there has never been a better platform for the stars of the future to make their name.

In the end, Sandro Cortese shone brightest in 2012 to clinch the title with two races to spare, showing a level of consistency that no-one else could match in a season featuring seven different race winners. Cortese has graduated to Moto2 along with Danny Kent and Louis Rossi but the other four winners have all stayed on for a shot at the title and will all face stiff competition.

After losing two thirds of their title winning squad, Red Bull KTM Ajo have found the best possible replacement in 2012 runner-up Luis Salom and the Spaniard is one of three riders to have risen head and shoulders above the competition in pre-season testing.

Last year’s pre-season favourite Maverick Vinales is another and will have surely learned lessons from the way his title challenge imploded in the autumn which culminated in his departure from Avintia Blusens. Vinales has a new home with the Laglisse team which has since been renamed Team Calvo but his preparations were damaged by a nasty crash at the final winter test which severed a fingertip. The teenager admitted his fright after the first major injury of his career but has since recovered and will be fully fit for Qatar.

The two main challengers to Cortese in 2012 will also face a new threat from Alex Rins who having followed the Spanish 125cc crown with the Rookie of the Year title in Moto3, now looks set to make the jump into title contender status. Rins is joined at Estrella Galicia 0,0 by his successor as Spanish champion, Alex Marquez, and Emilio Alzamora looks to have one of the strongest rider line-ups on the grid.

Looking at the main protagonists for 2013, it would take a brave man to bet against the champion being a Spaniard, but an even braver man to bet against the title going to a rider on anything other than a KTM-powered bike. The Estrella Galicia team are among those to ditch their previous machinery in favour of the class leading KTM with Maverick Vinales and Laglisse doing the same while Jonas Folger may turn out to be a dark horse on a KTM-powered Kalex if he can maintain his red hot form in the second half of last year.

After taking the Grand Prix world by storm in his rookie year, much attention will be on San Carlo Team Italia’s Romano Fenati. The 17 year old led his very first lap as a Grand Prix rider and claimed his first win at the second attempt, leaving the world in no doubt of his future potential, but whether the machinery at his disposal allows him to fight at the front remains to be seen. The FTR-Honda has lagged behind the KTM throughout testing which could pose a problem for Fenati and fellow Italian hotshot Niccolo Antonelli on Gresini’s FTR-Honda.

Their loss may potentially be Zulfahmi Khairuddin’s gain with the Malaysian taking the other vacant seat at Red Bull KTM Ajo. The 21 year old came agonisingly close to his maiden victory on two occasions late last year, including his home Grand Prix at Sepang, but the breakthrough must surely come sooner rather than later. Teammate Arthur Sissis also stood on a podium for the first time at his home event and the Australian will have designs on the top step in 2013.

After two years in the Grand Prix paddock which have yielded nothing more than a weather-assisted pole position at Valencia in 2011, Mahindra will kick off this season as a team under pressure. The Indian outfit have collaborated with Suter which appears to be paying dividends based on testing form and with a strong rider pairing in Efren Vazquez and Miguel Oliveira, this should be their best year yet.

For Mahindra's sake, Oliveira and Vazquez must deliver this year (Photo Credit: Mahindra)
For Mahindra’s sake, Oliveira and Vazquez must deliver this year (Photo Credit: Mahindra)

 

A keen source of interest at the start of any 125/Moto3 season is the latest contingent of rookies to enter the fray and this year sees the introduction of yet more exciting talent. The two most recent Red Bull Rookies Cup winners both join the action in the form of Germany’s Florian Alt and the highly-rated Italian Lorenzo Baldassarri while Philipp Oettl and Livio Loi, two other riders to impress Red Bull Rookies, get their chance on the world stage.

Francesco Bagnaia is the latest youngster to roll off the Team Italia production line and will be worth keeping an eye on although his status for the season opener is in doubt due to a wrist injury while Ana Carrasco, teammate to Vinales at Team Calvo, is also a rider to follow closely after her impressive performances in pre-season.

Danny Kent’s graduation to Moto2 leaves two British riders to fly the flag in Moto3 with Danny Webb set to lead the way. After two painful years with Mahindra, Webb has found a new home at Ambrogio Racing and looks to have a package capable of troubling the top ten and the same can be said for John McPhee who now has a regular ride with Caretta Technology-RTG after shining on his wildcard outings.

There are few certainties in Grand Prix motorcycle racing but if nothing else, Moto3 guarantees excitement. The class of 2013 have their work cut out to match the mayhem of 2012 but that won’t stop them trying. Winning this title would be the first step on the ladder towards future MotoGP stardom and 32 riders will all have that in their sights. Who will be the one?

2013 Moto3 World Championship: Teams And Riders
Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM
39  Luis Salom 61  Arthur Sissis
63  Zulfahmi Khairuddin
Team Calvo – KTM
22  Ana Carrasco 25  Maverick Vinales
Estrella Galicia 0,0 – KTM
12  Alex Marquez 42  Alex Rins
San Carlo Team Italia – FTR Honda
4  Francesco Bagnaia 5  Romano Fenati
Mahindra Racing – Mahindra
7  Efren Vazquez 44  Miguel Oliveira
Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3 – Kalex KTM
57  Eric Granado 94  Jonas Folger
Ongetta-Centro Seta/Ongetta-Rivacold/Bimbo-Ongetta-Centro Seta – FTR Honda
3  Matteo Ferrari 10  Alexis Masbou
32  Isaac Vinales
Go & Fun Gresini Moto3 – FTR Honda
23  Niccolo Antonelli 77  Lorenzo Baldassarri
RW Racing GP/Redox RW Racing GP – Kalex KTM
53  Jasper Iwema 84  Jakub Kornfeil
La Fonte Tascaracing – Honda
19  Alessandro Tonucci 29  Hyuga Watanabe
Avant Tecno – KTM
31  Niklas Ajo
Ambrogio Racing – Suter Honda
41  Brad Binder 99  Danny Webb
CIP Moto3 – TSR Honda
58  Juan Francisco Guevara 89  Alan Techer
Caretta Technology – RTG – FTR Honda
8  Jack Miller 17  John McPhee
Kiefer Racing – Kalex KTM
9  Toni Finsterbusch 66  Florian Alt
Paddock TT Motion Events – Kalex KTM
65  Philipp Oettl
Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex KTM
11  Livio Loi