Countdown To Qatar: 2013 MotoGP Rider-By-Rider Preview


The 2013 MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 World Championships are just days away from kicking off and in the week running up to the new season, The Checkered Flag will have a series of articles to get you in the mood for 2013, the latest giving you a full run-down on the 24 man field for the upcoming campaign…

Jorge Lorenzo

Despite Dani Pedrosa’s relentless chase in the second half of 2012, you always felt Lorenzo had the championship under control. His calmness under pressure and ability to achieve the maximum points return possible from any given weekend make him so difficult to beat over the course of a season. Motivation won’t be a problem with the return of Rossi alongside him at Yamaha but if the YZR-M1 trails Honda’s RC213V early in the year, he will struggle to build up the formidable points lead that proved decisive last season.

TCF Championship Prediction: 3rd

Valentino Rossi

After two years of toil with Ducati that failed to produce the dream combination many had hoped for, Valentino can now return to doing what he loves more than anything else, winning. Now aged 34, Rossi is entering the autumn of his career and would love nothing more than to add a tenth world title to his CV. Yamaha may well give him the tools to do so but a certain Spaniard on the other side of the garage could prove Rossi’s biggest obstacle.

TCF Championship Prediction: 4th

Dani Pedrosa

2013 is surely the opportunity of a lifetime for Dani Pedrosa. So often the bridesmaid in the premier class but with Casey Stoner embarking on a new career in V8 Supercars, the Spaniard will be hell-bent on spearheading Repsol Honda’s title challenge. After finishing last year as the form man, Pedrosa must start as the favourite but can he press home his advantage before his rapid young teammate gets the hang of MotoGP?

TCF Championship Prediction: Runner-Up

Marc Marquez

Not since 1978 has a rider won the premier-class title at the first attempt but few, if any since have been blessed with the talent and machinery to pull it off. A combination of unrivalled speed and ruthless aggression has seen him sweep up the 125cc and Moto2 titles on his way to the big time but you get the feeling he’s only just getting started. The Honda RC213V looks the class of the field and Marquez has surprised many, including himself, with his pace in testing. The task for Marc will be to minimize the mistakes that come with being a newcomer and if he does so, the 20 year old can shock the world.

TCF Championship Prediction: Champion

Cal Crutchlow

Crutchlow’s MotoGP career has continued to move forwards since his debut two years ago. A debut season of peaks and troughs was followed by a second where Cal was a regular pole position and podium contender. Untimely mistakes meant his points return didn’t necessarily reflect his performances and that will be something he will be intent on putting right. Victories may be out of the question but an improvement on his two rostrum visits so far is surely within reach.

TCF Championship Prediction: 6th

Bradley Smith

While Smith hasn’t got an abundance of championships and race victories to his name in the support classes, he is deserving of his place in the big league. After arguably staying in 125s a year too long, Bradley showed himself to be a quick learner in Moto2 with three podiums despite inferior machinery to the very best riders. The Briton seems to have taken a very sensible approach to his rookie campaign and with the full support of Herve Poncharal and Tech 3, will get better and better as the year goes on.

TCF Championship Prediction: 10th

Andrea Dovizioso

Now on his third different make of motorcycle in as many years, Dovizioso has gone from exceeding expectations at Tech 3 to being the man all of Bologna’s hopes will be pinned upon. By finishing in the top six in every MotoGP season he’s contested, Andrea has shown remarkable consistency but a solitary win in 88 starts has left him short of joining the elite band of riders. However competitive the Ducati GP13 proves to be, ‘Dovi’ is sure to get plenty out of it but whether he can outperform his machinery remains to be seen.

TCF Championship Prediction: 9th

Nicky Hayden

With so much focus on Rossi’s struggles, it’s easy to ignore the fact that Nicky Hayden kept him very honest in their two years together. An injury at Indianapolis and a horror crash at Aragon stopped him in his tracks last season but a refreshed and fully-fit Hayden will provide a stern test for Dovizioso. The rider pairing looks on paper to be one of the most evenly-matched on the grid and Hayden’s extra experience with the team may swing it his way.

TCF Championship Prediction: 8th

Alvaro Bautista

Bautista’s career with Gresini took a while to get going but in the second half of 2012, the Spaniard was a fixture inside the top six and took his Honda to two podium finishes as well as a pole position at Silverstone, albeit a fortunate one. Having ended 2012 fifth overall, it’s tough to see Alvaro improving on that this time though and Bradl’s factory support over at LCR may see him move above Bautista in the pecking order.

TCF Championship Prediction: 7th

Bryan Staring

With Michele Pirro joining Ducati as their new test rider, Bryan Staring is the man charged with the task of racing Gresini’s CRT-spec FTR-Honda. What already seemed a tall order hasn’t been helped by a lack of mileage in the final test thanks to rain and Staring has regularly propped up the leaderboard throughout the winter. With last year’s tailenders making steps forward since last term, Gresini may be the team to lose out in the CRT battle.

TCF Championship Prediction: 24th

Stefan Bradl

Bradl won many admirers during his rookie season in the premier class after moving up as Moto2 champion, even if a podium finish eluded him. With HRC factory support in 2013, that is sure to change. Even in his first season, Stefan showed the maturity of a MotoGP veteran and has shown signs in testing of kicking on and moving to the front of the chasing pack behind Yamaha and Honda’s factory line-ups in his second. Expect podiums at the very least.

TCF Championship Prediction: 5th

Ben Spies

By the end of 2012, Ben Spies will have been pleased to see the back of Yamaha as his career stalled, the American failing to build on his maiden victory at Assen the year before. A move to Pramac Racing, essential the Ducati ‘B-team’, may well be a step back in terms of competitiveness but a fresh start may allow Ben to rediscover his best form. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury picked up at the end of last year may prevent him from doing so in Qatar.

TCF Championship Prediction: 11th

Andrea Iannone

Along with Marquez and Smith, Iannone forms part of the most exciting crop of rookies to enter MotoGP in quite some time. The Italian was a consistent frontrunner throughout his stint in Moto2 and was capable on occasion of winning races by a margin previously thought impossible in such a close class. That ability to drag a bike around a race track quicker than it has any right to go may come in handy on the Ducati and if nothing else, Andrea will provide action aplenty. He isn’t called “The Maniac” for nothing!

TCF Championship Prediction: 12th

Randy de Puniet

With the CRT battle expected to be led by the Aprilia-backed Aspar squad, all eyes will be on the inter-team fight between De Puniet and Espargaro. The Frenchman was beaten rather comfortably in the end last term after retiring on five occasions, three more than his teammate, and consistency will be the key for Randy in 2013. His focus is likely to be on catching the slower prototype machines and if testing form is reflected in Qatar, he might just give the Pramac boys a bloody nose.

TCF Championship Prediction: 13th

Aleix Espargaro

After finishing as the leading CRT rider in 2012, Espargaro will start as the man to beat in that particular class. The Spaniard was always well placed to take advantage of any slip-ups from the prototype teams and only failed to score on two occasions last season, even having the temerity to lead in Valencia. Aleix is likely to come up against a highly motivated de Puniet and will have to reproduce his 2012 form at the very least to keep him at bay.

TCF Championship Prediction: 14th

Karel Abraham

Despite a year’s experience under his belt, Karel Abraham was unable to shake off the habit of stacking his Ducati last year. A mid-season testing accident cost him four races and in truth, he wasn’t the same when he returned, finding himself mired amongst the CRT bikes. Now the Czech rider has gone the CRT route himself and will have to get used to that kind of company. The big question though is whether he can cut out the crashes.

TCF Championship Prediction: 18th

Yonny Hernandez

Hernandez was one of the pleasant surprises in 2012, taking Avintia Blusens’ BQR machine to some impressive results, including ninth and top CRT at Indianapolis. Now with Paul Bird Motorsport, the Colombian will be expected to lead the team on-track with the tried and tested ART chassis while his rookie teammate learns the ropes in MotoGP. After exceeding expectations last year, the pressure will be on Yonny to move up another level in his second season.

TCF Championship Prediction: 21st

Michael Laverty

Paul Bird has kept his promise to field a British rider and Michael Laverty is the choice to fly the flag on the team’s home-built chassis. The Ulsterman’s chances this season may well live and die by how competitive that machine proves to be and there were flashes of promise in testing. A lack of mileage compared to their rivals may cost PBM in Qatar but Laverty looks to have the speed to justify his selection.

TCF Championship Prediction: 23rd

Danilo Petrucci

Despite being saddled with one of the slowest motorcycles in a straight line, Petrucci was one of the stars of 2012 with his results not truly reflecting his efforts. At the age of 22, Danilo has plenty of improving to do yet and if he maintain or even boost the level of performance shown in his rookie campaign, he can put himself in the frame for a prototype seat in years to come. The introduction of a second rider at Ioda will also provide a benchmark for Petrucci to be measured against.

 

TCF Championship Prediction: 17th

Lukas Pesek

Pesek’s career in the support classes don’t suggest he was a MotoGP rider in waiting with fourth in the 2007 125cc World Championship the closest he came to success. However, the same reservations may have applied for previous newcomers who have gone on to justify their place and Lukas deserves a fair chance to do the same. His rapid young teammate will provide a stern test of his credentials although he hasn’t been blown away by Petrucci in testing so far.

TCF Championship Prediction: 22nd

Colin Edwards

Few riders were as vocal about their machinery as Colin Edwards over the course of last season. The American called Forward Racing’s Suter-BMW almost every name under the sun and already seems much happier with the change to an FTR-Kawasaki motorcycle. This should allow him to give the likes of Aspar much more of a run for their money and give Colin the platform to demonstrate his undoubted class.

TCF Championship Prediction: 16th

Claudio Corti

Corti was having his best season yet in Moto2 before being unfairly dumped in favour of Toni Elias but a wildcard ride in the MotoGP season finale paved the way for a regular seat with Forward Racing in a two-rider line-up. The Italian’s career has been moving in the right direction and set a stunning pace at the Jerez test, suggesting that he may be able to spring a surprise or two.

TCF Championship Prediction: 20th

Hiroshi Aoyama

After his career with Gresini hit the skids, Aoyama departed for World Superbikes at the end of 2011, only to endure a disastrous season and end up back where he started. Like Corti, Aoyama made a one-off appearance at Valencia and now has the chance to rebuild his career with Avintia Blusens. The Japanese rider will certainly be hoping the team have a more competitive package than the one which regularly occupied the back row in 2012.

TCF Championship Prediction: 19th

Hector Barbera

Having proven to be the casualty in Pramac’s 2013 overhaul, Hector Barbera is another rider who has been forced to take the plunge into CRT to keep his MotoGP career alive. On occasions, the Spaniard showed real promise, sticking the Ducati GP12 on the front row at Mugello which was something Valentino Rossi could never manage. Barbera has consistently been the nearest challenger to Aspar through the winter so his bid to impress may well prove successful.

TCF Championship Prediction: 15th

(Images courtesy of MotoGP.com, Repsol Honda, Yamaha, Tech 3, Ducati, Gresini Racing, LCR Honda, Pramac Racing, Aspar Team, Cardion AB Motoracing, PBM-UK, IodaRacing, Forward Racing and Avintia Blusens)