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Moto2 2013: Preview

30 March 2013

By Neil Morrison

Moto2 enters its fourth year of competition in 2013. Last year's title runner-up Pol Espargaro starts as favourite, but with half-a-dozen others threatening to step up and challenge.

Even with a rider as talented as Marc Marquez, last season saw five different race winners, 13 different riders on the podium and, most notably, a gap of less than three-seconds covering the podium in eleven of the 17 rounds.

With Marquez - plus Andrea Iannone and Bradley Smith - moving up to MotoGP, 2013 promises to be even more open. Here we take a look at the top contenders for Marquez's crown…

#40 Pol Espargaro – Spain – Tuenti HP 40 Pons Kalex
It comes as no surprise to see the younger of the Espargaro brothers touted as the preseason favourite for 2013. Coming off a strong end to 2012, which saw him on the podium in 7 of the final 9 races, he hasn't put a foot wrong throughout preseason.

During both tests at Jerez he was inside the top 3 in every dry session he competed in and the continuity of working with the Kalex chassis and Sito Pons' team is clearly paying dividends. Rumours persist of talks between him and Yamaha having already taken place and should the season start well we may see a deal that sees Espargaro step up to MotoGP in 2014 sooner rather than later.

Official pre-season Test Results:
Valencia – 1st
Jerez I – 1st
Jerez II – 1st
Gap from 1st place at above tests:
+0sec
+0sec
+0sec
Last year's championship placing: 2nd
He said: “The objective is clear. Last year we missed the title by a little. This year we are more eager, with the energy that last year gave us and we have all the aspirations of winning the title. You have to do things calmly because the season will be long and complicated but through working hard the sacrifices will be rewarded.

#18 Nico Terol – Spain – Mapfre Aspar Suter
Nico Terol's preseason form seems to have been boosted by his terrific end of season podium display at Valencia in November. Before then it had been a difficult season, with the Spaniard languishing in 18th place overall in the championship. He has found consistency throughout the off-season and he believes the Aspar team have made big gains with the Suter chassis they struggled to understand last year. Truer tests of his progress will come outside Spain but Terol can find solace in his chief adversary, Pol Espargaro, too. Pol's 1st season aboard a four stroke saw him struggle in similar circumstances. And look where he is now.

Official pre-season Test Results:
Valencia – 2nd
Jerez I – 5th
Jerez II – 7th
Gap from 1st place at above tests:
+0.200sec
+0.900sec
+0.802sec
Last year's championship placing: 18th
He said: “From the first moment I felt very comfortable and I rode fast. The Suter 2013 is a bit more rigid and gives me more confidence. The team has taken a huge leap. The potential of the Aspar Team is more than tested, but gradually, we're getting the results we deserve and we must go on.”

#60 Julian Simon – Spain – Italtrans Racing Kalex
After finishing 2nd in Moto 2's inaugural season in 2010, Julian Simon has struggled to replicate the form that earmarked him as a future race winner and world champion in the class. A vicious broken leg two years ago and an inability to get on with last year's Suter chassis saw Simon lurking on the outskirts of the top ten. A switch to the Italtrans team and Kalex chassis has revitalised him and he heads to Qatar buoyed after a settled and consistently fast preseason. If Simon has any designs on progressing through the class he'll hope to be regularly challenging for podiums this year.

Official pre-season Test Results:
Valencia – 3rd
Jerez I – 4th
Jerez II – 3rd
Gap from 1st place at above tests:
+0.404sec
+0.730sec
+0.552sec
Last year's championship placing: 13th
He said: “I have a good feeling today and in the three days of testing 0.5 [behind] leader Pol, [in] 3rd place but the best thing is that I enjoy so much this great bike!”

#45 Scott Redding – Great Britain – Marc VDS Kalex
Great Britain's hope of success in the intermediate category rests on the shoulders of 20 year-old Scott Redding. After seeing a deal for a Moto GP ride fall through at the 11th hour he enters his 4th year in the Moto 2 category looking to fight for race wins and the title. Redding stands to benefit most from the new weight limit of 215kg which should go some way to reducing his speed disadvantage that hindered his campaign last year. He has been consistent throughout preseason, improved his wet weather set up, and insists he has been riding well within his limits. A world championship challenge could be on the cards.

Official pre-season Test Results:
Valencia – 7th
Jerez I – 3rd
Jerez II – 5th
Gap from 1st place at above tests:
+0.716sec
+0.517sec
+0.736sec
Last year's championship placing: 5th
He said: “For me that's the target this year, to actually really fight for the championship. Last year we said we would go top five every race, and the majority of the time we reached that. Whereas now, we decided, I decided in myself that I really need to go for a championship before moving up to MotoGP.”

#24 Toni Elias – Spain – Blusens Avintia Kalex
Inaugural Moto 2 champion Toni Elias has seen his career take a turn for the worse since 2010. A disastrous year followed in Moto GP and he failed to gel with Aspar's Suter last year, splitting with the team after Mugello. He's back aboard the Blusens Kalex machine but so far has failed to find a base setting that provides consistency. The first two tests were less than spectacular and, although he topped the timesheets after the first day at the final test, it was a one off lap, out of the blue, rather than a consistent assault. He clearly still has the speed though and once he has more time aboard the bike, he could be counted on for podium finishes.

Official pre-season Test Results:
Valencia – 14th
Jerez I – 17th
Jerez II – 4th
Gap from 1st place at above tests:
+1.334sec
+2.016sec
+0.729sec
Last years championship placing: 17th
He said: “I think I can fight for the title. If you already have a World Championship, why not [fight for] two? This is my goal and after having spent two bad years I'm even more motivated, [and] so far we are doing well.”

#80 Esteve Rabat – Spain – Tuenti HP40 Pons Kalex
Surely one of 2013's dark horses comes in the form of Tito Rabat. He was very competitive at several meetings last year, anonymous at others. Yet so far this year the three tests have seen him competing at the sharp end and he was notably consistent in the second Jerez outing, even more so than his team-mate. He claims to have found a set up that will allow him to fight at the front in most races. Qatar and Austin will be a fine yardstick to measure his improvement.

Official pre-season Test Results:
Valencia – 8th
Jerez I – 6th
Jerez II – 6th
Gap from 1st place at above tests:
+0.740sec
+1.075sec
+0.788sec
Last year's championship placing: 7th
He said: “I think I'm better prepared than ever to start the World Championship, after being with the best in the three tests. The team is doing a great job and I think together we found a way to fight for the top positions in every race, starting with Qatar in two weeks. I am happy and eager to start racing.”

#30 Takaaki Nakagami – Japan – Italtrans Racing Kalex
The 21 year-old Japanese has impressed with his consistency and sustained speed throughout preseason, particularly in his showings at Jerez. Last season's tests were similarly positive however, and the 2011 Japanese Moto 2 champion struggled for consistency, scoring a strongest finish of 7th. With a full season's experience in the class behind him and a properly competitive teammate next to him in the garage, 2013 could see Takaaki stepping up as a regular podium contender.

Official pre-season Test Results:
Valencia – 6th
Jerez I – 2nd
Jerez II – 2nd
Gap from 1st place at above tests:
+0.545sec
+0.299sec
+0.467sec
Last years championship placing: 15th
He said: “[I have] mixed feelings – very happy with the lap times and our position on the board, but I'm a little worried because of a sudden chattering experienced at the end of the final session. All in all, the test season has been satisfying, the job done great and we are going to have a good base when Qatar will call us to fight for the points”.

#36 Mika Kallio – Finland – Mark VDS Kalex
Finnish ace Mika Kallio has faced a difficult two years in Moto 2 after his disastrous second season in Moto GP in 2010. Although his results have rarely been spectacular, he was consistent last season and ended the year a solid sixth overall. He is confident that he has ridded the bike of chatter and insists he just needs more time on the bike to boost his confidence. A big crash on the third day in Jerez prevented him from jumping up the scoreboard. We all remember Kallio's speed from his 125 and 250 days. If he gains that little extra confidence, he may surprise us all.

Official pre-season Test Results:
Valencia – 13th
Jerez I – 7th
Jerez II – 10th
Gap from 1st place at above tests:
+1.192sec
+1.117sec
+1.138sec
Last year's championship placing: 6th
He said: “The chatter that we had last year, including here in Jerez, has all but gone, so that's a big step forward. We could have done with more time on the bike just to build more confidence, but these things happen in racing and we just have to deal with it.”

#12 Thomas Luthi – Switzerland – Interwetten Paddock Suter
Along with Pol Espargaro, Thomas Luthi stood to be the greatest benefactor from Marc Marquez and Andrea Iannone's graduation to Moto GP in 2013. The Swiss however will miss the first two races after an unlucky collision with Ratthapark Wilairot at Valencia in February. He suffered multiple fractures to his right arm, elbow and shoulder and it took doctors five hours to successfully fit corrective plates and screws in the operation that followed. Sergio Gadea is set to deputise in Qatar and Texas. Only time will tell but it may take Luthi some races to get back up to speed.

Official pre-season Test Results:
Valencia – 5th
Jerez I – Absent
Jerez II – Absent
Gap from 1st place at above tests:
+0.516sec
-
-
Last years championship placing: 4th
He said: “This accident was very, very unlucky. But the initial report of the doctors after surgery took a big weight off our shoulders since Tom will, in all likelihood, recover completely from his injuries. At the moment, this is all that counts!" - Daniel Epp, Interwetten Team Owner

Also watch out for:
#11 Sandro Cortese – The reigning Moto 3 champion has found the initial step up quite difficult and claims he has had to learn how to ride from scratch, such is the difference in machinery. His testing performances have been a little quiet, but he hopes to finish in the points at Qatar.
#5 Johann Zarco – The 2012 Moto Rookie of the Year will be looking to build on his solid debut year in the class. He hasn't felt comfortable aboard the Suter chassis Ioda machine but found a breakthrough on the final day at Jerez, finishing 4th overall. He could be a podium finisher this year.
#15 Alex de Angelis – De Angelis won a hotly contested Malaysian Grand Prix last year but his cause was aided by the weather. It's always difficult to know what rider you will get with the Sammarinese, but he is definitely still a potential podium finisher.
#52 Danny Kent – The 2 time Moto 3 race winner steps up aboard Tech 3's Mistral 600. He has taken some time to adapt to the bigger, heavier machine and has been experimenting with set-up throughout the preseason. He is hoping to be inside the points at Qatar.


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