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Moto3: A look at the 2014 rookies
19 March 2014
#4 Gabriel Ramos – Kiefer Racing KTM
For a country that once produced the likes of grand prix winners Johnny Cecotto, Ivan Palazzese and Carlos Lavado, the past 25 years have been barren for Venezuelan motorcycle racing. Robertino Pietri's single point scoring Moto2 finish in 2010 stands as the only time a Venezuelan has claimed grand prix points since Lavado's swansong year in 1992. Step forward Gabriel Ramos, the 19-year old from Maracay who has been fast-tracked into the Moto3 series after some impressive results in the Spanish CEV. Ramos came to national prominence when Lavado spotted him racing motocross in his homeland. He then moved to compete in Europe in 2011 and with Lavado now acting as his manager Ramos comes to the world championship with some experienced heads behind him. “Gabriel's rise has been steady. He is a winner, determined to succeed, with great ability and intelligence,” Lavado said of his protégé. However with both Toni Finsterbusch and Florian Alt failing to score a point in the Kiefer Racing setup in 2013, the season ahead could prove to be a trying one for the South American hopeful.
#9 Scott Deroue – RW Racing GP
For 18-year old Scott Deroue last Christmas brought more than the usual festive cheer. A season competing in the CEV beckoned but a late call up to the RW Racing KTM squad, where he will race alongside Ana Carrasco, means the young Dutchman will make his GP debut a year ahead of schedule. “To be honest I had not counted on it anymore and we were already focussing on racing in the CEV,” he said of the surprise call. The third and perhaps least recognisable of the Red Bull Rookie graduates stepping up to Moto3 in 2014, Deroue first caught the attention of paddock onlookers with an impressive RBR double win at Estoril in 2012. The Dutchman went on to finish second overall in the series, a feat he followed up with a further win at Silverstone in 2013. Having ridden for the team in the Dutch and German national series undoubtedly counted in his favour and with ex-racer Jarno Janssen at the helm, expectations will be carefully managed throughout Deroue's rookie campaign.
#33 Enea Bastianini – Go and Fun Gresini Moto3 KTM
No Italian rookie has shone as brightly as Enea Bastianini in pre-season testing. Regularly circulating inside the top eight at the first Moto3 test at Valencia, it seemed Fausto Gresini had welcomed a rider into his ranks who could run towards the front of the field. The 17-year old graduates from the Red Bull Rookies programme where he was often fast but erratic in a season where inconsistency prevented him from finishing higher than fourth overall. Riding alongside the ever-improving Nico Antonelli, the Italian was brought back down to earth at Jerez, finishing the final test in 25th. “At the beginning of the winter the situation was better than expected, while the latter part was more difficult, but I think that this is quite normal,” he said of his testing programme. One of the few riders from the RBR series who can say they out-scrapped Karel Hanika in a two way fight, Bastianini may turn heads on occasion in 2014.
#38 Hafiq Azmi – SIC Ajo KTM
Nicknamed 'Baby Hulk', Hafiq Azmi's short, jockey-like frame seems perfectly suited to the physical demands of riding a Moto3 machine. The Malaysian completed two seasons in the Red Bull Rookies series in 2011 and 2012, scoring a best finish of fifth, before moving on to the CEV Moto3 series a year later under Aki Ajo's tutelage. Azmi impressed at the Valencia test in February, where he finished just 1.2 seconds slower than Nico Antonelli's fastest time and twelve places ahead of countryman and seasoned campaigner Zulfahmi Khairuddin. Like 'Fahmi' before him, Azmi comes to the world championship backed by the Sepang International Circuit. With Aki Ajo casting a keen eye over Azmi's progress, the 17-year old is ideally placed to gain the necessary experience in his debut campaign.
#43 Luca Grünwald – Kiefer Racing Kalex KTM
Back in the early stages of 2012 Luca Grünwald seriously thought his chances of becoming a full-time racer were finished. Budget restrictions and a lack of sponsors left the young German scrimping off friends and sponsors to make it to national events. All this after an impressive season in the IDM and three replacement rides in the world championship. In the two years since then Grünwald has racked up a national title in Germany and four finishes in Moto3, notably an impressive eighth at the rain affected German Grand Prix in 2012. The 19-year old comes into the class after a year racing 600s in Germany. So far he's found the transition tough, claiming “I need to get a grip” after setting the 27th fastest time at the final Jerez test. He's certainly one to watch when it rains.
#51 Bryan Schouten – CIP Mahindra Moto3
With Michael van der Mark looking every bit a championhship challenger in the World Supersport Championship and two promising Dutch riders featuring in Moto3 the Dutch racing scene has received a much needed shot in the arm. Schouten can count himself rather unlucky to have missed out on the Spanish CEV Moto3 championship in 2013, where he placed second overall with three races remaining only for a raft of mechanical issues to blunt his charge. He proved his speed as a wildcard at Assen in the same year, where he finished just two seconds behind ninth place in an epic 13-rider scrap. For 2014 Schouten will ride under the watchful gaze of ex-500 GP man Barry Veneman in the new CIP Mahindra setup. Veneman said, “What I like about Bryan is his commitment. Expectations are high. Bryan has had a huge growth in the last year as a rider.” Should he continue his upward trajectory, Schouten could spring a surprise or two in 2014.
#55 Andrea Locatelli – San Carlo Team Italia Mahindra
It's nine years and eight months since a Locatelli stood on top of a grand prix podium. That win came at the Sachsenring where Roberto showed all his cunning to prevail in an eight-man battle that included Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. Like Philipp Oettl last year, Andrea Locatelli steps up to the world championship looking to make his own way in a class in which his father excelled. His CV to date suggests he is more than capable of filling those big boots at the earliest opportunity. After a childhood spent racing mini motos, the 17-year old was signed up to race in the Italian CIV series for Mahindra's junior team at the beginning of 2013. He duly won four races on his way to the championship and Locatelli Junior joins Matteo Ferrari in the Team Italia setup. With Virginio Ferrari at the helm everything is in place for Locatelli to showcase his obvious talents on the world stage.
#95 Jules Danilo – Ambrogio Mahindra
Frenchman Jules Danilo joins the series after a busy 2013 campaign. The 17-year old can't exactly be classified as a rookie after competing in four grand prix in the junior category in 2013 (two with Mark VDS and two with Ambrogio Racing). Danilo was also seen competing (and winning) in the British Motostar series at Silverstone, which proved to be enough to convince the Italian Ambrogio outfit to sign him up for the upcoming season. Testing has been problematic with the team still getting to grips with the Mahindra machinery they used in the second half of '13. Danilo will do well to score points in 2014.
#98 Karel Hanika – Red Bull KTM Ajo
It's rare that a rookie enters the grand prix fray surrounded by such an air of excitement and expectation. Karel Hanika (pictured), the 17-year old reigning Red Bull Rookies champion, is being widely tipped to be a thorn in the side of the class front-runners. His involvement in this year's Moto3 series was all but guaranteed in the early stages of 2013 after some impressive rides in the grand prix feeder class. The Czech began the year as odds on favourite to take the crown and, despite coming off worse in two last lap battles at the second round at Jerez, he demonstrated maturity beyond his years in the remainder of the series, claiming seven wins on his way to the title. He took little time adapting to Aki Ajo's KTM in the off season, running close to Jack Miller and Danny Kent at the Jerez shakedown in November. Since then Hanika has been consistently inside the top six and although he has played down his chances in the media, a debut podium may not be far away. If you don't already know him remember the name.