20 March 2014
Crash.net looks at the main players in the Moto2 series in 2014...
#53 Esteve Rabat – Mark VDS Racing Team Kalex
2013 was the year when 'Tito' Rabat stepped up and realised his true potential. Prior to the first round he had stood on the podium just five times in 110 GP starts – yet by Valencia in November he had doubled that tally and taken three wins along the way. At times he was devastatingly fast, especially towards the end of a race, but doubts remain over his ability to withstand the toughest pressure a world championship challenge brings. A move to replace MotoGP bound Scott Redding in the Mark VDS team has done little to impact Rabat's speed in testing. His preseason times along with his form from 2013 must rank him as the championship favourite.
He said: “Preseason testing has gone well. We've found a good setting with the bike and the lap times have been fast, but now we must carry that momentum into the first race. I'm going to Qatar to fight for the win.”
Valencia Test: 1st
Jerez Test: 2nd
Phillip Island Test: 1st
2013 championship: 3rd
#60 Takaaki Nakagami – Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex
After a fast but frail start to 2013 it seemed Nakagami had turned a corner when four consecutive second places followed the summer break. Yet after San Marino the Japanese found himself struggling towards the bottom of the top ten in the final five races, displaying a degree of fragility. Honda moved him to Tadayuki Okada's team Asia setup in the off season with a view to moving up to the premier class in 2015 and, as testing has showed, Nakagami is a match for anyone on his day. Whether he can string those days into a title challenge remains to be seen.
He said: “I feel that our conditions become better test by test. I'm more than happy that I could keep running consistent and high average lap times, which is my main target from last year. There's no doubt that my rivals are very strong but I'm confident to fight with them!”
Valencia test: 3rd
Jerez I test: 4th
Jerez II test: 1st
2013 championship: 8th
#12 Thomas Luthi – Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter
The contrast to Thomas Luthi's preseason to the one endured in 2013 could not be more stark. This time last year the Swiss' career was in doubt after seriously damaging his right elbow in a frightening testing collision with Ratthapark Wilairot. Luthi remains with the same set up around him and was pleasantly surprised by the strength of his base setting at the first test. He and the updated Suter frame have looked consistent and smooth and Luthi expects to be challenging for the podium every weekend.
He said: “We are very satisfied. Our results confirm that we made some progress. Physically I'm fine, the problems of last year are over. My strength is back, I'm fit and I'm enjoying riding again.”
Valencia test: 4th
Jerez I test: 3rd
Jerez II test: 3rd
2013 championship: 6th
#40 Maverick Viñales – Pons HP 40 Kalex
The reigning Moto3 World Champion defied the belief that Moto3/125 graduates need at least half a season to adapt to the heavier Moto2 machinery. Only Rabat went quicker than Viñales at Valencia in the first official test and although 16th and 11th aren't much to get excited over, he was fast and consistent across the six days spent in Jerez. A model of tremendous consistency throughout 2013 (he only finished off the podium twice, and the furthest he finished first place was 1.076secs) Viñales must fancy his chances of claiming the rookie of the year award in 2014.
He said: “I'm very happy because in the end we have a good pace, we are where we have to be, with a great desire to reach Qatar. I'm very confident for the first race and I feel I'm ready."
Valencia test: 2nd
Jerez I test: 16th
Jerez II test: 11th
2013 championship: Moto3 World Champion
#36 Mika Kallio – Mark VDS Racing Team Kalex
The Finn starts his sixth season in the intermediate class chasing that illusive world championship. Having turned down offers to ride in MotoGP in 2014 Kallio is sticking with the same machinery and crew for the year ahead, a factor that has led to promising results throughout testing. Never one to excel in qualifying (he qualified in the top six just five times in '13), Kallio knows he must work on this if he is to put together a strong challenge in 2014. One of only three non-Spanish GP winners in 2013, Kallio will surely be in the mix for race wins in the season ahead.
He said: “The results from the end of last year when combined with our preseason testing performance means we go into 2014 with some confidence. I really believe I can fight for race wins and also the title.”
Valencia test: 7th
Jerez I test: 1st
Phillip Island test: 2nd
2013 championship: 4th
#22 Sam Lowes – Speed Up Racing
There are few riders to have successfully made the jump from Supersport to Moto2, with serial champion Kenan Sofuoglu having only limited success, but at 23, reigning world champion Sam Lowes has time on his side. A broken collar bone suffered at the final test of 2013 did little to dampen his speed at the beginning of the year as Lowes finished well within a second of the fastest men at all three tests. A case of tendonitis in his wrist may have curtailed his final test in Jerez, but his times suggest that he will be fighting inside the top ten at Qatar. An exciting season beckons.
He said: “I feel mega after the recent tests and the bike is coming along really well. My wrist will have had over a week's rest by the time I'm on track and although it's not ideal going into the first round with a slight injury, I'm going to give it my absolute all.”
Valencia test: 12th
Jerez I test: 7th
Jerez II test: 13th
2013 championship: World Supersport champion
#18 Nico Terol – Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2 Suter
Nico Terol's 2013 was difficult to judge. When he and the Suter were strong they were untouchable. But at other times he went missing during race weekends. His win in Aragon for example was sandwiched between eleventh, tenth, and 19th placed finishes. Preseason has followed a similar, unpredictable pattern. Terol declared himself “unhappy with the feel for the new bike” at the test in Australia, which came just weeks after the Jerez test that team manager Gino Borsoi described as “a disaster.” The 2011 125cc Champion is adamant he can find consistency without setting a blistering lap time, and as a result may need to ease himself into the season before challenging at the front.
He said: “My strong point is racing – it is the time when I find my form and enjoy myself so I can't wait to get out to Losail, I am still feeling the confidence from my victory in the final race at Valencia. We know how to go fast and our motivation is sky high.”
Valencia test: 8th
Jerez I test: 17th
Phillip Island test: 4th
2013 championship: 7th
#5 Johann Zarco – Air Asia Caterham Suter
Considering the Caterham setup is new to grand prix Zarco has been well positioned during the testing programme. The Frenchman was never a fan of Jerez but ended the final test “damn close” to the top of the timesheets after three days of impressive consistency. The team is well equipped, well funded and has experience running through its ranks. Zarco stood on the podium twice in 2013. You feel anything other than regular podium finishes in the year ahead will be a disappointment.
He said: “Until now Jerez has always been difficult for me but now I can see how close I am and this has been a good thing going into Qatar. Now we can really aim for the podium and have a chance to do well.”
Valencia test: 13th
Jerez I test: 15th
Jerez II test: 5th
2013 championship: 9th
#11 Sandro Cortese – Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex
The autumn of Sandro Cortese's 2013 suggested he was getting the hang of his Moto2 Kalex. He finished inside the top eleven three times after San Marino and although the results did little to take the breath away, it demonstrated a level of consistency that was previously missing. Preseason suggests Cortese has kicked on further, finishing inside the top six at each test. He may have graduated to MotoGP but Cortese would do well to use Pol Espargaro as inspiration. With the foundations laid in the debut year, work can now start on refining his style on the 600 and challenging for podiums.
He said: "We have a long run over a whole race distance, which was very positive. I was always constant between 0.1 and 0.2 sec at the time. On the whole, I'm really happy, it gives a good feeling. We are ready for Doha.”
Valencia test: 5th
Jerez I test: 6th
Jerez II test: 2nd
2013 championship: 20th
Also watch out for:
#8 Gino Rea - The Londoner returns to race in the series full time with AGT Rea Racing. A broken foot sustained at the Valencia test hampered Rea's preseason and he travels to Qatar with the injury not yet healed.
#39 Luis Salom - Salom got over the disappointment of losing out on the Moto3 title by quickly acclimatising to his Pons Kalex. He may have ridden in the shade of super-quick team-mate Maverick Viñales throughout preseason, but Salom showed his potential by ending the second test at Jerez in sixth.
#81 Jordi Torres - Torres' preseason has been slightly subdued but the two time Spanish national champion demonstrated his fondness for racing over qualifying in 2013. Expect him to go well at his home rounds in Spain.
#2 Josh Herrin - Reigning AMA Superbike Champion Josh Herrin has spent the offseason acclimatising to his new Caterham Suter machine. Before joining the Superbike series in his homeland, Herrin raced 600s for six years, memorably winning the Daytona 200 in 2010. Expect him to climb the leader board as the season progresses.
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