20 March 2014
Crash.net previews the main players in the 2014 Moto3 World Championship...
#8 Jack Miller – Red Bull KTM Ajo
Undoubtedly the most exciting rider to come out of Australia since Casey Stoner, Miller demonstrated plenty of that Aussie grit in 2013 to push his ageing Honda beyond its capabilities. While the same machine did little for Romano Fenati's motivation, it seemed to drive Miller on further as he put in a series of gutsy rides. For 2014 he slots into Aki Ajo's Red Bull squad, where he took little time adapting to the KTM's greater acceleration and top speed. He re-broke a collarbone in November but it did little to hold him back as he hasn't been outside the top two at all three preseason tests. A definite title contender.
He said: “It has been a very good preseason. I learnt a lot and the whole team have helped me. We've had some truly productive tests, so I think we're prepared. [The goal is to] Try to get the best results possible and –why not?– become World Champion.”
Valencia test: 2nd
Jerez I test: 1st
Jerez II test: 1st
2013 championship: 7th
#42 Alex Rins – Estrella Galicia 0.0 Honda
For a rider that lost the 2013 world title by 0.18secs Alex Rins has endured a relatively modest preseason. The 18-year old and his Estrella Galicia backed Monlau team swapped KTMs for Honda's new factory powered Moto3 machine after Valencia and predictably the machine has had some teething trouble. Rins' situation wasn't helped by a cist forming on his wrist, which forced him out of the second official test at Jerez. But with the might of HRC behind him and the bike showing real improvements towards the end of preseason, Rins' out and out speed coupled with his cunning race craft could carry him all the way this year.
He said: “I am looking forward very much to come to Qatar with the new HRC supported project - I am convinced that our machine fits well with this track. During test runs, there were many drivers who were fast because they followed each other. Now it will be interesting to see what happens when the tyres break down in the second half of the race.”
Valencia test: 10th
Jerez I test: Absent
Jerez II test: 11th
2013 championship: 2nd
#12 Alex Marquez – Estrella Galicia 0.0 Honda
Alex Marquez's '2013 Rookie of the year' title was well deserved in. After a solid start he showed the confidence to run and break the Viñales-Rins-Salom stranglehold after the summer break, finishing outside the top four once in the final nine races. Staying in the same team, the younger of the precociously talented Marquez brothers has spent preseason developing and adapting to Honda's all new factory supported NSF250RW. Although the engine was initially down on power, a clear progression can be seen in his testing results, where he ended the final day at Jerez in second. Team principal Emilio Alzamora has admitted Qatar may come “a bit early” for his two riders, but expect Marquez to be running close to the front when the GP circus hits Europe.
He said: "We still have much room for improvement. We are creating a lot of experiments, logically, some good, others less so. We still have to test a lot, it's about what we will use in the first race of the year. Honda has worked hard and brought us many alternatives.”
Valencia test: 16th
Jerez I test: 9th
Jerez II test: 2nd
2013 championship: 4th
#5 Romano Fenati – Sky Racing Team by VR46 KTM
You would be hard pressed to find a rider that impacted grand prix racing in the manner in which Romano Fenati did in 2012. His debut season yielded a win and three other podiums, but Fenati struggled with the obviously inferior Honda in 2013. A single fifth place was his best result all year. Desperate to sample KTM machinery, he was eventually snapped up by Valentino Rossi's all-new Sky Italia Racing Team. Ex-Ducati MotoGP team manager Vito Guareschi has been drafted in to give the setup added experience and with the proper tools at his disposal and still only 18, Fenati needs to have a good season to show 2013 was no more than a temporary blip.
He said: “Now I think I can do really well with my new team. I am fortunate to work in a team of people with great experience, even if this will be our first race. This is the third time I am coming to race in Qatar but this is a new year with more experience on my shoulders.”
Valencia test: 4th
Jerez I test: 6th
Jerez II test: 9th
2013 championship: 10th
#52 Danny Kent – Red Bull Husqvarna Ajo
Danny Kent moves down to Moto3 after a trying season on the under-developed Mistral Moto2 machine. Riding the Husqvarna (a re-branded KTM) for the first time, Kent has been there or thereabouts in the winter months. He has continually cited he and the machine are capable of race wins in 2014 but Kent is also aware that good testing pace doesn't always translate to race results, as the start of his 2012 campaign show. Like Scott Redding a year before, a British rider could find himself in the middle of a championship battle.
He said: “My times are inside the Top 10. The main thing is that we have found a good base setup. We're feeling confident, as some other riders have just set faster one-off laps whilst we have found a good pace. We're ready for Qatar."
Valencia test: 3rd
Jerez I test: 5th
Jerez II test: 7th
2013 championship: 22nd (Moto2)
#44 Miguel Oliveira – Mahindra Racing
The surprise of 2013 in Moto3, Mahindra and Miguel Oliveira made giant strides to be a continual thorn in the side of the factory KTMs. The Portuguese finished inside the top six on nine occasions and claimed the Indian factory's maiden podium at the memorable Malaysian GP. No major changes were made over the off-season but Oliveira maintains there have been small improvements with the clutch and engine braking. The 19-year old was initially earmarked to replace the outgoing champion Maverick Viñales in the Calvo KTM squad but the move was blocked by Mahindra bosses. They clearly realise they have a talent amidst their ranks.
He said: “"Overall I am very satisfied with our work over the winter. I feel physically and mentally well prepared. We are now closer to the top. This makes me look forward to the first race and motivates me for the season opener in Qatar."
Valencia test: 9th
Jerez I test: 13th
Jerez II test: 10th
2013 championship: 6th
#23 Nico Antonelli – Junior Team GO&FUN Moto3 KTM
Pocket-sized Nico Antonelli proved in preseason testing that Italy is once again a force to be reckoned with in Moto3. With Spaniards winning every one of 2013's 17 races, Antonelli is one of several Italians hoping to improve upon the country's recent record in the junior class. Like countryman Romano Fenati, Antonelli was left frustrated by Honda's Moto3 efforts in '13. A move to KTM machinery brought an instant improvement in preseason testing. The final test at Jerez ended in disappointment but before then Antonelli demonstrated he is a podium man in waiting.
He said: “We have been competitive during all winter, so we remain confident ahead the Qatar Grand Prix, knowing that we are capable to fight for the top positions: after all, the chassis of the bike is fine, we only need to fix a few things to come back to the top.”
Valencia test: 1st
Jerez I test: 3rd
Jerez II test: 14th
2013 championship: 16th
#32 Isaac Viñales – Team Calvo KTM
The cousin of reigning world champion Maverick, Isaac moves across to take his relative's seat in the world championship winning Calvo team. The Spaniard had initially been announced as Nico Antonelli's team-mate in the Gresini setup but a lack of funding saw the ride fall through. Viñales was a steady performer in 2013 and with factory KTM equipment at his disposal he has been knocking on the door of the top six in testing. Calvo may have a potential podium finisher on their hands.
He said: “I am glad to be in this world championship winning team, which helped my cousin Maverick [in 2013]. I'm kind of excited because it will be my first year in a winning team. It's also my first time sitting on a factory KTM. It's still too early to set any goals.”
Valencia test: 5th
Jerez I test: 10th
Jerez II test: 8th
2013 championship: 17th
#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, 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. 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 very few would be surprised to see him challenging the leaders in the first half of 2014.
He said: “I thought I was not going to be so fast and would be further down the order. But I'm happy because these results are really good. Hopefully we can maintain this level ahead of the opening race and be as close as possible to the top positions in Qatar.”
Valencia test: 23rd
Jerez I test: 4th
Jerez II test: 3rd
2013 championship: Red Bull Rookies champion
Also watch out for:
#84 Jakub Kornfeil - The 20-year old Czech moves to the Calvo KTM team for 2014. He maintains that his debut podium finish isn't far away.
#7 Efren Vazquez - Vazquez swaps Mahindra for Honda power in 2014 and has already outpaced Alex Rins on the new machine. Finishing fifth overall at the final test in Jerez showed Vazquez could surprise many in the season ahead.
#17 John McPhee - Like new team-mate Vazquez, the young Scot has had to contend with developing Honda's new Moto3 racer. Sixth place at the final test in Jerez showed his potential. McPhee is aiming for the top ten in Qatar.
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