With just nine days to go before lights out in Qatar, here’s Crash.net’s 2022 Moto3 contenders vs pretenders list, do you agree?
After 2021 provided one of the better duels of recent seasons, can the 2022 campaign live up to expectation and provide another thrilling championship battle.
Pedro Acosta, the current world champion has moved up to Moto2, while title rival Dennis Foggia has remained put with Leopard Racing which leads us nicely into two riders from the same team that we consider to be a contender.
Contenders: Dennis Foggia and Tatsuki Suzuki (Leopard Racing)
If Foggia's breakthrough 2021 season was not enough to solidify him as a firm championship contender in 2022, then the Italian’s new lap record during the Portimao test should suffice.
Foggia had just as many wins as Acosta last season (6), a rider who is already being tipped for MotoGP without turning a competitive wheel in Moto2.
But for the Leopard Racing rider, it goes without saying that the experience gained over his four full seasons, plus the added benefit of being involved in a title fight until the penultimate round, should lead Foggia to be an even more complete rider in 2022.
Although Foggia, who was very unlucky not to get promoted to Moto2 given riders such as Jeremy Alcoba and Gabriel Rodrigo (zero wins apiece in Moto3) did, the 21 year-old is likely to get that chance should he put together another solid season, or better yet a title winning season. Foggia is also the rider with the most wins of any current Moto3 rider (8).
Foggia will have a new team-mate in 2022 after Tatsuki Suzuki made the switch from the SIC58 Squadra Corse team.
While the 2021 campaign was Suzuki’s worst since 2019, the Japanese rider has consistently shown an ability to fight for podiums and wins.
Like Foggia, Suzuki was extremely quick during the recent three day Portimao test as he topped the opening two days.
Given Suzuki’s previous performances, level of experience gained and his move to the same team that has won three out of the last seven world championships, the 24 year-old is another rider we consider to be a contender.
Pretender: Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team)
Although this is a tough call, we’ve decided to put one of the series’ most experienced riders, Andrea Migno, into our pretender category.
The Rivacold Snipers Team rider finished the Portimao test second quickest +0.052s down on Foggia, but with just one win to his name in seven seasons, plus eight other appearances between 2013-14 - means he’s competed in a total of 132 races - it’s for that reason that the Italian starts the 2022 season as a pretender, as opposed to a contender.
Contender: John McPhee (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team)
After spending three seasons with Petronas Sprinta Racing, John McPhee makes the switch to Max Biaggi’s Sterilgarda Husqvarna team to replace Moto2 rider Romano Fenati.
McPhee, who enters his last year of Moto3 eligibility due to being 27 years of age, will need a big season if he’s to gain promotion into Moto2, a category he has already had a taste for after stepping in for Jake Dixon while the former BSB rider was on MotoGP duty in Aragon.
While McPhee has just three wins over nine complete seasons, the Scottish rider has shown a more consistent knack for being at the front than Migno for example, which is why he makes the contenders list.
With the Biaggi-led Sterilgarda team enjoying a large amount of success with Fenati in 2021, we believe McPhee is lining-up in one of the better teams on the grid, thus in a great position to challenge for the title.
Contender: Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
One of the clear-cut favourites heading into last season, Jaume Masia started the year looking like a potential champion after claiming victory in race one at Qatar.
However, things quickly unravelled as the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider managed just three podiums throughout the rest of the season, while he was also consistently outshone by rookie team-mate and eventual world champion Acosta.
For the 2022 season, Masia will once again form an all-Spanish line-up after rookie Daniel Holgado was signed to replace Acosta, and while Holgado has a lot of potential himself, Masia should have an easier time of it as it relates to battling against his team-mate.
Should the team fully back Masia when it comes to a title tilt given his experience, then it’s more likely than not that he will be a title contender.
The former Leopard Racing rider also has the most number of consecutive seasons with at least one win (3) of any current Moto3 rider.
If Masia could add a touch more consistency to his riding in 2022, then looking beyond the 21 year-old, who is without doubt in one of the better teams on the grid, could prove challenging.
Pretender: Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power Racing)
Unlike his compatriot Suzuki, Kaito Toba falls into our pretenders list heading into next weekend’s opening round.
The Japanese rider, who has certainly flashed his ability on occasions, let’s not make any mistakes about that, however, his 250cc career has largely been plagued by inconsistent performances, many of which have led to lower points and sometimes non-scoring finishes.
Since winning his one and only Moto3 race thus far (2019 season opener at Losail) Toba has finished 29 out of 50 races either outside the points or not at all, making that an average of over 50%.
Toba, who remains with CIP Green Power for a second season, is in a team that is not renowned for its winning, which is another reason why the 21 year-old starts the year as a pretender in our eyes.
Contenders: Izan Guevara and Sergio Garcia (GASGAS Aspar Team)
Another set of teammates have cracked out contenders list, this time it’s Spanish duo Izan Guevara and Sergio Garcia.
Starting with Guevara, the GASGAS Aspar rider would have been talked about a lot more had Acosta not set such high standards as a rookie.
But with that said, Guevara still managed an impressive season as he claimed seven top eight finishes during the last nine rounds, which included a maiden win at COTA (Circuit of the Americas).
Guevara, who finished the Official Portimao test third quickest, is a rider that many people including us at Crash.net expected to take another step forward in 2022 and become a consistent race winner, which would do wonders for a switch to Moto2, something that already looks likely.
On the other side of the garage is Garcia, who until suffering a haematoma kidney injury at COTA, was looking like another one of Acosta’s main title threats.
Winner of four world championship races so far (three came during the 2021 season), which is a total that is already good enough to put him among the top five of all current Moto3 riders, Garcia was one of the most consistent riders in what is usually a class where consistency let’s riders down.
So far, Garcia has continued to better his season-ending championship position in all three of his campaigns - finished third in 2021 - therefore it's another reason Garcia is viewed as a clear title favourite for many.
Like Guevara, a move to the intermediate class could be on the cards for the young Spaniard in 2023 which is sure to keep the GASGAS rider motivated to perform at all times.
Pretender: Stefano Nepa (Team MTA)
The final pretender on this list is Stefano Nepa.
The Team MTA rider had by far his best season in 2021 after finishing five of the last six races inside the top 10. More than that, Nepa was beginning to regularly run with the likes of Foggia, Acosta, Fenati and Garcia.
But with the 20 year-old yet to claim a podium, it’s hard to include the Italian as anything other than a pretender at present. With that said, don’t be surprised if a maiden podium does come quickly.
Contender: Deniz Oncu (Red Bull KTM Tech3)
The final rider to make our list is Deniz Oncu as he gets ready for seasons #3 in the lower category.
A three-time podium finisher in 2021, while also a pole sitter at the Styrian Grand Prix, the young Turkish rider looks set for a big year.
Despite being given a two-race ban for his part in a hugely dangerous accident at COTA, Oncu bounced back to take fifth place in the season finale at Valencia.
Oncu, who continues to be aided in his development by former five-time WorldSSP champion Kenan Sofuoglu and to a lesser extent WorldSBK champion Toprak Razgatlioglu, has all the marks of a potential world champion as consistency, qualifying and race pace all became strengths in 2021.