Keith Huewen: My rider of the year? It can be only one person…

Best rider, bike, team manager and… haircut! Just some of the categories up for grabs in the MotoGP podcast Christmas special, featuring Keith Huewen.
Francesco Bagnaia, Aleix Espargaro, Fabio Quartararo, Enea Bastianini, MotoGP,
Francesco Bagnaia, Aleix Espargaro, Fabio Quartararo, Enea Bastianini,…

Francesco Bagnaia caught Fabio Quartararo to claim Ducati’s first MotoGP title since 2007 - but the biggest surprise was that Gresini’s Enea Bastianini and Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro also battled for the world championship until the penultimate round.

So who did our podcast panel pick as their MotoGP rider of the year?

“It can only be one person – he won the world championship; Pecco Bagnaia!” said former Grand Prix rider and British champion Keith Huewen.

“That’s boring isn’t it!” quipped podcast host Harry Benjamin.

Huewen: “I know, I thought ‘that is so bloody boring’ and that is so not me. But at the end of the day, the guy who wins the MotoGP Championship has got to be my #1.

“But don’t worry, my answers get better as we move through this awards list, there are some surprises coming up!" MotoGP editor Pete McLaren felt a compelling argument could be made for picking any of the world championship top four:

“I honestly think you could make a case for any of the top four riders. I think this year it's harder than normal. Normally it basically comes down to the guy who wins the championship and the guy who was second.

“But this year, any of the top four could be your best, depending on what else you consider as well as just results. Things like performance relative to team-mates, but also I think shock value, meaning who outperformed in terms of what you expected them to do at the start of the year.

“That's where the guys in third and fourth, Bastianini and Aleix Espargaro, score above Bagnaia and Quartararo.

“But for me, it’s still Bagnaia, just. For the reason that Keith said and also, whatever happened before, it came down to a three-race title showdown after Thailand, when Bagnaia and Quartararo were basically level on points.

“Quartararo made mistakes in the Phillip Island race and lost 16 points to Bagnaia, who went on to win the title by 17 points. So for me, that’s what it basically came down to. But there was very little difference between them.

“That said, Quartararo was my winner in the ‘Overachiever of the Year’ category.” MotoGP podcast with Keith Huewen MotoGP podcast with Keith Huewen

Podcast host Harry Benjamin bucked the trend: “I have gone for Enea Bastianini as my best rider this year.

“Pete's already basically explained it as far as the shock value, but also his performance relative to Zarco, earning promotion to the factory team and pipping Aleix right at the end to get third in the championship.

“Obviously Bagnaia was exceptional, but I love an underdog, and I’m not boring, so I’m going for Bastianini!”

Next on Benjamin’s awards list was Best Manufacturer, followed by Best Team, Best Team Principal, Best Haircut, Best Overtake, Biggest Disappointment, Overachiever of the Year, Heart-breaking Moment of the Year, Best Race, Best livery and finally Best and Worst Tracks.

The trio also discussed the sport's new Accident Warning System and tyre pressure protocol for 2023, followed by more listener questions before an end-of-year bloopers reel.

Download Episode 72 at the following links...

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