With the season starting this weekend it’s time for the season preview’s, and this week we will do reviews for Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP before proceedings get underway in Qatar Thursday evening.
First up is Moto3, and the junior class will all be about the manufacture battle this season. With two years of Moto3, so far we have had two KTM Champions, but this year Honda are coming back with a vengeance, and underneath the Estrella Galicia 0,0 duo of Alex Rins and Alex Marquez they will be hoping to end the KTM domination this season.
Despite Honda’s push pre season testing was dominated by KTM’s. Jack Miller moving from the RTG Honda to the Luis Salom vacated Red Bull Ajo KTM was fastest in all three tests over Valencia and Jerez, reaffirming his credentials as title favourite. However he was closely followed and beaten in some sessions by another KTM new boy in Nico Antonelli on his Gresini KTM. Behind them there was a multitude of different KTM riders including Romano Fenati, Issac Viñales and rookie Karel Hanika.
The Estrella Galicia teams decision to switch to Honda looked like a awful decision when after the first pre season in test 2013 runner up Alex Rins found himself three quarters of a second off the pace, however by the end of the last test in Jerez Alex Marquez managed to reduce the gap down to just a tenth of a second.
Whether the pace will stay over 18 laps in Qatar remains to be seen, and the KTM still remains the bike to be on, however Honda will be buoyed by the progress made in Jerez.
Romano Fenati appears rejuvenated on a KTM in the new Sky-VR46 Racing Team, and goes into the season full of confidence and happy with his decision to change from Honda to KTM. “The KTM in my opinion is the best Moto3 bike at the moment,” said the Italian speaking in Jerez. He will be partnered by his team mate from last season Francesco Bagnaia, who enjoyed a posative pre season without reaching the heights managed by Fenati.
Nico Antonelli will be spending his third season in the Gresini GO&FUN junior squad, but this year with the KTM power, the Italian will be hoping to turn his raw pace and potential into substance and results. Still only 18 years old Antonelli last year pushed too hard on a inferior back and regularly found himself in the gravel. This year with a better bike he will be hoping to claim his first podium and push on. Fastest in Valencia, he has then found himself just under half a second off the pace of Miller in Jerez, although he will be hoping come race day he will be in the front group.
Another familiar face back in Moto3 is Brit Danny Kent who has come back down from a tough year with Tech3 in Moto2 to join the Red Bull Husqvarna Ajo team. The Brit who won two races back in 2012 for the Red Bull KTM Ajo squad rejoins Aki Ajo but running on the Husqvarna as opposed to the KTM. Kent ended the last test in Jerez less than three seconds off the pace of Miller in what will be an encouragement to the Brit who will hope to challenge for the title this year.
Arther Sissis has joined Miguel Oliveira in the Mahindra team for 2014. After an encouraging start to the 2013 season the Indian company failed to kick on into the second half of the season, and will be hoping for progress in the 2014 season with the addition of the Aussie. Oliveira finished the final test in tenth position, but just 0.333 seconds behind Miller so the Portguese rider who is entering his fourth season in Grand Prix Racing.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin has also left the Red Bull Ajo joined and will run in the Ongetta squad under the Air Asia banner on a Honda. The Malaysian had a disappointing 2013, and will be hoping with a new team and bike he can kick start his career in 2014. Khairuddin has struggled to adapt to his Honda, and found himself over two and a half seconds off the pace in Jerez, and down in 28th position.
The Moto3 class promises to be as enthralling as ever with the top 18 covered by less than a second in the final test in Jerez, and it is positive to see so many young Italians coming back through the ranks after a barren spell by their standards. However the man to beat in the Aussie Jackass Jack Miller, if he can keep it rubber side down and use his head, it is most defiantly his title to loose. You cannot discount the Estrella Galicia 0,0 duo, nor Fenati or Antonelli, but the experience of the his team, and his testing form means the Aussie is the favourite.
My prediction is that we will have our first Australian win the junior class of Grand Prix racing since 1961 when Tom Phillis won the 125 cc crown, with Alex Rins second and Romano Fenati taking the bronze medal come Valencia.
1. Jack Miller 2. Alex Rins 3. Romano Fenati