|The new look for the Pons team and Espargaro, this season.
Photo: Pons Tuenti HP 40
The 3rd official Moto2 test of the 2013 season finished as expected last Thursday, with championship favourite Pol Espargaró on top, nearly half a second ahead of second placed Takaaki Nakagami. This was roughly the same situation in the first test at Jerez as well.
The younger of the Espargaró brothers, Pol, was tipped for the 2013 World Championship from mid-way through last season, given that Márquez was dominating and expected to take the title instead that year. Pol was the only real challenger that Márquez had, with 11 podiums which included 4 wins. His only real failing was throwing it at the scenery in twice in the first half of the season; controversially in Catalunya, whilst battling with Márquez, and then whilst comfortably in the lead in Assen; of which sent the bike into an acrobatic, summer-saulting display that even Louis Smith would be envious of. So far in the testing period, Pol has topped each test comfortably, by at least 2 tenths.
Clearly, Espargaró is the man to beat, so judging on the testing results, who could stick it to the ever cheery Spaniard? We will look at the podium and win potential of a few riders whose names have popped up throughout the testing programme…
On a rather crucial tangent, for the 2013 season, a combined minimum weight limit has been introduced to the class, as it was clear that the taller/heavier riders such as Scott Redding and Esteve Rabat have been at a disadvantage due to lower top speed/acceleration and increased tyre wear. You can read about the positives and negatives of the weight limit for different types of rider here. Hopefully this means that not only can the heavier riders put in quick lap times, like we are used to in testing and qualifying sessions, but they can carry their speed throughout the race, all the way to the top step of the podium.
Takaaki Nakagami has been up the top end for the last two tests, along with an overall 6th in the Valencia test. Last year Nakagami’s best result was a 5th in Jerez, which might explain partly why he has been running so well at the circuit in testing. In championship standings, he finished 15th for Moto2 last year, and 16th in the 125’s the year before, with no Grand Prix podiums to his name. However, given his 6th in the first test this year in Valencia and the form he’s displayed in Jerez, the Italtrans rider looks to have the potential to be Japan’s main hope for Moto2 stardom this year…
Team mate to Nakagami, Julián Simón has shown the form most GP followers know he has, back from the 2009 125 World Championship, and indeed the 2010 Moto2 championship. Simón was one of the title favourites in the 2011 Moto2 championship, before he got the Sofuoglu treatment in Catalunya, breaking his leg in a horrific accident with the Turkish WSS wonder-boy. Last year, Simón was steadily working his way back towards the front, earning two podiums, one in the final race of the season. The Spanish rider needs to find the rest of that ‘pizazz’ he had before his injury, in PaddockChatter’s opinion, one of Espargaró’s biggest threats to the championship.
|Tiger Toni, the comeback kid?
Sticking with the Spanish theme and veteran Grand Prix racers, Toni Elias made a startling return to the head of the testing leaderboard last week. It seems ‘Tiger Toni’ could well be making another comeback, perhaps in correlation with his bank balance? The other question is whether this will be a Take That style, successful comeback, or a Limp Bizkit flop? The Spaniard didn’t have a graceful return in Moto2 last year, finishing 17th overall, not once in sight of a podium. However, this is the inaugural Moto2 champion, and MotoGP race winner; with the right bike and support behind him, Elias could well surprise us all and show there’s life in the old dog yet. The form this year suggests it’s possible.
Valencian, Nico Terol will be one to watch throughout the season. Last year was Terol’s chance to adapt from the 2 stroke to riding a 4 stroke, like Espargaró he experienced limited success in his first year, with just a single podium at the final round – probably aided by some ‘hometown spurring on energy’. We should see the 2011 125cc World Champion begin to rack up the successes most likely toward the middle and latter part of the year. He would more likely be a championship threat in 2014 (you heard it here first, ahem.)
Finally, we look at Scott Redding, entering his 4th year in the class. The Brit now has less of a disadvantage from his competitors, given the combined minimum weight limit introduction (as mentioned at the beginning of this blog). Every season Scott has shown that he has the speed, topping testing and qualifying sessions alike over the years he’s been in the class, but has yet to earn himself a victory. This year hasn’t been too different in regards to testing, after he ended the most recent Jerez test in fifth, just over half a second behind Espargaró. Really, Scott needs a full MotoGP ride, like his similarly tall compatriot, Bradley Smith… but because of lack of options, among other things, Scott now has his best chance yet at a Moto2 title this year. Having said that, Redding is still around 10kg over the combined weight limit, but it should be a vast improvement on previous years. PaddockChatter hopes that the 6 time Moto2 podium finisher utilises the increased chance at race wins with the new regulations in place.
As with yesterday’s thoughts from the Moto3 test, PaddockChatter always expresses that nothing too serious should ever be read into testing times, although due to the consistency shown of late, the riders mentioned could be the key players providing the entertainment up the top end for fans, this season. There are, of course, other riders in the field that will pop their heads above the parapet during the year that haven’t shone in testing, these riders include the currently injured Tom Luthi, CEV Moto2 champion, Jordi Torres, Mika Kallio and Esteve ‘Tito’ Rabat. But as the saying goes, ‘when the flag drops, the bullshit stops’ – lets see how true that is when the lights go out in Qatar…