Nov 11, 2014

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Five Things About Moto3 in 2014

Five Things About Moto3 in 2014

I had planned on writing a lot more on this site about the 2014 MotoGP season but other things took over, unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it.  However now, I am returned.  I am writing a bit of a review of the year.  I shall write of the top five things, from each class, that caught my eye this year.  These aren’t the best five things, or even the most intriguing, they’re merely the things that stood out to me for one reason or another.  For example, as I start off with Moto3, congrats to Alex Marquez, a deserving new world champion, but his championship doesn’t make me top 5, as thoroughly impressive as it was.  So, here it is, all blurted out and not proof read because it’s the internet so if you agree with everything I say, at least you can bitch about typos.

1.) Jack Miller is the best thing to happen to motorcycle racing in some time

I’m not saying he’s the best rider, the most talented, the best guy or anything like that.  I’m saying motorcycle racing needs him.  Every story, every sport, needs a villain.  A marmite sort of character.  The NBA has Lebron James. He’s objectively brilliant but people either love him or hate him with all their might.  Everyone’s got an opinion.  MotoGP has lacked that sort of character since the departure of Casey Stoner.  Stoner was a man who was unquestionably one of the most gifted to ever ride a Grand Prix motorcycle.  But people loved to hate him.  Or they loved him.  The Stoner vs Rossi battles on the track were tame compared to the petty ones conducted on Twitter and forums across the web.  And now we have Miller.  jack-miller-to-motogp-2014

Some say he’s brilliant.  His goon riding is hilarious.  The others say he’s over-rated, cocky and a show off.  His absolute disgust with his own existence should he come second in a race and his refusal to accept anything other than a win is either seen as the sort of single bloody mindedness of a champion, and something to be praised, or he’s a spoilt brat and a sore loser who needs a kick in the arse.

Personally, I like his attitude.  I like its honesty.  I’m not saying Valentino Rossi accepted losing better than Jack, he just hid it better for five minutes while the cameras were on.  Some say that’s class.  Some say it’s a lie.  And back and forth we go.

Maybe the Miller hatred is a bit of Stoner hangover.  I’ve seen, ‘Oh look another whinging Aussie’ more than a handful of times this season.  casual racism aside, it’s probably true that he and Stoner, and Mick Doohan before them, share a lot of the same traits.

They’re not here to make friends, they’re here to win races.  Losing is not an option.  And if you don’t like it they couldn’t give two fucks.  The other thing they all share is that they’re bloody quick and have an unwavering belief in their talent.

Miller is here to stay.  He’s a future MotoGP champion, I believe.  And the show he’ll put on on route is one that’s sure to draw us all in.

Sheene and Roberts.  Rainey and Schwantz.  Rossi and Biaggi.  Rossi and Stoner.  Miller and…

2) No-one embarrasses Honda.  Noooooooo-body.

mgp_2014_08_31_silverstone_alexrins_3210The top ranked Honda in the 2013 Moto3 championship was Jack Miller in 7th, 200 something points behind champion Maverick Vinales on the KTM.  KTM recognised Miller’s talent, Miller recognised the Honda was a dog, so he moved teams.  Smart move right?  Well, sort of.

It’s not that the KTM was bad in 2014.  It wasn’t.  There were three in top 7 of the championship and Miller only lost the title by 2 points.  Yes, they were down on straight line speed to the Honda, but it was still a good bike.  It was probably as good, if not a little better, than the year before.

The difference was Honda felt KTM weren’t playing fair in 2013.  They pumped money into the bike which wasn’t in the spirit of the rules for the category.  But if no-one was going to stop them from doing it the spirit of the rules could go fuck itself because Honda was NOT going to run around mid pack, struggling in every department.  So they blew the bloody doors off it.

Marquez had a really solid year that resulted in the title.  Honda were so impressed they let him have a go on his brother’s Repsol Honda at the post race test.  Those two boys are further proof that there might be something in this genetics lark.  More on that later.

So as Rins, Marquez, Vazquez and the rest of the Honda gang were given missiles, they used them to full effect and everyone remembered that Honda don’t play nice when you make them look silly.  Which is good.  Because now there’s a manufacturer war on again.  And from 2015 Mahindra are also getting proper serious.  Now, if someone can just convince Aprilla to make a 250 four stroke…

3) Sky Italia got the best / worst sponsorship deal of the year

There’s two ways you can look at Sky Italia’s naming right sponsorship deal of a Moto3 team this year.  They shelled out a lot of cash to be the main sponsor of Romano Fenati and Francesco Bagnaia’s bikes in a new team with heavy involvement from VR46, Valentino Rossi’s company.

So both riders were young Italians and Fenati won a few races as well.  Rossi was ever present in parc ferme, congratulating his riders and so on.  They got an incredible amount of TV time partly due to some good results (although Fenati had the most up and down season of any rider I can recall in recent memory) and partly because of the Rossi factor.  The bikes looked good.  Black with that big Sky logo blaring on the side.  What incredible bang for your buck, right?vale-fenny

Well, I could count on one hand I heard that team referred to as Sky Racing Team, which is what it’s officially listed on the entry sheet as.  Not commentators, not print media, not websites, not radio coverage.  It was the VR46 team. Valentino Rossi’s team.  Vale’s bikes.  Vale’s riders.  Vale’s tyres.  Vale’s beautiful spirit wafting over the very garage.

I get that, sure.  But Sky did stump up a lot of Euros to be the naming right sponsor so, you know, maybe say their name once or twice.  Most people knew those bikes as Rossi’s team, and little more.

I’m sure Sky knew what they were getting into, and it is literally impossible to have sympathy for Sky.  In fact if you do have sympathy for Sky it’s been clinically proven that you are either related to a member of the Murdoch family or your heart is made of ground up kittens.  But it’s still an interesting observation as far as I’m concerned.

Would another sponsor now be reluctant, when Sky’s contract is up?  Is the TV time and visual exposure so good it counteracts that no-one will actually call the team what you paid for it to be called.  Can someone do some sort of brand reach or cultural penetration study and let me know what they find?  But please, don’t actually use those, or any other, buzz words while you’re telling me.

4) 2015 is so wide open you could drive a bus through it.  Sideways.

Last year, two riders from the top ten in the championship, moved up to Moto2.  Champion Maverick Vinales and third placed Luis Salom.  So we knew this year that Marquez and Rins would be challengers.  Fenati and Miller were now both on competitive machinery as well so they were expected to be up there.  And that’d be the four that’d, more or less, be fighting for the win each week, and ultimately the title.  Save for a few Vazquez cameos, that proved to be the case.

For the 2015, the top three in the championship have departed.  Rins and Marquez to Moto2 and Miller to MotoGP. It was thought Vazquez too may have to depart given the age limit imposed on Moto3 but it appears he will be able to continue for one more year on the Honda.

So, to my mind, given the team, bike and rider swaps we know of, this is the list of people realistically capable of winning races, and challenging for the championship, in 2015.  Romano Fenati, Isaac Vinales, Efrén Vázquez, Danny Kent, Alexis Masbou, John McPhee, Brad Binder, Niccolo Antonelli, Enea Bastianini, Miguel Oliveria, Fabio Quartararo and Jakub Kornfeil.  That’s eleven riders you can throw a blanket over.  Add in expected cameos from Karel Hanika, Eric Granado and the like and you’ve got what’s shaping up to be the best season in years.  And the last two have already been absolute crackers.

article-maria-herrera-team-calvo-moto3-545e6a60bf974Also a special mention for Maria Herrera who I’m very interested to see next year.  She’s the first female rider in the series with what I’d call a competitive bike as she’s in the Calvo Team with Vinales and co.  Ana Carrasco has been around for a couple of years now but this year the Kalex-KTM was a nightmare.  But Herrera is a bit special.  She’s a race winner in the CEV which means she is no slouch and I’m going to enjoy watching her put a few people in her place next year.

5) Next year there’ll be a new Gardner on the grid

1413535497039Regular readers of my MotoGP writings, wherever they may have been published, will no doubt know that my love affair with motorcycle racing started when, as a young kid, I watched Wayne Gardner do what he did best back in the 80s. Flog the living guts out of bikes that didn’t want to turn so much as they did kill you.

Both Wayne’s sons, Remy and Luca, have taken to motorcycle racing too and have been racing in Europe for the last few years.  Remy, the eldest at 16, has had success in Spain with the European, CMV and CEV championships scoring podiums and a race win.  In 2014 he had more good results, a sickening crash in Navarra (the race was red flagged so large was the crash in which he was run over, however he was still ready for the restart, banged up bt good to go but alas the bike wasn’t fixed in time.  There’s something in this genetics business…) and three wild card rides in the World Championship.  In those three wild cards he showed incredible maturity.  On a dog of a bike, as an injuy replacement rider, in Misano he did what he had to do. He improved with every session, didn’t crash, and finished the race.  At Phillip Island, amongst ridiculous pressure given the front straight bares his father’s name, he did the same.  Qualified well and then after the bike wouldn’t start on the grid he had to start from pitlane.

A stuff up from a marshall saw him held for a further 12 seconds longer than was necessary before he joined the race.  Instead of going ballistic and crashing (although he would admit later it was red mist central the first few laps) he picked up the pace, got in a rhythm, and made up a number of positions, finishing less than a minute off the race winner.

In Malaysia, another new track, still on an underpowered KTM, in his third race, he scored a point.

For 2015 Remy will be on the grid full time, with a Mahindra.  It will be a tough year, a learning year for certain, but the talent is there.  The determination is there in spades.  And there’s every chance another Gardner will be battling for the podium of a Grand Prix in the next few years.

So there you go, Moto3 thoughts from me from 2014.

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