Moto2 and Moto3 head for Jerez to get down to business at official test
MotoGP™ have already had their first test of the year and now it’s the turn of Moto2™ and Moto3™ to get back down to racing business – or preparing to, at least. A private test took place at the Circuito de Jerez Angel-Nieto last week, but the venue hosts the first official outing from the 19th to 21st February with each full field out on track. Last season we welcomed Triumph as the new engine supplier to the intermediate class and a number of technical tweaks, but this season much of the grid has a year of experience under their belts. So with lap records having already fallen like dominoes for much of 2019, 2020 should be a classic and the first Official Test of the season gives us our first glimpse of what awaits.
In Moto2™, Tom Lüthi must surely lead the list of those likely to be fighting at the front from the off – as he has pretty much every season he’s raced in the intermediate class – and his Liqui Moly Intact GP teammate Marcel Schrötter will expect to be in the mix too. Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) reigned the early part of 2019 and has some serious speed, as does former teammate and now EG 0,0 Marc VDS rider Augusto Fernandez, who ran reigning Champion Alex Marquez close during the middle of last year. Jorge Navarro (Speed Up Racing) was a consistent contender and got incredibly close to race wins too, and then there’s Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46), Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing), Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team)… all have shown some serious pace. There will be one race winner’s name missing from the timesheets, however: Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), as he recovers from a shoulder injury sustained at the previous private test.
With their CVs and experience, those threats to the front are expected to stay the same, but the rookies and sophomores certainly look like they’re up for the challenge too. And with Red Bull KTM Ajo changing to Kalex chassis, the Aspar Team switching to Speed Up and the likes of NTS RW Racing GP and MV Agusta Temporary Forward having shown some solid progress and points-scoring in 2019, the grid and races should remain as thrilling as ever.
There are a few interesting rookie additions to the grid, including reigning Moto3™ World Champion Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Italtrans Racing Team), his former title rival Aron Canet (Aspar Team) and the likes of European Moto2™ Championship race winner Hector Garzo (Flexbox HP 40), also a podium finisher in the FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup last season. His perennial rival in the FIM CEV Repsol, reigning European Moto2™ Champion Edgar Pons (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), also returns…
Speaking of returning, Hafizh Syahrin (Aspar Team) makes his comeback to the class from MotoGP™ and could be one to watch, making it two Malaysians on the grid as Kasma Daniel Bin Kasmayudin (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) moves up from the European Championship. So does Andi Farid Izdihar, with the Indonesian joining Thai rider and impressive 2019 rookie Somkiat Chantra at Idemitsu Honda Team Asia.
Japanese rider Tetsuta Nagashima, meanwhile, moves to Red Bull KTM Ajo, now on Kalex chassis. His new teammate Jorge Martin was quickest on Day 1 of the private test, so that’s a big positive as the team adapt to the change – and Martin does too. The 2018 Moto3™ Champion also crashed on the second day and sat the rest out, but he should be back on track for the Official Test and will be hoping to carry through that initial speed. A big part of the puzzle of the 2020 season will likely pivot on riders like Martin, who are heading into their sophomore year of Moto2™.
Another such rider is Marco Bezzecchi, who showed some pace as he topped Day 2 of the private test, seemingly adapting well to his Kalex as he moves to Sky Racing Team VR46 and fights to get on a par with veteran teammate – and race winner – Luca Marini. Nicolo Bulega will want to take a step forward at Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 in his second year, and Enea Bastianini at Italtrans Racing Team will be aiming to get his momentum back after an impressive rookie Moto2™ campaign. Meanwhile, 2019 Rookie of the Year Fabio Di Giannantonio (Speed Up Racing) was closest to winning a race in his debut year…so that will likely be a minimum target for him in 2020.
In Moto3™, the future looks equally exciting. As the challengers of last year largely move up, there’s one man in particular left in the spotlight and expected to be a serious contender: Tony Arbolino (Snipers Team). In a season that began with so many different winners, Arbolino was the man who broke the streak and became the first to win two – going on to fight for the title later in the year. He’s expected to be fast and likewise Jaume Masia, who was leading the Championship early last season and now moves to defending Champions Leopard Racing – switching from a KTM to a Honda. Petronas Sprinta Racing’s John McPhee and Albert Arenas (Aspar Team) have victories on their CV, and SIC58 Squadra Corse teammates Niccolo Antonelli and Tatsuki Suzuki will also be expected to perform after their race-winning antics in 2019. Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3), meanwhile, may not be a winner yet but he’s been repeatedly fast – as well as setting a new lap record in Jerez private testing last week.
So what of the riders who’ve been gaining traction and experience? Sergio Garcia won the most recent race and the former rookie is now the experienced rider at Estrella Galicia 0,0 as Ryusei Yamanaka moves up full time to partner him, Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) was Rookie of the Year, Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) impressed, Raul Fernandez and Kaito Toba head for Red Bull KTM Ajo… they will likely be ones to watch. And Alonso Lopez too, as the Spaniard moves to Sterilgarda Max Racing Team and the team change to Husqvarna machinery.
Machinery changes could be a big talking point. Husqvarna lead the headline grabbers as they return, with Lopez joined by veteran Romano Fenati on their bikes, but there are also a few riders who switch camps including the aforementioned Masia; Ayumu Sasaki, who heads for Red Bull KTM Tech 3; and Dennis Foggia, who moves from the Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM to Leopard Racing’s Honda. An even bigger change of machinery is in store for Khairul Idham Pawi at Petronas Sprinta Racing as well, with the Malaysian returning to Moto3™ from the intermediate class. He’s won before, can he win again?
The Rookie of the Year battle, meanwhile, could be an interesting one. Reigning FIM Moto3™ Junior World Champion Jeremy Alcoba is an expected frontrunner, as is reigning Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion Carlos Tatay (Reale Avintia Racing). The aforementioned Yamanaka has some experience in the Championship too, as does Yuki Kunii (Honda Team Asia), although for him it was a single appearance after a difficult 2019 interrupted by injury. There are a number of other rookies keen to get in the mix too. How will it play out on the world stage? Will Alcoba and Tatay have the upper hand?
Bike, rider and chassis changes; rookies; veterans and everything in between… 2020 is sure to be a classic in the intermediate and lightweight classes, and the first full glimpse of the season comes from the 19th to 21st February at the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto.