Such an influx of new riders is thanks to not only a vast talent-pool of riders to pick from, but also the availability of free seats. On-board prototype machinery the likes of Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Márquez, Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone and Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith will be clear favourites to shine amongst the newcomers, although with an ever improving level in the CRT category, Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Bryan Staring, Paul Bird Motorsport’s Michael Laverty, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Claudio Corti and Came IodaRacing Project’s Lucas Pesek will also have a very good opportunity to make a name for themselves.
Márquez is the clear favourite to take the “Rookie of the Year” award, as he starts on factory machinery, and has already displayed in the first test that his talents from the lower classes have clearly been carried over to the premier class. However many will cite the fact that the Moto2™ champion was on occasion beaten by Iannone last year, showing that the Italian has the talent, albeit not quite the same level of consistency. Iannone has been at the sharp end of things for the last four years, yet will arguably face his biggest challenge yet as he steps on the notoriously difficult Ducati. Yet with an ambitious team behind him, and his flashes of brilliance, there is always the chance the Italian could surprise.
The last of the prototype rookies, Bradley Smith, has stepped up to MotoGP™ after a difficult campaign on board the Tech 3 in-house built Mistral 610. Expectations were low before his first outing on the Yamaha M1, yet the Brit has already proven himself a contender with some exceptional performances during testing. Having already done a race simulation in Sepang a few weeks ago, and having bettered his lap times by a big margin every day, his ability to “learn the bike”, so to speak, could cause the Englishman to ruffle a few feathers with established riders this year.
Moving on to the rookies aboard the CRTs, and it was Laverty who impressed the most on his first go in MotoGP™, putting in a great performance on the team’s ART machine. With a background predominantly in British Superbikes, many had expected Laverty to take his time to adapt not only to a new track, but also the Bridgestone tyres and carbon brakes. But with a career spanning over ten years, it is perhaps this experience that saw him adapt with ease. The second Sepang test could prove trickier though, as he jumps on the in-house PBM chassis, which he will race this year.
Staring, who is multiple national Australian Champion in the 125cc, Supersport and Superbike categories, starts his MotoGP™ career on the FTR-Honda, which is the only one of its type on the grid. But despite a new bike and some new tracks to learn, the Australian remains optimistic, despite ending the Sepang test in last place. His bike proved to be a competitive package at times last year, and he will be hoping the bike takes the next step as he sets out to challenge the dominant ARTs on the grid.
One rider with much promise is Italian Corti, who showed glimpses of what he can do in Moto2™ last year, yet will have his work cut out with the team’s new FTR-Kawasaki machine. The 2005 European Superstock 600 Champion had a tricky test in Sepang, with the team just looking to gather data to get the bike set up. Yet with the experience of veteran Colin Edwards by his side and a package that has proved promising for other teams, Corti might prove a handful for the established CRT front-runners.
The final contender is an old face around the lower classes, with Czech rider Pesek having spent a large part of his career in the then 125cc and 250cc classes. He raced the first year of the Moto2™ class in 2010, before heading into the Spanish and German national championships. For this year he has made his way back into the World Championship, and for the first time steps up to the premier-class on board the powerful BMW-Suter combination. Gauging his level was difficult in the first test, as he had to share an ECU with teammate Danilo Petrucci, although come round two, Pesek will no doubt be out to prove his worth.
See the rookies in action at the next Sepang test from Tuesday 26th to Thursday the 28th of February.