Pedro Acosta has gone from incredible rookie in one class to seemingly exactly the same in another, topping testing in Portugal and ominous from the start. Given Doha is where the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider began his World Championship career last year with a second place and then that awe-inspiring win from pit-lane, the now number 51 is likely walking the tallest into Qatar
The intermediate class, however, is a different challenge in many ways. Tyres, tactics… there’s usually no freight train and laptimes are crafted. But Raul Fernandez is the example that will most interest Acosta, and there’s no reason to believe this year’s Red Bull KTM Ajo rookie can’t turn his established speed into race-long pace. So who’ll be looking to stop him?
Team-mate Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) will be one. He’s now the Ajo machine sporting the number 37, and with some wins and podiums under his belt already, Fernandez has proven speed. It seems the Spaniard had to compromise and ride within the limit at times in 2021 though, and while that’s a compromise every rider makes, Fernandez will be looking to unlock the margin that’s made him look on rails at times in the past. Now in the team that dominated last year, will change breed more glory?
For Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team), meanwhile, the hope will be in continuity – and recovering from tendonitis in his wrist in pre-season. The Brit won both Grands Prix at Losail last season for some good omens though, so if Lowes is limited the venue is a kinder one.
Tony Arbolino will be interesting to watch too as he takes over as Lowes’ team-mate, with the Italian having shown flashes of pace but now looking to make a step up.
Flashes of pace isn’t quite enough to describe the now multitude of podiums for Aron Canet (Flexbox HP 40), but the Spaniard is intent on the top step and a title charge in 2022. He’s been quick in pre-season and seems to have settled in at the team, with Jorge Navarro alongside.
Jake Dixon, who heads for Inde GASGAS Aspar Team, also looked quick in testing, and it seems his new teammate, Albert Arenas, has taken a step forward too.
“I really like the Qatar circuit; I’ve usually been good at it. I’m looking forward to competing there after the Portimao test, where we finished with a very good feeling. Being able to fight for the top 5 would be a very positive goal.”
The likes of Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) will be looking to head that off and aim squarely for the podium, however, and the names of those who could bring some noise in 2022 just keep on coming.
Americans Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) and Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) are two who will be interesting to watch. The latter now seems in the groove in Moto2, and the former appears to have a little mojo back. That could prove quite a serious issue for his rivals in Qatar, as Roberts’ form at Losail catapulted him to his first pole position in 2020, which was also the first for an American in 10 years. He went on to take his best result at the time of a fourth place too. Since, he’s been on the podium but only once, so could the stage be set?
Fermin Aldeguer (MB Conveyors Speed Up), meanwhile, finds himself between a rock and hard place in some ways, as the reigning Moto2 European Champion has done too many events to be classed as a rookie. And yet, he hasn’t taken on Losail. With good experience in the class already though, he’ll want to have the jump on those who will be fighting to be top debutant this season, and there are ten of them.
Alongside Acosta, fellow Moto3 graduates Niccolo Antonelli (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), Filip Salač (Gresini Racing Moto2), Gabriel Rodrigo (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) and Jeremy Alcoba (Liqui Moly Intact GP) make the move, and Alessandro Zaccone (Gresini Racing Moto2) goes from MotoE to Moto2 after a successful switch of WorldSSP for MotoE. Manuel Gonzalez cuts out the middle man there and comes straight from WorldSSP to Moto2 with the Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team, and he’ll be alongside Keminth Kubo as the Thai rider moves from the Moto2 European Championship.
At American Racing, Sean Dylan Kelly arrives from Supersport in his home US of A, and then finally, Zonta van den Goorbergh makes a mammoth move as the Dutchman goes from Moto3 Junior to Moto2 World Championship.
Veterans vs Rookies…
2021 was a milestone year for Moto3, with a year-long battle ultimately won by a rookie sensation on the way to breaking some incredible records. But that was then and this is now, with said sensation now firmly Moto2’s problem and the throne looking for a new name. The long road to deciding who will reign in 2022 begins now and it begins at Losail International Circuit.
Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing), the 2021 runner up and rider with the most Moto3 wins – six – will be keen to start off on a high. The Italian was fastest in testing too, and arrives with some serious momentum built in the latter half of last year.
Sergio Garcia (Gavita GASGAS Aspar Team), who likewise challenged for the crown in 2021, has his eyes on a title campaign too, and he has four Moto3 wins to his name.
“I really want to start a new season and I face this first race of the year with enthusiasm and with the desire to be in the front positions. These days after the Portimao test I have rested, I have focused on myself and I have worked to arrive in Qatar as prepared as possible.”
Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo), meanwhile, is one of the most seasoned frontrunners and he’ll be looking to hit back after a tougher season in 2021, with the year marred by some injury struggles on top of welcoming the fastest rookie team-mate in history.
There are plenty more veterans and podium finishers too. John McPhee heads to Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max and Tatsuki Suzuki saddles up alongside Foggia at Leopard. Both have more than one victory and plenty of experience.
Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) had a 2021 worthy of a springboard into an even better year, and Izan Guevara (Gavita GASGAS Aspar Team) took an impressive rookie year maiden win and, like Migno, remains in the same team. That could be important for continuity, but Xavier Artigas will be looking to prove that wrong as he moves to CFMoto Racing PrüstelGP, also with a rookie win under his belt from 2021.
Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) will want more podiums and to attack the top step, and so will Ayumu Sasaki as the Japanese rider moves to Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max.
In terms of Losail, there are two previous winners on the grid who’ll be glad of that extra shot of confidence that comes from good memories. One is Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power), and the other is Masia after his season opening victory last year. Foggia, meanwhile, had a tougher time of it across the two Grands Prix at Losail last season: he crashed in Qatar and then started from pitlane in the Doha GP, unable to move through for points. Will that matter given the storming latter half of the season, and speed in testing, from which the Italian arrives?
Then there are the rookies, and this year there are a good few. 2021 FIM Moto3 Junior World Champion Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Ajo), runner up David Muñoz (BOE SKX), 2021 Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup winner Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia), experienced junior runner Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team), Australian Joel Kelso (CIP Green Power), Brazilian Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI), Italian Matteo Bertelle (QJMotor Avintia Racing Team), Indonesian Mario Aji (Honda Team Asia) and the British duo at the all-new VisionTrack Racing Team: Scott Ogden and Joshua Whatley.
“So excited to get to the first race, get the season underway, I have been dreaming of this ever since I was a kid, so now it is surreal, I can’t wait to get started and let’s see how we go, hopefully we can progress throughout the weekend.”
However, Muñoz won’t be on track as yet due to his age and Gerard Riu will take over, and Furusato is suffering a broken ankle after a crash in testing. For the rest, that’s a small headtstart in the fight to take that coveted Rookie of the Year title… and it really will be so this season, with a packed list of debuting talent.
There’s also the return of Ana Carrasco (BOE SKX) to watch out for, who is far from a rookie but nevertheless facing a mountain to climb to get back in the Moto3 groove. Not since 2015 has the first female solo motorcycle racing World Champion ridden in the lightweight class of Grand Prix racing, and she arrives with that 2018 WorldSSP300 title to her name but the challenge remains real. How will she get on a mammoth nine years since her rookie Moto3 season?
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