In this first of a three-part series, we preview the upcoming Moto3 season with a look at the riders and who they will race for. There will be a review of each rider’s career to date (although with the young Moto3 riders it’s quite brief) and their chances of success in 2016. Although MotoGP is the pinnacle of two-wheel racing I find Moto3 the most entertaining and most unpredictable and it’s great to see tomorrow’s stars racing today.
RBA Racing Team KTM
Rider: Gabriel Rodrigo
Race Number: 19
Date of Birth: 12/10/96
2015 Championship Position: Not Classified
Debut: Jerez 2014
Moto3 Races: 23
Highest Finish: 16th Japan 2015
This South American rider is now entering his third season in Moto3 and his third with RBA Racing. His debut came four races into the 2014 season when he retired in Jerez before racing at six more European races before the end of the year. Last season he was largely finishing outside the top twenty but did just miss out on a maiden championship points finish when he was just over a second behind Francesco Bagnaia at Motegi in Japan. Will 2016 see the 19-year-old take his first points?
Rider: Juanfran Guevara
Race Number: 58
Date of Birth: 19/8/95
2015 Championship Position: 24th
Debut: Aragon 2012
Moto3 Races: 54
Highest Finish: 7th Great Britain 2015
Commonly known as Juanfran rather than Juan Francisco, the Spanish rider nearly made his debut at Valencia at the end of the 2011 season on a 125cc Aprilia but failed to make the start. His full debut came at Aragon the following year as Spanish team Wild Wolf BST entered him in two home round, the other being Valencia where he finished an impressive 12th. His first full season was 2013 with French outfit CIP Moto3 running a Honda but Guevara failed to score any points despite a sixteenth place finish in the second round pointing towards a good season ahead. Despite that disappointment, he secured a good ride for 2014 with Mapfre Aspar running a KTM and he had his best ever championship finish with 17th overall and included 8th place finishes at Mugello and Indianapolis. Mapfre switched to Mahindra machinery in 2015 and ran Guevara alongside Bagnaia and Jorge Martin but he could not keep the same pace as his teammates and finished 24th with Bagnaia 14th and Martin 17th. The team are only running two bikes in 2016 so Guevara was the natural choice to leave and will hope for better fortunes at RBA.
Rider: Tatsuki Suzuki
Date of Birth: 24/9/97
2015 Championship Position: 28th
Debut: Qatar 2015
Moto3 Races: 18
Highest Finish: 10th Great Britain 2015
The Japanese teenager made his Moto3 debut last season and scored two points finishes. His first came at the rain-affected Silverstone round when only twenty riders finished. Although the number of fallers helped Suzuki to his first six world championship points it is also commendable that he stayed on in such conditions. His second points finish was in his home race at Motegi as he finished thirteenth to start a good day for Japan with home riders finishing in the points in all three classes (the others were wildcards Tomoyoshi Koyama and Yuki Takahashi in Moto2 and Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Takumi Takahashi in MotoGP).
Rider: Martin Vanhaeren
Race Number: 92
Date of Birth: 5/4/98
Moto3 Races: 0
The 17-year-old Belgian makes his debut this season for French outfit CIP after finishing 18th in the 2015 FIM CEV Moto3 Championship and a best placing of 9th in the first race at Catalunya. I’d be impressed if he broke into the top twenty this season as he failed to shine in lesser company last year.
RW Racing GP BV Honda
Rider: Livio Loi
Date of Birth: 27/4/97
2015 Championship Position: 16th
Debut: Jerez 2015
Moto3 Races: 42
Highest Finish: 1st Indianapolis 2015
Loi made a big impression on his debut at Jerez in 2013 just one week after his sixteenth birthday. He was too young to make his debut in the first two rounds so he Marc VDS Racing Team had to wait until the third round to see the youngster in action on their KTM. He was running fifteenth when the red flag went out due to an accident involving French rider Alan Techer but could well have finished higher as he was only two-tenths behind Jasper Iwema and two seconds back on Britain’s Danny Webb. He finished in the points again in three more races that year although after his impressive debut one would have expected more.
2014 didn’t go well for Loi as he stayed with Marc VDS but split from the team after nine races. Despite finishing fourth in Argentina in round three he rarely broke into the top twenty, blaming the Kalex KTM bike for his failure to deliver on his pre-season objective. His Team Manager Michael Bartholemy had said they needed him in the top fifteen after race seven but he was nowhere near. For the Dutch and German rounds, he was given a KTM chassis and then sacked when his performances did not improve and he could no longer blame the machinery.
Loi rebuilt his career with RW Racing in 2015 and stays with them for 2016. The young Belgian had already attained five points finishes by the time the field arrived at Indianapolis for round ten and nearly added another at the previous round in Germany. As the riders formed the grid the pre-race rain led to a ‘wet race’ being declared. As the rain stopped the rider 26th on the grid decided to take a gamble and that rider was Livio Loi. While all the other riders formed on the grid with wet tyres Loi’s team changed to slicks in the hope of a drying track. Other riders made the gamble but not in time to pay off as John McPhee had to start from pit lane on his dry rubber and Philipp Oettl and Andrea Migno came in at the end of the formation lap to change to theirs. Three of those four finished on the podium with Loi leading home McPhee and Oettl in a very dramatic race as everyone tried to work out who was on which lap or tyres since a tyre change took so long. It was a fantastic gamble that put Loi back in the spotlight and he would shine again in poor conditions at Silverstone with a fifth place finish. With some more impressive results in 2016 perhaps he can secure a ride with better machinery to challenge for podiums and wins more often. After his troubles at Marc VDS, it was brave of RW Racing to sign him up but the move seems to have paid off for both and the future looks very bright.
MTA Team Italia Mahindra
Rider: Stefano Manzi
Race Number: 29
Date of Birth: 29/3/99
2015 Championship Position: 27th
Debut: Austin 2015
Moto3 Races: 17
Highest Finish: 12th Aragon 2015
Manzi raced for San Carlo Team Italia on a Mahindra last season alongside Matteo Ferrari and then Manuel Pagliani for the last five races. He missed the opening round in Qatar as unlike Fabio Quartararo he didn’t have special dispensation and had to wait until after his sixteenth birthday before he could make his debut which he did with a 24th place finish in Austin. He scored four points finishes across the year and the fact that three of these came in the last six races shows that he was improving and can hopefully carry that momentum into 2016.
Schedl GP Racing KTM Rider: Philipp Oettl
Date of Birth: 3/5/96
2015 Championship Position: 15th
Debut: Valencia 2012
Moto3 Races: 54
Highest Finish: 3rd Indianapolis 2015
Philipp is the son of Peter Oettl who raced in the 80cc and 125cc categories in the 1980s and 1990s. Oettl the younger had an impressive debut with 11th on a HP Moto Kalex-KTM in Valencia in 2012 as countryman Sandro Cortese wrapped up the Moto3 title. He had a mixed set of results in 2013 although he did finish all but one race. In the first eleven rounds, he scored just one championship point but then took five points finishes from six races at the end of the season including sixth at Aragon to finish 18th in the standings. 2014 was a disappointment with Interwetten Paddock Moto3 Kalex-KTM as he scored just ten points despite only retiring twice as he struggled outside the top fifteen for most of the season. A switch to German team Schedl GP Racing brought better fortunes last season and he stays with the team for 2016. His highlight was the third place at Indianapolis when he came in for slick tyres at the end of the warm-up lap and finished behind Loi and McPhee on the podium. He was strong elsewhere though with fifth at Aragon and seventh at Philip Island. With thirteen points finishes from eighteen races he showed remarkable consistency to finish fifteenth in the standings.