[Note: The half-baked opinions, reckless allegations, mis-statements of fact and otherwise actionable slurs below do not represent the views of Motorcycle.com. In fact, we are surprised if they represent the views of anyone at all.]
To the delight of pretty much everyone in or around MotoGP not wearing Repsol Honda colors, the 2022 season, at its midpoint, is unfolding pretty much as expected. Note the following exceptions to this statement, lifted from our very own pre-season preview:
This season starts with seven underclassmen, three sophomores and four freshmen. New to the premier class last year were Italian speedsters Luca Marini (half-brother of the legendary Valentino Rossi) and Enea Bastianini, along with rising Spanish star Jorge Martin. The 2022 crop of rookies includes a pair of KTM guys, apparently chained at the wrists and ankles – Australian Remy Gardner and Spanish fast mover Raul Fernandez. These two don’t like each other, causing us to hope for a repeat of the hilarious scene back in the day when Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi shared a garage and had a wall built down the middle to keep them from gouging each other’s eyes out.
Two more Italians complete the 2022 grid, starting with Fabio di Giannantonio, repping the Gresini Ducati team. (We will be forced to refer to him this season as FDG in order to conserve our dwindling inventory of lower case N’s.) Last, and perhaps least, is young Marco Bezzecchi, filling the #2 seat on Valentino Rossi’s Mooney VR46 Racing Team.
So, other than having perhaps the best bike on the grid tranched at #6, and having the top rookie in the 2022 crop last in the rookie rankings, my pre-season outlook was spot on.
Tranche I: Pecco Bagnaia, Marc Marquez, Fabio Quartararo, Joan Mir, Jack Miller, Johann Zarco, Jorge Martin, Aleix Espargaro, Brad Binder, Pol Espargaro, Raul Fernandez, Enea Bastianini
Tranche II: Alex Rins, Miguel Oliveira, Franco Morbidelli, Takaa Nakagami, Alex Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso, Fabio Di Giannantonio, Luca Marini, Remy Gardner, Maverick Viñales, Darryn Binder, Marco Bezzecchi
Our tranching of the riders was pretty good – ignoring Marc Marquez’s ongoing health concerns – as 9 of our picks made the top 11 at midyear. Missing among the top 11 were Pol Espargaro – another brutal year underway; unemployment looms) and Raul Fernandez, who, along with fellow KTM rookie Remy Gardner, is finding the going a bit difficult in MotoGP compared to Moto2. Raul won’t be with KTM next season. Says so right here.
|2022 MotoGP Year to Date Top 6 Standings|
|Pos.||Rider||Points||Races Not Completed|
Three of these guys are going to be on the 2022 podium. For whatever reason I can’t get all stoked up about Johann Zarco. That Pecco trails him by only four points while recording 4 DNFs says Pecco will battle for the top step once he remembers how to keep the red side up. Fabio and Aleix appear to be locks for top three finishes. It won’t be long before we’re wondering about the riders changing teams in 2023 – are those guys riding as hard now as they did early in the season, before they had a deal? Who’s interested and who’s committed?
One guy who’s all in for 2022 is your boy Aleix who shattered, on lap 15 of the Assen race, the existing all time lap record, NOT JUST THE RACE LAP. Up until the moment the all-time record was broken later in the race, Aleix posted the fastest lap ever recorded at Assen, DURING THE RACE. Pretty amazing.
Here’s my understanding of the provisional rider lineup for 2023. Either Martin or Bastianini will join Bagnaia on the factory team, and the remaining seat will fill up behind him, ending with, of all people, Alex Marquez, joining FDG on the Gresini Ducati team. Did not see that one coming.
|2023 MotoGP Team/Rider Pairings (provisional)|
|Repsol Honda||Marc Marquez||Joan Mir|
|Honda #2||Alex Rins||Ai Ogura|
|Factory Yamaha||Fabio Quartararo||Frankie Morbidelli|
|Factory Ducati||Pecco Bagnaia||Enea Bastianini|
|Pramac Ducati||Johann Zarco||Jorge Martin|
|VR46 Ducati||Marco Bezzecchi||Luca Marini|
|Gresini Ducati||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Alex Marquez|
|Factory KTM||Brad Binder||Jack Miller|
|GasGas||Pol Espargaró||Remy Gardner|
|Aprilia #1||Aleix Espargaró||Maverick Viñales|
|Aprilia #2||Miguel Oliveira||Raúl Fernández|
Tranche 1: Fabio, Aleix, Zarco and Bagnaia
Tranche 2: Bastianini, B. Binder, Miller, Bezzecchi, Viñales
Tranche 3: Rins, Martin, Oliveira, Mir, P Espargaro
Tranche 4: A. Marquez, Morbidelli, FDG, Marini, Nakagami
Tranche 5: Fernandez, Gardner, Dovizioso, D. Binder
Suddenly, in 2022, Americans have a reason to watch motorcycle racing. Rampantly nationalistic Yanks have a choice of fast young riders to pull for. One (Joe Roberts) is a race winner, another (Cam Beaubier) is a terrible qualifier but top 5 contender, and the third (Sean Dylan Kelly) is a MotoAmerica champ and Moto2 rookie. (Thanks to Troy for writing that last sentence for me.)
I look forward to getting nit-picked by you, the diligent reader. It’s the best part of my day. Guys going all technical, facts and figures, historical performances, rider vs bike implications, tires, always the tires, etc. I say just SWAG it, and it’ll be close enough for the internet. Let’s take a quick look at Moto2.
|Moto2 Year to Date Top 6 Standings|
This is a beautiful thing, three riders separated by one point. This fact alone will make the races more interesting. Every time one of the three engages another in the curvy parts could have a big impact on the championship. The whole ‘crashing out’ calculus could not be more true than in Moto2. Should disaster strike, suddenly tough guy Aron Canet could find himself in the picture.
From here it appears only one rider will graduate from Moto2 to the premier class next season, the (next) next great Japanese hope, Ai Ogura. The three-way at the top is totally dope, so rare compared to those years in which one rider runs away and hides from the field and the announcers spend their entire broadcasts trying to get us to care who finishes third. That’s why Americans scorn this type of racing. For many, you either win the race or you don’t. Anyway, is there anyone out there dumb enough to try to predict the 2022 winner in Moto2? Not me.
|Moto3 Year to Date Top 6 Standings|
Over in Moto3, the GasGas duo of Garcia and Guevara is, once again, putting a thorough Teutonic beatdown on the grid, same as Gardner and Fernandez did last year in Moto2. I fully believe Guevara is a future Alien and perhaps the most impressive of the impressive crop of young riders passing through the intermediate classes in the past 3-4 years. Young Izan should continue this trend, as it appears both he and teammate Garcia will graduate into Moto2 for 2023.
With the exception of 2015 (when Marquez’ bike was so bad he reverted to the 2014 model in mid-season and almost caught Lorenzo, who, in turn, edged Valentino Rossi), I can’t remember the last time it was this difficult to project a premier class winner in 2022. Surely, you say, Fabio is the defending champion and heir apparent to the diminished Marquez. But Quartararo, in order to win on one of the weakest bikes on the grid, simply has no room for error between now and November. I don’t think he can do it. I don’t think he can ride flawlessly with the sheer number of fast bikes and fast riders out there every weekend. It’s asking too much, a bridge too far, one which, in the unlikely event he were to repeat in 2022, would represent perhaps the finest season a rider has had in decades.
Aleix is the sentimental favorite; I wish I had put $100 on him before the season. Pecco Bagnaia is quickly earning several nicknames – underachiever, WinorBin, #cantstandsuccess. He is probably the quickest rider on the grid on the best bike on the grid. He should not have to ride on the limit all day to win races. But there are the 4 DNFs. I wouldn’t want my money on him. I’d be much happier losing my money betting on Espargaro than on Bagnaia.
What about Zarco, Bastianini, and Brad Binder? It would be fun to see EBas catch fire again in the second half; dude has a bright future in this game. Zarco and Aleix are getting a little long in the tooth. Brad Binder needs a better motorcycle underneath him if he wants to compete for a title, although he is the second coming of Cal Crutchlow, a hulking mini-brute fully capable of tossing million-dollar motorcycles around in the pursuit of wealth and fame.
Finally, for those of you who can’t sleep at night not knowing who I’m picking for the 2022 titles:
MotoGP: Aleix Espargaro
Moto2: Augusto Fernandez
Moto3: Izan Guevara
So, here we are. Finland has been canceled, once again, and the promoters have filed for bankruptcy. The back nine of the 2022 season features Silverstone, Red Bull Ring, Misano, and Aragon. Then comes the dreaded Pacific Swing, different this year but draining nonetheless. Aside from having to work in the autoclaves that Thailand and Malaysia are, Dorna ensures that, in almost all years, in almost all classes, the championships in all three classes are decided half a world away in the middle of the night. OK, so there are parts of the world where fans don’t really mind these conditions. But, for fans in the Western world, having to watch title-determining races on tape delay just doesn’t get it.
And, despite the incessant complaining from riders, crew chiefs, CEOs of the participating companies and etc., each year track records are falling with regularity. Everyone bitches and moans about tires, about what a two-bit operation Michelin is, but it seems there are fewer on-track incidents due to tire wear than in most years. Back in the day it was the universal “control ECU” that was going to ruin the sport. Next year I hope they ban winglets altogether.
Despite the fact that MotoGP is, broadly speaking, a parlor game for millionaires, it is still the best racing action on earth. It’s on two wheels, see, and the comparable speeds F1 would need, in order to be comparable, would be around 400 mph. I’ll stick with motorcycles, and look forward to hearing from you while we wait for Silverstone to roll around.
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