Author: Matt Roberts Posted: 25 Jan 2014
With pre-season testing just over a week away, former BBC MotoGP commentator, Matt Roberts puts pen to paper about his predictions for the 2014 season. You can view part 1, here.
35. CAL CRUTCHLOW - BRITISH - DUCATI TEAM – DUCATI
The biggest move of the 2014 preseason sees Cal Crutchlow swap the green and black of the Monster Tech3 Yamaha team for the blood red of Ducati, a move still being questioned by fans in some quarters. Why swap a bike with podium potential for one that is struggling to make the top six? The reasons are multiple but at the base of it all is that at Yamaha he had zero chance of fighting for the championship, whilst at Ducati there is a chance, albeit a very slim one. The MotoGP community is waiting with baited breath to see what the Italian factory rolls out at Sepang, nobody more so than Cal. The year of true reckoning, though, will be in 2015.
38. BRADLEY SMITH - BRITISH - MONSTER YAMAHA TECH 3 - YAMAHA
Looking to build on a solid if unspectacular rookie season, Bradley gave a glimpse of what he is capable of when he really goes on the attack at the Valencia test in November. Fuelled by the arrival into the team of Moto2 World Champion and Yamaha's next 'chosen one' Pol Espargaro, Brad scorched to the second fastest time behind Marc Marquez in the post-season shakedown. Smith did his job perfectly in the shadow of Crutchlow last year but now is his time to step into the spotlight. Top six finishes would be great but a podium finish must be his target.
44. POL ESPARGARO - SPANISH - MONSTER YAMAHA TECH 3 - YAMAHA
Yamaha's search for a long-term Marc Marquez antidote has led them to Pol Espargaro, another young Spanish rider who has shown the speed to match his compatriot on various occasions during their battles together in the smaller classes. Espargaro seemed a little lost at the start of 2013 without Marquez as a benchmark but found his form in the second half of the year to eventually reel in the injured Scott Redding with five straight podiums including three wins. Motivation should not be a problem this year as he moves into the Monster Yamaha Tech3 squad with one eye on promotion to the factory team in 2015. Has the talent to push for the podium in his rookie season.
41. ALEIX ESPARGARO - SPANISH - NGM MOBILE FORWARD RACING - FTR YAMAHA
Pol's elder brother is still only 24 years of age but after taking a less privileged route to the premier-class he has established himself as one of the most reliable riders on the grid. After claiming the CRT 'title' for the past two seasons, comprehensively beating his team-mate Randy de Puniet on the ART, Aleix took something of a gamble in paying his way out of his Aspar Team contract and it looked to have backfired when they secured Honda machinery just days later. However, the FTR Yamaha looks like a strong package and with a nice combination of youth and experience on his side, the elder Espargaro can look forward to being a frontrunner again in the 'Open' category and hopefully getting involved in a few battles with his kid brother.
45. SCOTT REDDING - BRITISH GO&FUN HONDA GRESINI HONDA
In my opinion the most exciting British talent of his generation, Scott Redding has a golden opportunity this season to put himself in pole position for a factory Honda in 2015. The experience and professionalism of the Gresini Honda team means he has the perfect environment in which to grow, although hopefully not upwards because at just over six foot he is already the second tallest rider on the grid, marginally behind Leon Camier. Scott's size was his biggest issue in Moto2 and it could still be a problem in MotoGP, although the extra fuel allowance for the 'Open' class bike should help. Scott is still not yet 100% fit after his wrist injury so his progress will be gradual but if he can be competing to be the top 'Open' Honda in races towards the back end of the year it will have been a good rookie season.
46. VALENTINO ROSSI - ITALIAN - YAMAHA FACTORY RACING YAMAHA
Valentino's fifteenth and, I fear, final season in the premier-class of MotoGP. Whilst still a fearsome and competitive racer with the ability to finish on the podium, at 35 years of age Rossi simply does not possess the tools to compete consistently with the new generation for race victories. He hasn't done so, in fact, since 2009 but Valentino has kept a brave face and last year convinced himself, and his fans, that a return to Yamaha was what he needed. Despite a welcome return to the top step at Assen the familiarity of the M1 wasn't quite enough to revive the glory days, leading to one desperate last-ditch move: sack Jerry Burgess. This will not work either and I have a feeling that when it doesn't, Valentino will finally be forced to accept defeat. A true champion and a legend of MotoGP without doubt, but sadly no longer a title contender.
63. MIKE DI MEGLIO - FRENCH - AVINTIA BLUSENS - FTR
A 125cc World Champion back in 2008, Mike di Meglio has pedigree but lost his way in the Moto2 class. Has been handed a MotoGP lifeline by the Avintia Blusens team, no doubt helped in no small part by Dorna and the French Grand Prix organisers, as the only French rider on the full-time entry list. Will need time to adapt to the bigger bike and faces a huge challenge to do so whilst developing the machine and keeping pace with his more experienced team-mate Hector Barbera.
68. YONNY HERNANDEZ - COLOMBIAN - PRAMAC RACING - DUCATI
The first ever Colombian to score points in the premier-class of MotoGP, Yonny has earned plenty of plaudits over the past two seasons for his spectacular riding style and some standout results, especially in his rookie season on the FTR. Struggled to make an impact on the Paul Bird ART in 2013 but Pramac Racing had seen enough to give him a chance as Ben Spies' replacement in the final third of the season. Made constant progress to earn himself a full-time ride for 2014 and it will be very interesting to see how he fares on the 'Open' Ducati, which should suit his size and style.
69. NICKY HAYDEN - USA - POWER ELECTRONICS ASPAR - HONDA
A five-year spell in the Ducati wilderness may have boosted Nicky's bank account but it has done nothing for the confidence or legacy of a World Champion. Still, he has never stopped fighting – or smiling – and a return to Honda should hopefully bring some of the enjoyment back to his work. The Aspar Team is a professional and ambitious outfit with strong backing and he should fit in well there. Nicky, who turns 34 in July, still has great talent, experience and determination and will be the benchmark by which the other 'Open' Honda riders will look to measure themselves when testing starts at Sepang.
70. MICHAEL LAVERTY - BRITISH - PAUL BIRD MOTORSPORT - PBM
Even after a year of development the PBM machine still has relatively very few kilometres on it and this year promises to be an even bigger struggle against the superior ARTs and the other 'Open' class bikes. After a thankless rookie season Michael will be up against it again in 2014, although he will at least have the support of a team-mate on the same machine. Another long year of 'development' beckons.
93. MARC MARQUEZ - SPANISH - REPSOL HONDA TEAM – HONDA
How do you follow up a record-breaking rookie season like Marquez's in 2013? On his day there is nothing to match the raw speed of the young Spaniard on the factory Honda but his greatest strength - fearless aggression – also has be the potential to be his greatest downfall. Consistency is the key to winning a championship and Marquez knows he was lucky that the mistakes he made last season did not cost him more points. It is a weakness that Lorenzo will be ready to pounce on, given the opportunity.
99. JORGE LORENZO - SPANISH - YAMAHA FACTORY RACING - YAMAHA
Pound for pound still the most complete rider on the grid. Jorge Lorenzo was forced to ride at new levels last season and showed that he still has the potential to improve at the age of 26, whilst using his vast experience and guile to take the title fight right down to the wire at Valencia. I don't think Jorge needs to do much more than he did last year, he can only hope for a little more luck with injuries and a little more help from Yamaha. The factory know they must come up with something quickly, otherwise they will lose him in 2015, so a competitive package from the Sepang test onwards will be vital.
Matt's predictions for the 2014 championship
1. J. Lorenzo
2. M. Marquez
3. D. Pedrosa
4. V. Rossi
5. S. Bradl
6. A. Bautista
7. C. Crutchlow
8. A. Dovizioso
9. P. Espargaro
10. B. Smith
Have a look back at Part 1 of Matt's MotoGP thoughts here.
Do you agree with Matt? or and leave a comment!