New Challenges

Challenges

New challenges

Winning three world champion titles in the last four years in the premier-class category, Marc Marquez looks like the boss in this season's MotoGP championship. Since his debut in the category, however, the Spaniard has never had the same results in two seasons running. In 2013, the brand-new Moto2 World Champion created the surprise by winning the MotoGP title as of his first appearance in the category. Kenny Roberts was the last rider to have done so, thirty-five years ago. In 2014, Mark took the championship title outright by winning the first ten Grands Prix in a row. 

A feat unprecedented in MotoGP. The following year, behind the handlebars of a more capricious motorcycle, the Honda rider made several mistakes that cost him dearly and he had to hand the crown over to Lorenzo. Learning from his mistakes, Marc had a superb season in 2016, taking the points when he needed to and winning whenever he could. His opponents' mistakes did the rest. This year, the Honda factory rider says he wants to maintain that momentum without over-doing it as he has done in the past. 

To do so, he'll need to avoid responding to the provocations of Maverick Viñales who's arrived at Yamaha this season to take over from Jorge Lorenzo. Valentino Rossi's new team-mate made a strong impression during the winter tests, and he's one of the riders the contenders for the world champion title will certainly need to reckon with. Now riding for Ducati, Jorge Lorenzo will definitely find it harder to keep up with his compatriots all along the championship. Four new riders from Moto2 have joined the MotoGP category this year: Johan Zarco, Álex Rins, Sam Lowes and Jonas Folger. On the manufacturer side, KTM have joined the dance in the premier-class category with a tandem consisting of Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith.

With the transition to MotoGP of four of the top seven riders in the 2016 Moto2 world championship, Thomas Lüthi could be seen as the clear favourite to take over from Johann Zarco. Aged 30, having raced in the intermediate Grand Prix category since 2007, the Swiss rider is the candidate with the greatest experience. He also had a great end to the 2016 season, pipping Álex Rins at the post to clinch second place in the championship. Lüthi will be wary of a certain Franco Morbidelli, considered by many - and notably by Johann Zarco - as an excellent candidate for the world champion title. Although he's still chasing his first win in Grand Prix, the Italian passed a milestone last year with the Marc VDS team. He made it to one after another podium and finished in the overall standings only one point behind Álex Rins. Other riders may reach a turning point this season. They include Takaaki Nagakami, in search of regularity, but also Lorenzo Baldassari, another promising rider from the VR46 Academy, and Alex Marquez, Franco Morbidelli's teammate.

Like the Moto2 class, this season the Moto3 class has plenty of new blood. Having outclassed his opponents in 2016, Brad Binder has left his throne empty to pursue his career in the Grand Prix intermediate class. Third and fourth overall, Jorge Navarro and Francesco Bagnaia are doing the same, as are Andrea Locatelli, Fabio Quartararo and Khairul Idham Pawi. On paper, Enea Bastianini obviously seems best placed to succeed the South African world champion. Vice World Champion title, he made it six times to the podium last year. Honda will also be betting on Fabio Di Gianntonio, Romano Fenati and Aron Canet. On the KTM side, Bo Bendsneyder, Nicolo Bulega will be the headliners. At Peugeot, that role will be given to Jakub Kornfeil.