With the 2015 season of MotoGP rushing closer, it is already shaping up to be an extremely exciting season. The pack has been shuffled properly due to both rider and team changes taking place, ensuring exciting prospects for the season’s racing. Talented rookies as well as a few welcome returns are sure to make the battle for the title that much tougher on the top teams.
Two new teams have been confirmed for the season. While Aprilia has been back in MotoGP since 2012, this season will see the return of a factory team from the marque, namely Factory Aprilia Gresini. The Aprilia Gresini team has confirmed their two riders, the first being Alvaro Bautista, who remains with the Gresini through its partnership with Factory Aprilia. The second rider, Marco Melandri, marks his return to MotoGP after a short and fruitful stint in the WSBK series between 2011 to 2014.
The return of a factory Suzuki team to the sport will allow for stiffer competition throughout the standings. They will participate under the name Team Suzuki MotoGP. This return follows an absence of Suzuki from the sport since 2009. With both riders being Spanish, Suzuki is copying the recipe of title holder Repsol Honda. The first rider, Aleix Espargaro, is moving up to a factory bike after his previous ride on the open class NGM Forward Racing Yamaha. Espargaro is partnered by Maverick Vinales, who was promoted after finishing third in the 2014 Moto2 championship.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, is Australian rider Jack Miller, the current Moto3 champion. At the tender age of twenty, he is the first rider who will skip the Moto2 class entirely and enter into premier class MotoGP. Miller has been signed to the open class specification LCR Honda team, and is therefore partnered with Cal Crutchlow, who has moved after just one season on the Factory Ducati, now riding the factory specification LCR Honda.
Jack Miller testing his LCR Honda at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
Other noteworthy changes include Andrea Ianonne replacing Cal Crutchlow on the Ducati team, with his place on the Pramac Racing Ducati being filled by Danilo Petrucci. Loris Baz and Eugene Laverty have also joined MotoGP, following Marco Melandri’s example and steering away from WSBK. Baz left the Factory Kawasaki WSBK team to start his first MotoGP season, riding alongside Stefan Bradl on the NGM Forward Racing Yamaha. Eugene Laverty also starts his first MotoGP season, although having ridden the 250cc championship in 2008, and joins Nicky Hayden on the Drive M7 Aspar team Honda.
As for the racing season, Yamaha Factory rider Jorge Lorenzo still reckons that the reigning MotoGP champion, Marc Marquez, is the favourite for the title. The statistics would agree with Lorenzo, as Marquez, on his Repsol Honda, has broken many established records in two seasons. He was the youngest rider to win his MotoGP rookie season, as well as the first Spaniard to win back to back titles in the sport.
However, with the return of Aprilia and Suzuki in full factory outfit, Marquez may face a greater challenge than many expect. All the while, the Yamaha team with Jorge Lorenzo and the legendary Valentino Rossi remain as quick and threatening as ever. With the season starting on the 29th of March at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, it is shaping up to be a much tougher fight for the title than the 2014 domination of Honda and Marc Marquez.
2015 MotoGP Calendar
Grand Prix of Qatar
Circuit of the Americas
Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo
Circuito de Jerez
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
TT Circuit Assen
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
Twin Ring Motegi
Phillip Island GP Circuit
Sepang International Circuit
Circuit Ricardo Tormo, Valencia
2014 Champion, Marc Marquez, gets low at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
Report by Uzair Abdul-Karrim
Photos: Red Bull Content Pool