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JO­HANN ZARCO Be­fore last sea­son, Zarco hadn’t won a race in Moto2, yet the French­man dom­i­nated. For eight suc­ces­sive races be­tween Mugello and Misano, he didn’t fin­ish out­side the top two, and even­tu­ally took eight wins to clinch the crown with three races re­main­ing. He’s des­per­ate to be the first rider in his­tory to suc­cess­fully de­fend the Moto2 ti­tle.

ALEX RINS So cool and calm he’s got ice run­ning in his veins. A win­ner in In­di­anapo­lis and Phillip Is­land, he eas­ily won the best rookie award and is many peo­ple’s over­whelm­ing pre-sea­son favourite. Only dis­trac­tion could be all the talk of his Mo­togp switch in 2017, with ev­ery fac­tory chas­ing his sig­na­ture.

THOMAS LUTHI The Swiss rider has never fin­ished lower than sixth in the Moto2 world cham­pi­onship since its in­cep­tion in 2010. Yet he’s never fin­ished higher than fourth over­all. And there lies the prob­lem with Luthi. He’s fast and on his day un­beat­able, but not enough top six fin­ishes get con­verted into podi­ums to worry the top men.

LORENZO BAL­DAS­SARRI One of the most promis­ing of an ex­cit­ing crop of young tal­ent run by Valentino Rossi’s VR46 Academy, Bal­das­sarri scored a maiden podium in Phillip Is­land and fin­ished in­side the top five in the last two races. Un­der Rossi’s guid­ance and with more ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­pect a reg­u­lar podium chal­lenge

JONAS FOL­GER Fol­ger looked like a po­ten­tial world­beater at the start of last sea­son when he won two of the open­ing four races. But the Ger­man went AWOL in the cru­cial sum­mer phase of the cham­pi­onship be­fore a late rally saw him back on the podium in Ja­pan and Malaysia. If he can be more con­sis­tent, then he’s a def­i­nite dark horse.

FRANCO MOR­BIDELLI A late starter be­fore be­ing taken un­der Rossi’s wing. A promis­ing 2015 was ru­ined by a dou­ble leg break sus­tained while mo­tocross train­ing with the boss and, while he has the pace and hunger, this sea­son might be one too early for a se­ri­ous ti­tle chal­lenge.

‘You have to make sure you don’t stress the front’

“With the Bridge­stones I could brake re­ally late and find the lap time there, so now I have to change my style. It’s all very dif­fer­ent, es­pe­cially mid­corner. I must find a new way to ride the bike, but even more im­por­tant than rid­ing the bike is find­ing the limit.

“Most of the front crashes hap­pen when you’re on the gas, try­ing to trans­fer load to the rear, be­cause when you open the throt­tle mid-

im­prove­ment, but not enough to save a front slide. When the Bridge­stone front tucked it was usu­ally pos­si­ble to save the slide, so it was quite dif­fi­cult to crash. In Malaysia I had a front slide and the tyre stayed tucked for a long time, but al­though I al­most saved the crash, the tyre didn’t come back, so I did crash. Any­way, the times speak for them­selves. Miche­lin has done a great job, be­cause now the feel­ing is closer to what we had last year. Now I feel very com­fort­able and fast.”

‘The se­cret to this year’s Mo­togp ti­tle may be brains over brawn’

“Rear-tyre slides are a lot eas­ier to save than front-end slides, which means that the se­cret to this year’s cham­pi­onship may be cau­tion, or brains over brawn. Miche­lin’s front has less cor­ner-en­try grip than the Bridge­stone, so rid­ers are go­ing to have tread more care­fully.

“Of course, all this may change as the year goes on. Miche­lin have been out of Mo­togp for seven sea­sons – an aeon in rac­ing terms – so they are play­ing catch-up: catch-up to the bikes and catch-up to the rid­ers. They’ve al­ready made big steps and no doubt that will con­tinue.

“That is good news, but when tyre char­ac­ter keeps chang­ing – es­pe­cially front-tyre char­ac­ter – rid­ers will have to keep adapt­ing their rid­ing tech­niques and their race strate­gies, and it’s very tricky chang­ing the way you use the front tyre.”

5Con­ces­sions

Suzuki and Aprilia qual­ify for con­ces­sions based on the fact that they have not had a dry win since 2013 or didn’t achieve six ‘con­ces­sion points’ last year. Con­ces­sion points are based on podium po­si­tions. Suzuki and Aprilia could lose their con­ces­sions based on their on-track suc­cess in wet or dry races. If one of their rid­ers wins a race, they get three con­ces­sion points. A se­cond place scores two con­ces­sion points, and third on the podium scores one point. If Suzuki and Aprilia ac­crue six con­ces­sion points dur­ing the 2016 sea­son then they be­gin to sur­ren­der some con­ces­sions. If they ac­crue six con­ces­sion points then they im­me­di­ately lose the op­tion of un­lim­ited test­ing. Their an­nual en­gine al­lo­ca­tion will be re­duced from nine to seven en­gines and they will also lose in-sea­son en­gine de­vel­op­ment for next sea­son. It seems in­con­ceiv­able, but if Yamaha, Honda or Du­cati failed to score a podium in 2016, they will be able to use the con­ces­sions in 2017.

10Test­ing

On top of the of­fi­cial Mo­togp tests, Honda, Yamaha and Du­cati can only test for five ad­di­tional days with their of­fi­cially con­tracted rid­ers on any track. As part of their con­ces­sions, Suzuki and Aprilia are free to test on any track when they want, but ma­chine de­vel­op­ment is lim­ited by a test tyre al­lo­ca­tion. Each rider is lim­ited to us­ing 120 tyres for test­ing dur­ing the sea­son.

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