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Moto2: Qatar Preview: An Intermediate class question mark looms


Moto2 in 2018 excites me a lot, with last year’s rookies looking to become championship contenders and this year’s rookies looking to challenge for podiums. With the top two of the 2017 championship moving into premier class Grand Prix, a new champion in the intermediate class is guaranteed but who are the favourites and who could start the season off in style at Losail?

Miguel Oliveira shocked everyone at the end of last year with three consecutive wins at Phillip Island, Sepang and Valencia. The Portuguese and his Red Bull KTM are the pre-season favourites and they really could get off the mark under floodlights. Oliveira was fourth in the race last year and with the three ahead of him moving up to MotoGP for 2018, Oliveira is odds on for success in large capacity.

Out to stop the Portuguese is Alex Marquez, who had his best Moto2 season to-date in 2017. Three wins and three other podiums were the highlights of Marquez’ season, although inconsistency proved his biggest problem. Marquez was fifth last year at Losail and will be looking to get on the podium at the very least.

Pecco Bagnaia has nothing to lose in 2018, as he is already confirmed as a MotoGP rider in 2019 and 2020. The charismatic Italian came close to victory last season and achieved four podiums, whilst finishing all but two races in the points. Bagnaia was 12th at Losail last year but has been outside the top 10 just twice since the Catalan GP last year. Can he continued his point-scoring run to 13 races?

Mattia Pasini was the joy of the entire season in 2017, winning at Mugello, setting four consecutive pole positions and taking two other podiums. The lunatic Italian was a bit of a crasher however, with only his inconsistency and over-exuberance costing him a decent shot at the title. Pasini hasn’t scored points in Losail since he was 6th in 2010 but he won the 2008 250cc race. He may well be a dark horse, both for Qatar GP victory and the title.

Brad Binder showed flashes of brilliance last season but he became a real threat towards the end of the year. The South African, with a year under his belt and no injuries coming into 2018, will look to become the first South African race winner in the intermediate class since Kork Ballington in 1980 at the Nurburgring. Surely Binder will deliver?

Sam Lowes returns to a class of which he could become the first rider in the history of Moto2 to win on three different manufacturers. He could become the first British rider in the entire history of the intermediate class to do so too. Eyes will be on Lowes, as he must deliver in 2018 and be a regular podium threat and likewise be a championship contender. On the KTM for the first time, Lowes will want to hit the ground running from round one.

Other honourable mentions go to Xavi Vierge and Dominique Aegerter, both of whom will look to shine again. Stefano Manzi was much more prominent in the second half of 2017 and he moves to the race winning Forward Racing outfit, whilst they change to Suter machinery.

Isaac Vinales and Marcel Shrotter will both want to climb onto to the podium at some point in the season, after both were consistent midfield runners last year. On his day, Simone Corsi is always one to watch and he will feature at some rounds too.

Lorenzo Baldassarri has looked good in testing too, with the Italian looking to become a championship dark horse on the Pons Racing Kalex. Jorge Navarro will also look to return himself and Gresini Racing to winning ways, as he enters his second season of Moto2.

Besides Lowes, there are some new faces in Moto2 in 2018. Some riders have returned and some are stepping up.

Federico Fuligni joins Manzi at Forward for his first full time season, whilst Bo Bendsneyder is partnered with Remy Gardner at Tech 3. Joan Mir, Romano Fenati and Jules Danilo all move up to Moto2 as rookies in 2018, with Mir replacing Morbidelli at Marc VDS. Zulfahmi Khairuddin is one of two Malaysian riders on the grid as he returns to GP racing, although he makes his debut in the intermediate category.

Steven Odendaal returns to Moto2, having wrapped up the 2016 CEV championship, with him partnering American Joe Roberts. Héctor Barberá returns to the intermediate class and looks to join a select group of riders who have won a 125cc race, 250cc race and Moto2 race. After 2017’s controversial season, Danny Kent has a full time ride at Speed Up, alongside former Moto3 sparring partner, Fabio Quartararo. Eric Granado is the only Brazilian in the paddock and will look to become the first Brazilian to score points in the intermediate class since Alex Barros at the 1989 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Other riders who we haven’t yet mentioned are Khairul Idham Pawi, who has the Idemitsu Kalex Team Asia Kalex bike, alongside Tetsuta Nagashima. Italian Andrea Locatelli is yet again at Italtrans alongside Pasini, as he sets his target on becoming a more prominent figure inside the top 10 more regularly in 2018

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