It’s only a matter of days before the second half of the season gets underway but, before the glorious sound of engines fills our ears once more, we take a look at who are my top and bottom three riders of the season so far.
The summer break has come to an end, batteries are fully recharged and riders have rediscovered this marvellous invention called a ‘t-shirt’, I have a look at the riders I believe have performed best and those that need to up their game.
Aron Canet – Canet started the season off strong with a second place finish in both Qatar and Argentina and he looked set to be Jorge Martin’s major rival for the year but, things don’t always go to plan. Canet controversially avoided a penalty after his ‘red mist’ incident in Argentina with Makar Yurkencho which saw him knock the Kazakhstani rookie off into the gravel. Two races later, Canet was handed hefty penalty after wiping out his championship rival Martin as well as Enea Bastianini and Tony Arbolino, both requiring medical attention. His last podium appearance was a second-place finish in Assen behind Martin.
Now, looking at Canet’s position in the standings, you’d be right to think that my decision to put him in my ‘bottom three’ is a bit mad but hear me out. Comparing his results so far this season to this time last season, it’s obvious that something is missing. Plus, his riding has surpassed the ‘risky’ stage and entered outright dangerous on occasion, an area that shouldn’t be ventured. He is skilful and fantastic to watch but, if he doesn’t control his anger, he is heading for a nasty bump back to Earth.
2017: Two poles. Two wins. One second-place finish. Zero DNFs.
2018: Zero poles. Three second-place finishes. Two DNFs.
Nicolò Bulega – There is no denying that it’s been a shambolic season for Bulega. The Italian has barely finished a race this year with a mighty five DNFs in the first half of the season alone. His best race finish has been a mire 11th place and he only managed a visit to Parc Ferme with third in qualifying in Assen, a position that he held onto for less than two seconds during the race after an exceptionally poor start. If you compare his performance last year to this year then it’s blindingly obvious that he is uncomfortable and struggling with pace.
However, it’s definitely not all down to rider error. At an incredible 181cm (and still growing), Bulega is the tallest rider on the Moto3 grid which causes many a problem for the Italian. The added height means his KTM machine looks far more like a mini moto underneath him rather than a Moto3 machine. The young Italian would be far better suited to the likes of a Moto2 machine due to this size and weight.
2017: Six top 10s. Two seconds and two third-places in qualifying.
2018: Zero top 10s. One third place in qualifying. Five DNFs.
John McPhee – ‘Disappointing’ would be a mild way of describing McPhee’s current season. If you took a look at the championship standings, you wouldn’t believe the Scotsman was midway through his sixth season in Moto3 as he sits behind rookie Jaume Masia. The results make uncomfortable reading for many a fan of the likeable Scotsman, especially when compared to his results at this point last year. McPhee has only managed to score one third-place position and one other top 10 finish this season, failing to finish in three races compared to his two second-place finishes and one third at this point last season.
The Scottish rider can’t be held solely responsible for his poor performance though. Between his KTM machine being ridden to its absolute limit to being without his crew chief in Germany, McPhee utilises his skill and resources to get the most out of every race but, unfortunately, it isn’t always the outcome he wants or often deserves. With a bit more understanding of the limitations of the bike and tinkering with set up, McPhee should be able to show his full potential.
2017: Two top tens. Two seconds and one third-place finish. Two DNFs. Two pole positions.
2018: One top ten. One third-place finish. Three DNFs. One third place in qualifying.
Gabriel Rodrigo – Consistency is key or it seems to be the case for Rodrigo. The Argentinian rider has improved year on year by, not only, maintaining top 10 finishes but also scoring a podium in Barcelona.
2018 marks his fourth full-time season in Moto3 and a quick look at his previous standings and results will show you exactly how far he has come. In 2015, Rodrigo struggled to finish a race, clocking up seven DNFs and zero top 10 finishes with 16th being the best the Argentinian could manage, ending the season with only seven points to his name. His performances only improved from that point:
End of 2016: Two top 10 finishes. Eight DNFs. 31 points. 24th in the standings.
End of 2017: Four top 10 finishes. Seven DNFs. 54 points. 16th in the standings.
Summer break 2018: One third-place podium finish. Five top 10 finishes. Two DNFs. 65 points. Sixth in the standings.
Not only have Rodrigo moved up 10 places in the championship standings from the end of last season but he is already 11 points ahead of his end of year result and there are still 10 races left to go. In my opinion, Rodrigo is an underrated talent on the grid who just needed that little bit more time to mature and understand the bike. He is the second highest scoring KTM on the grid so he should certainly not be written off.
Marco Bezzecchi – If you were to look at last year’s results compared to this year, you wouldn’t think the same person was riding under the name ‘Marco Bezzecchi’.
In 2017, his debut Moto3 year, Bezzecchi scored one third-place podium and zero top 10s. His second best result was 14th and he had four DNFs on his record. That year, he ended the season in 23rd with only 20 points. His results weren’t all down to his performance, his Mahindra machine did not suit him or his style which dramatically hindered his abilities.
End of 2017: One third-place podium finish. Four DNFs. 20 points. 23rd in standings at the end of the year.
Summer break 2018: One win. Four second-places and one third-place finish. Two DNFs. 123 points. Currently second in the standings.
Don’t let last year’s bike troubles distract you from the exceptional performance Bezzecchi has been putting in this year. Not only has he almost knocked Canet out of the running in the world championship fight but he’s also been hot on the heels of Martin the entire year and shown exactly why Valentino Rossi picked him for his VR46 academy. A 21 place improvement in such a short space of time is absolutely mindblowing and his talent should be celebrated. Bezzecchi is a formidable force to be reckoned with and I look forward to even more Martin/Bezzecchi battles and podiums as the season goes on.
Jorge Martin – With a nickname like ‘the Pole Man’, Martin was always going to be in my top three because who else can deliver a qualifying performance quite like him? No one. With 15 pole positions to his name within the last two years, there is no questioning his pace and talent. Martin’s four seasons in Moto3 haven’t always been plain sailing but he has improved every season and his talent has only grown with it.
Martin finished 17th in the standings in his rookie year in 2015 with 45 points. His 2016 year was only marginally better as he finished in 16th with 72 points but scoring his career first podium with a second-place finish.
End of 2015: Two top 10s. Three DNFs. 45 points. 17th in standings.
End of 2016: One second-place podium finish. Six top 10 finishes. One second place qualifying. Six DNFs. 72 points. 16th in standings.
End of 2017: One win. Six second-place and two third-place finishes. Nine pole positions. One second-place and one third-place qualifying. Two DNFs. 196 points. Fourth in standings.
Summer break 2018: Five wins. Six poles and two second-place qualifying. Three DNFs. 130 points. First in the standings.
Martin was another rider, much like Bezzecchi, to majorly benefit from a Mahindra to Honda bike swap. He gained an incredible 12 places in the championship between 2016 and 2017 but the swap was exactly what was needed to show his true potential. It will be very interesting to see what Martin can deliver on a Moto2 machine next year as he has delivered some exceptional performances in the past few years, it’s only natural that his talent will continue to grow.
Special shout out:
Jaume Masia – This is the Spaniard’s first full season in Moto3 and he is currently sitting in 13th ahead of riders who have been on the grid for years. Masia has scored four top 10 finishes this season including a fourth position in Assen. He has fought tooth and nail to make up as many positions as he can and use the mistakes of other riders to his advantage. He may only be young and still have a lot of learning and growing to do but, so far, I have been thoroughly impressed.
With 10 races left, it can all change in the blink of an eye and everyone is hungry for that win.
Will Martin hold onto his championship lead? Can Bezzecchi make a comeback? And have we prematurely ruled Canet out?
Next stop, Brno.