2018 has been a vintage year in the intermediate class, with an extremely close championship battle, rookie riders outshining more experienced team mates, and 3 different chassis’ making an appearance on the top step.
So, whats changed? Nothing has fundamentally been changed, its still Kalex vs KTM at the top, with the Speed Up working in certain places and the Suter lagging behind yet again. The tracks are the same, the chassis’ have the strengths and weaknesses they always have, so that leaves one variable – the riders.
It is clear that Pecco Bagnaia and Miguel Oliviera are the two strongest riders in the field, and both have gotten their rewards by earning promotions to the top tier for 2019, along with the impressive Joan Mir and the race winning Fabio Quartararo, but they were both here last year and were powerless to prevent Franky Morbidelli running away with the title. We knew from the off in 2017 that it was Morbidelli’s to lose, and he proved that by comfortably taking the wins and the title, and with that it became stale and predictable. People saw Moto2 as a sideshow, after watching the usual frantic madness that was Moto3 getting the Moto2 as a follow up was usually just classified as a ‘distraction’, where you were waiting for the MotoGP class and watched it because it was there, rather than having real interest.
It has seemed that apart from 2011, where Stefan Bradl had to fight extremely hard to take Kalex’s first title, that Moto2 has always had runaway winners. Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro, Tito Rabat, Johann Zarco and Morbidelli all now ride in the top class, with the other two champions Bradl and Toni Elias also getting themselves up to the upper echelons at some point after taking a title. The smallest margin was Bradl, and that was 23 points, and at the other end of the scale the biggest was Zarco’s first title in 2015, by a massive 118 points. It doesn’t seem to be going that way this year, with the gap remaining in the single digits for much of the season pre-Aragon, although it was a full 25 points after Le Mans. Is it due to the Kalex and the KTM being closer this year? Or are Bagnaia and Oliviera that closely matched as riders?
So, onto the point. Why has Moto2 become a class that everyone now wants to watch?
Simply, we just do not know who is going to win from one round to the next, which has NEVER happened in Moto2. You have to adjust your strategy to the track, if your Kalex is eating the tyres more than the KTM (which it does) then you cannot push in the initial laps. But on the other hand, if you cannot set up your KTM to pull your qualifying lap out of the bag and you start outside the top 10 (yes I’m looking at most of you KTM riders) then you allow the Kalex to get an advantage before you’ve even woken up and had your weetabix on Sunday. And then you have the enigma of Quartararo on the Speed Up, with him taking a win at Barcelona and a podium at Assen, which took valuable points away from the boys fighting for the main event while managing to also remain largely anonymous in the context of the title race. The Red Bull Ring was an absolute classic, a straight dice between the two class riders of the field, with Bagnaia taking the win. But it was the manner of the race that caught the eye, neither rider could escape the other and it took a last lap last corner pass to decide the outcome of the top step, which doesn’t normally happen in Moto2. Mugello, Argentina and COTA were also brilliant races, keeping you interested until the flag.
The second reason is the fact that we have had maiden wins, maiden podiums and maiden pole positions this season, which hasn’t happened in a very long time in the middle class either. Bagnaia, Baldassarri, Binder and Quartararo have all taken their first wins, add to that we’ve had first podiums for Mir, Schrotter, Vierge and Marini and it suddenly looks extremely healthy for competition.
The third, and possibly the biggest reason is that this will be the last title to be won by a Honda engine in the intermediate class for the foreseeable future, with Triumph coming in to become the engine supplier in 2019. The Honda engine has been the same since 2010, an extremely high-revving inline four engine that is absolutely bulletproof and can take an absolute kicking. So the extra carrot is that people want to see who is going to give the 600cc the send off it deserves by being the final title winner. It will be very different in 2019, going to a 765cc three cylinder and it is a jump to the relatively unknown.
All that is left is to decide the winner of the greatest Moto2 season since it replaced the 250cc two-strokes in 2010. Do you agree with me? Have you enjoyed this season as much as me? And who do you think will take the title? Let us know!