MotoGP is set for an intake of fresh talent for the 2017 season, with four riders being given the chance to step up from it’s primary feeder series – Moto2.
Johann Zarco – Tech3-Yamaha
Age: 26, Race starts: 134, Wins: 14, Podiums: 38, Pole-Positions: 16
Arriving in the premier class the smooth talking, smooth riding, Frenchman does so as the only World Champion out of the four* – having won the 2015 Moto2 crown. Zarco joins the Tech3-Yamaha team for 2017 on a two year contract with the expectation that he’ll then be promoted to the parent factory team. This promotion to the highest level is just reward for his new found consistency over the past two seasons, as well as recognition of his talent following a dominant championship winning campaign featuring 8 race victories. Its a remarkable turnaround for a rider who, prior to 2015, was considered as just a plucky journeyman – Zarco has been part of the junior grand-prix categories since making his debut in the old 125cc class in 2009.
Jonas Folger – Tech3-Yamaha
Age: 23, Race starts: 133, Wins: 5, Podiums: 22, Pole-Positions: 6
Jonas Folger is another rider with much more grand-prix experience than his young age belies. Singled out as one of the brightest racing talents in Germany, he was handed a full time ride in the 125cc category in 2009 when he was just 15 years old. Although he hasn’t had as prolific a junior career as others, it must be noted that prior to this season, Folger had never been a recipient of a consistent front running bike. With two race wins and a consistent run of podiums in 2016, promotion to the premier class is a timely reward.
For 2017, Folger also joins the Tech3-Yamaha outfit, and the pairing of him and Johann Zarco promises to be one of the most eagerly anticipated inter-team battles for next season. At just 23 he has time on his side to adapt and make a lasting impression in MotoGP.
Sam Lowes – Aprilia
Age: 26, Race starts: 50, Wins: 3, Podiums: 11, Pole-Positions: 8
2017 sees the arrival of a new British rider onto the MotoGP grid. Like many of his compariots to have competed in the premier class, Lowes initally started out racing production bikes in the FIM World Supersport championship, and winning the title in 2013. In 2014, Lowes switched to prototypes and made his debut in the middleweight class on a Speed-Up chassis. Despite struggling for consistency, his raw pace caught the eye of both pundits and team bosses alike, and in 2015 became a priority rider for Moto2 (one of a small number of riders who are given performance upgrades before the rest of the field).
Unlike previous compatriots, Lowes is breaking new ground by becoming the first Brit to start his MotoGP career with a full factory team. Thanks to a combination of eye catching performances, and his association with Gresini, Lowes will ride for the Aprilia team in 2017.
Alex Rins – Suzuki
Age: 20, Race starts: 84, Wins: 12, Podiums: 40, Pole-Positions: 17
The man largely considered by many to be ‘the next big thing’ in the premier class. Much is expected of the young Spaniard when he joins the Suzuki factory team next season. Currently locked in a thrilling Moto2 championship battle with Johann Zarco, there is every chance that ‘el bala’ (the bullet) could arrive at the top table with the experience of what it takes to succeed at the highest level.
What marks him out as a potential MotoGP champion to be is his sheer consistency – as demonstrated this season, chalking up podium finish after podium finish. He’s the youngest of the four to be promoted to the top ranks too, which – should he need to – buys him more time to become accustomed to the demands of controlling the most powerful racing bikes in the world.
*Information correct at time of writing.