Feature article – MotoGP: The changing of the guard
MotoGP 2020 is somewhat of a crazy year, statistics say that this season is the most competitive season ever in Grand Prix Racing’s 71 years.
In the last 3 seasons of MotoGP, we have witnessed a change of the guard, with the MotoGP Legends of the class stepping down from their roles and handing the baton to younger, hungry riders who are desperate to follow in their heroes footsteps.
Riders such as Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, who are some of the most successful MotoGP riders ever, have retired with riders taking their places, we have seen new names come into the field and win races with 2020 highlighting this.
No longer are the older riders being favoured by manufacturers with young blood being brought in to replace them, most famously we have seen Yamaha replace 9 x champion Valentino Rossi with Fabio Quartararo who at the time, had just 1 Grand Prix win to his name, the Catalunya Moto2 race. Not even a MotoGP class win. Fabio Quartararo stormed into the MotoGP scene in 2019, a rider who was criticised for ‘not being ready’ for MotoGP, making his class debut at just 19 years old.
In his rookie season Quartararo would regularly battle class champion Marc Marquez for race wins, he wasn’t scared to do so either, taking it right down to the very last corner at the Thailand 2019 race but Marquez’s experience in the class gave him the advantage.
2019 Rookie of the year Fabio Quartararo who finished in 5th place overall
More and more manufacturers are placing bets on their future with young riders, this has all been sparked thanks to one man, Marc Marquez. Marc Marquez was a 125cc and Moto2 hot shot, scoring podiums in his debut 125cc season as well as nearly winning the Moto2 title in his first attempt in 2011, ruined by an injury in the penultimate race which nearly ended his career. In 2012, Marquez already had an impressive CV as the 2010 125cc champion and eventual 2012 Moto2 champion.
In normal circumstances, Honda would’ve slotted Marquez into a satellite team, however, MotoGP legend Casey Stoner announced his retirement, with Dorna removing the ‘rookies rule’, a 4 year rule stopping rookies from entering the class in factory teams, Repsol sponsored Marquez would slot straight onto Stoner’s bike, winning the 2013 MotoGP title as a rookie, the first rider to do so since Kenny Roberts in 1978.
2013 champions Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro (Moto2) and Maverick Vinales (2013)
This revelation that rookies are fast enough to win titles sent a shockwave through the paddock, all of a sudden all the manufacturers had their eyes on the lower classes to see who they could sign. The end of the rookies rule paved the way for many top class riders to join the MotoGP class on factory machinery, eventually scoring podiums and even winning races.
Since 2013, we have had multiple riders join the MotoGP class into factory teams and go on to win races for said factories, most famously Maverick Vinales, a rider who joined the new Suzuki project in 2015 as a rookie factory rider, winning Suzuki their first race at Silverstone 2016, Vinales would then head to Yamaha, winning races for them also. Vinales was replaced by Alex Rins who joined a factory team as a rookie along with Joan Mir in 2019, Alex Rins would repay Suzuki’s favour in 2019, winning for them at The Circuit Of The Americas and at Silverstone. In 2020, Joan Mir has scored his first three MotoGP class podiums and even led the Styrain Grand Prix.
This factory rookie effort has majorly contributed to the changing of the guard with even more rookie MotoGP riders winning races, most recently Brad Binder who won a MotoGP race in just his third race, Miguel Oliveira who was a rookie in 2019 would go on to win his first MotoGP race in 2020 whilst 2019 rookie Francesco Bagnaia could taste victory at the Emilia Romanga GP before crashing out of the lead.
Riders are slowly starting to be replaced by future winners and champions, Cal Crutchlow was removed from the LCR Honda team for 2021 by Honda, being replaced by 2020 rookie Alex Marquez, whilst Andrea Dovizioso has quit Ducati and has found himself with nowhere to go because the teams are all looking to the future.
We have a new breed of future winners and champions, 2020 has seen various new race winners, namely Fabio Quartararo, Brad Binder, Miguel Oliveira and Franco Morbidelli, therefore, why would the teams want to look at riders who have been around in the class for a long time, when the riders who could win them titles are right there for the choosing, with even more talent being shown in Moto2 in the names of Luca Marini, Marco Bezzecchi and Enea Bastianini.
Your stars of the future, left to right – Luca Marini, Enea Bastianini and Marco Bezzecchi
There is not as much of a point keeping older riders as there used to be, manufacturers can hire these highly adaptable rookies and teach them how to win on their motorcycles, no longer is it as important to have a rider who can develop the bike as many manufacturers have ex-rider test riders who all have raced at a high level such as Dani Pedrosa (KTM), Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and Stefan Bradl (Honda), all world champions. Leaving the full-time riders to win races and the test riders to give them the machinery they require to win.
Featured image – www.motogp.com