Manuel Gonzalez joins the Yamaha VR46 Moto2 Master Camp team for 2022.
Manuel Gonzalez is hot property at the moment, the 2017 European Talent Cup and 2019 World Supersport 300 champion has had teams across the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks scrambling for his signature after a stellar 2021 season that saw him win two races in World Supersport, racking up 7 podiums in the process and finishing in third place overall.
At just 19-years-old he already has a career record many riders would dream of including his world championship, therefore when he was signed up to the brand new VR46 Master Camp Team for 2022 with Yamaha there really was no surprise.
The VR46 Master Camp team is different to the traditional VR46 Academy we’ve seen that only selects Italian talent, the Master Camp squad has raced in the Junior GP (previously known as CEV Repsol) championship for the last few seasons with Kenneth Kubo predominantly running in their Moto2 squad with various teammates including Andy Verdoïa, McKinley Paz, Peerapong Boonlert and Anupab Sarmoon.
They also ran in the Moto3 Junior World Championship with Apiwath Wongthananon and Daniel Valle, the team has prioritised Asian riders for many years but are open to other nationalities as we’ve seen with Verdoïa, Valle and now Gonzalez, Pedro Acosta another rider the team tried to scout.
This Master Camp squad enables the academy to branch out to non-Italian riders without breaking their original rule of only Italian talent within the VR46 Riders Academy.
Manuel Gonzalez donning the Spanish flag in WorldSSP this year.
Their involvement in the 2022 Moto2 World Championship remains separate to the VR46 Riders Academy and is backed by Yamaha despite the riders running Kalex machinery, the idea of Yamaha stepping in is to improve the manufacturers’ youth system and sign up and coming riders into Yamaha contracts within the Grand Prix paddock to gain experience before the step to MotoGP, much like KTM have done with their Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP programme, hiring Gonzalez in this method has ensured that Yamaha can keep him close as he continues to grow as a rider and don’t have to worry about other manufacturers stepping in and taking him from their grasp.
Back to Gonzalez, as previously mentioned, he’s fast, Yamaha doing what they’ve done to keep his services is proof that he is rapid. In 2017 he was crowned the first-ever European Talent Cup champion against stiff competition including Andreas Pérez, he would then make the step over into the new-ish World Supersport 300 class in 2018 and would finish in P6 overall as a rookie before putting together an incredible season in 2019 taking the title with ease against ex-champions Ana Carrasco and Marc García. He became the youngest ever champion in World Championship history at the time at just 17-years-old.
Unlike many previous champions of the class, Gonzalez was promoted upwards and made his debut in the World Supersport 600 championship in 2020 aboard a Kawasaki, he once again proved how exceptional he is and finished every single race of the season, not only that but he didn’t place outside of the top 10 and came home in P7 overall. He remained with the ParkinGO squad for 2021 but changed over to the more competitive Yamaha machinery that had dominated the 2020 season, this would be where his talent shone though taking home P3 overall in the standings.
Gonzalez on home soil at Aragon on the MV Agusta in Moto2.
His name was certainly thrown around last year with the MV Agusta squad choosing the Spaniard to race in place of Lorenzo Baldassarri for Assen and Aragon, he missed FP1 at Assen but made his debut in FP2 on a brand new bike with a new engine and Dunlop tyres which have a significantly smaller operating margin than the Pirelli’s he was used to, not forgetting the fact that the MV isn’t anywhere near as competitive as the Kalex. This didn’t stop him from finishing in P13 for his first-ever Moto2 session with zero track time after missing FP1, very impressive.
He would finish both races in P17 and P22 respectively finishing incredibly close to his hugely experienced teammate Simone Corsi on both occasions.
This year he will ride the Kalex and has already shown some huge speed at the recent private test at Valencia, he’s one to look out for there’s no doubt about that.
Featured images – WorldSBK / David Clares