As the 2015 MotoGP World Championship season draws closer, my excitement builds for another year of the world’s best riders battling it out on two wheels at some of the world’s most amazing circuits, like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But as always during the offseason there are always a number of rider switches, a flood of rookies itching to face off against their longtime hero Valentino Rossi and, sometimes, even new manufacturers.
It has been a while since we have seen a new factory-bike battle alongside Honda, Yamaha and Ducati. With Suzuki and Aprilia’s return to the grid, MotoGP now has four new factory riders to worry about with open class standout Aleix Espargaro, rookie Maverick Vinales, Alvaro Bautista and former MotoGP rider Marco Melandri. These riders are not to be overlooked as both could easily give the other factory riders a run for their money. Espargaro took pole position on an open class bike last year at the Assen circuit in the Netherlands. Vinales has been a force to reckon with in ladder classes with his lone Moto2 season last year resulting in four pole positions, four victories and nine total podiums. You can’t tell me that isn’t impressive with the amount of talent in the ladder series.
Ducati is still working their way to the front of the grid as well. With the addition of Luigi Dall’igna as general manager and a few other new faces, Ducati posted one of their best seasons last year since the Casey Stoner era. The year included three podiums, not to mention a front-row start at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, compared to none just the year before. With the promotion of Andrea Iannone to fill the open seat made available by Cal Crutchlow, their battle for the top step could pay off in 2015.
Another rookie looking to make waves on the MotoGP grid this year is Moto3 phenom Jack Miller. While jumping straight into MotoGP from Moto3 is sort of frowned upon within the paddock, none can argue that the young Australian has the talent to compete with the best in the world. Miller will join up with former factory Ducati rider Crutchlow, who looks to rebound from an unsuccessful season filled with injuries and crashes. The two can surely show some potential on the always-fast Honda machinery that Stefan Bradl has piloted the past three seasons.
Finally let’s take a look at the lone American in the MotoGP World Championship, Nicky Hayden. The 33-year-old has had a rough couple years within the World Championship with multiple wrist surgeries, crashes and a team switch. Hopefully the hard work and determination will pay off as he will have an upgraded engine under him this year with the Honda RC213V-RS, providing him with some extra power. He will also have a new teammate this year with the arrival of Northern Ireland World Superbike rider Eugene Laverty, who will hope to apply his knowledge into mastering the open-class Honda.
Overall, with the additions of some new faces and new bikes, 2015 shows signs of yet another fantastic MotoGP World Championship season.
Zach Hudson has been with IMS since 2012, beginning with an internship that eventually led him into his current role as Webmaster for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He is an avid motorcycle rider participating in track days and outings all around the Midwest. You can follow him @ZachHudson09.