With MotoGP Unlimited drawing attention away from the drama-soaked crowds of F1’s Drive to Survive, 2022 is looking absolutely huge for the world of motorcycle racing.
High stakes, high pressure, dramatic finishes – all on just two wheels. With a truly spectacular, emotional season behind us, perhaps it’s the best time ever to get into the sport – if you’ve got a hankering for thrills at over 300 kilometers an hour, MotoGP is what you need.
Whether you’re new to MotoGP or a longtime veteran, recent advances in both rider skills, team composition, and racing technology have brought the competition closer than ever before. So, where do we place our bets? We’ll give you our pre-2022 season rankings to help you pick a side – just a few weeks before the checkered flag flies.
Brilliant teamwork, daring R&D advancements, and some truly spectacular racing moments – after fifteen long years of chasing the title, the Italian team has finally put themselves firmly on the throttle – delivering some of the fastest laps ever seen in the sport.
With their bikes boasting brutal horsepower figures and now-lethal handling capabilities, riders Jack Miller and Francesco ‘Peco’ Bagnaia pose a deadly red threat to everyone aiming to be this year’s fastest on track.
Sure, 2021 was a year of hardships and brutally difficult racing for Honda’s Factory team – held further back by serious logistics issues. This rings true especially for eight-time Grand Prix champion Marc Marquez – the ex-champ has suffered two long years of painful injuries, and has returned hungrier than ever, with reports of a full recovery. Backing up the party is teammate Pol Espargaro – who gave a good, if uninteresting performance in 2021.
Paired with a fully revised chassis, an upgraded engine and aerodynamics setup, the new 2022 RC213V motorcycle promises improvements on every single weak point from last year’s machine – and is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
All MotoGP bikes come in two engine configurations – the power-packed V4, and the more traditional inline-4 (I4) setup. Only Suzuki and Yamaha bikes run with the latter – and as the sport moves into a new, aerodynamics-dominated era, this distinction creates even more of a difference.
While still weaker than Ducati and Honda’s offerings, the Suzuki I4 offers more power than Yamaha counterpart. While Suzuki’s GSX-RR blazes down the track in straight lines, we’ll have to see how riders Joan Mir and Alex Rins handle difficult braking zones – an area where Ducati seem to be racking up all the points.
As 2021 winners, Yamaha’s main team doesn’t seem to have much to worry about – but this is one close rider lineup, and a sport that changes massively with each passing year. Reigning champion Fabio Quartararo has been nothing but precise, calculated, and daring – at least whenever his team’s engineers haven’t let him down. So what’s the problem?
Veteran racer and motorsports journalist Mat Oxley puts it best. “Quartararo already has the slowest bike on the grid, so less top speed is exactly what he doesn’t need, because as soon as he gets into a battle with faster motorcycles he struggles to find the room to use the YZR-M1’s excellent corner speed.”
If Yamaha strikes this balance, they may just win the title once again. If not, perhaps Marc Marquez will pick up the remaining pieces.
With an excellent 2021 track record and Ducati’s monstrous power on their side, Pramac Racing has proven to be a serious contender, and by far the most competitive non-factory team on the grid.
Hotshot young rider Jorge Martin and the older, more experienced Johann Zarco make for a lethal combination of spirit and honed skill. While recent test crashes have lowered confidence from some supporters, they still stand tall as one of the best teams in modern motorsports.
30 years into the racing game this season, the Italian team has sourced serious local talent from grid to their marketing departments – recent photos confirm that while the RS-GP bike is absolutely gorgeous to look at, it also takes some serious wind-tunnel innovations into account.
With a great lower-class run behind them as well, their Technical Director Romano Albesiano has shared great news – painting a picture of a refined, evolved machine that can handle a wide variety of riding styles. With 3 more races than last year’s calendar, perhaps this added all-rounded nature might earn Aprilia much-needed championship points.
If there’s one phrase that can sum up KTM’s 2021 performance, it was that they played both hot and cold, all over the season. Apart from Miguel Olivera’s three-podium finishes and Brad Binder’s ballsy wet-weather antics in Austria, the team seemed lukewarm at best.
That said, KTM did showcase a smaller difference between race and qualifying setups compared to their competition. While this low-risk approach hasn’t resulted in better traction and time figures, perhaps it’ll pay off as the 2022 season progresses. We’ll have to wait and watch.
The 2022 MotoGP World Championship kicks off on 6th March, at Losail International Circuit, Qatar.
(Featured Image Credits: Dorna, MotoGP)