Every couple of years or so a new batch of rookies arrives in MotoGP and they bring high expectations and excitement for both fans and media. It happened when flamboyant Max Biaggi, arrived in the now defunct 500cc racing class to take on legends of racing like Mick Doohan.
Next up was a spunky and gangling Italian that went by the name of Valentino Rossi who stepped into the premier class and become The Doctor and the epitome of MotoGP racing, spicing up his immense talent with post-race gags and bitter rivalries, and collecting millions of adoring fans on the way.
2006 saw the arrival of the small and serious Dani Pedrosa who was as fast as he was physically fragile, cultivated and coddled by the most powerful team in the paddock, Repsol Honda.
The same year also saw another rookie, an Australian hurricane, Casey Stoner who had the veni, vidi, vici attitude in MotoGP. He took two World titles with two different manufacturers and then retired at the end of 2012 at the ripe old age of 27, turning down an alleged $15 million a year contract because he didn’t like the future direction that the championship was beginning to take.
2008 saw the debut of another rookie, Jorge Lorenzo who dropped his trademark Chupa Chupa lollipops to immediately podium, but his first year in the 800cc class saw him suffer massive highsides that scared him enough to think about stopping. Sheer willpower and help from a sports psychiatrist got him through that phase and he would go on to win two World MotoGP titles.
The season’s crop of rookies is also very exciting, starting with reigning Moto2 champion Marc Marquez. A wonderkid from Spain that has already shook the paddock during this week’s first pre-season MotoGP test at Sepang in Malaysia, receiving accolades from veteran riders regarding his astounding ability to adapt to a +230hp Honda RC213V prototype and oohing and aahing from the press for his extreme lean angles.
On the first two days of testing he was less than 0.044s from his team mate Dani Pedrosa and 2012 MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo who were first and second on the timesheets. On the final day he suffered his first crash, but almost immediately returned to track to post his best lap of the day and finish fourth and a little more than five tenths off pace.
Another rookie to watch is England’s own Bradley Smith. Despite not having even one victory in the Moto2 class, the English rider switched to MotoGP wanted by Herve Poncharal, team owner of Yamaha Tech3. Smith’s debut on the M1 was much less sensational than Marquez’s, but the British lad ended up being faster than the struggling factory Ducati riders.
Italy also has contributed to this year’s rookie class, with Andrea Iannone, also known as ‘Crazy Joe’ for his wild style of riding and crazy hair. Iannone often fought with Marquez in Moto2 and beat him couple of times, but he’ll be riding a Ducati satellite machine this season, the least competitive prototype of the lot.
However Iannone has youth on his side and no fear, and more importantly no prior knowledge of MotoGP machinery which could handicap him, as the Ducati is a beast to ride, and has destroyed several riders reputations. He might not be able to reach the podium, but he could fight for the top ten.
There are also other newbies to MotoGP, like Michael Laverty, Bryan Staring, Lukas Pesek and Claudio Corti, but they are on CRT (Claiming Rule Team) machinery and at best they’ll be fighting for CRT honours and not mixing it up with the crème de la crème of MotoGP riders, unless it rains and then in motorcycle racing anything can happen.