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12 days ago
By Steve English

New kids on the block: 2018 rookies

Steve English takes a look at the five new arrivals in the premier class

Steve English has been working in motorcycle racing paddocks around the world since 2011. First interested in bikes and racing from a young age, Steve became a full-time journalist in 2013 – and is also a talented photographer. Branching out even further in 2016 as he joined the Dorna World Superbike commentary team, Steve’s knowledge and insight into MotoGP™ and WorldSBK is second to none.

The 2018 MotoGP™ World Championship is just around the corner and at Losail International Circuit, five rookies will line up on the grid. The successes of Johann Zarco in 2017 showed that any one of these riders could spring a surprise, so here's the low-down on your rookie class for the 2018 campaign. The five riders have over 600 starts between them, and Tom Lüthi has more than 200 - making it one of the most experienced rookie classes ever.

Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing) – The 28-year-old Belgian brings with him plenty of experience and is arguably on one of the most rookie friendly machines on the grid. In the past the Ducati was a wild colt waiting to be tamed, but with a GP17 in his pitbox the Avintia Ducati rider should have a fast and manageable steed. Simeon brings with him plenty of experience – only three riders have started more Moto2™ races – and having claimed victory at the Sachsenring in 2015, the former FIM Superstock 1000 Champion will be motivated to prove he deserves his spot on the premier class grid.

New kids on the block: Xavier Simeon

Thomas Lüthi (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) – The Marc VDS rider was hamstrung over the winter by his recovery from a broken leg. The injury eventually ruled him out of title contention in the intermediate class but the two-time Moto2™ vice-champion will bring an impressive CV to his rookie campaign: Lüthi is a former 125GP champion and the most experienced Moto2™ rider in history – also, only Marc Marquez, Johann Zarco and Tito Rabat won more races in the class. Lüthi is the most experienced Swiss rider of all time and when he lines up on the grid in Qatar he'll become the first Swiss rider to start a premier class Grand Prix in 20 years.

New kids on the block: Tom Lüthi

Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) – The Italian will become the first VR46 Academy rider to start a premier class Grand Prix when he makes his debut in Qatar, after a sterling Moto2™ title winning campaign last year that saw him lead the Championship for the entire campaign. Moving to the Grand Prix paddock in 2013, the former European Superstock 600 rider had to prove his credentials every step of the way – but since joining the Marc VDS team he has found the perfect environment. The Belgian squad took a punt on Morbidelli in 2016 and have been rewarded with a title, eight wins and 20 podiums.

New kids on the block: Franco Morbidelli

Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) – Following Jonas Folger's decision to sit on the sidelines for the 2018 season, it's hard to find a negative for Syahrin making the step up to MotoGP™. The Malaysian will make his debut with minimal pressure and anything he achieves will be met with fanfare in his homeland. MotoGP™ is hugely popular in South-East Asia and Syahrin is already a star from claiming three Moto2™ podiums. The Tech3 Yamaha is a proven package and with both Zarco and Folger having led races in 2017, it looks certain that Syahrin will enjoy a handful of strong races as he develops throughout the season.

Making his MotoGP™ debut: Syahrin's first day at school

Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) – Nakagami will be paired with Cal Crutchlow at the LCR squad and he'll bring a wealth of Grand Prix experience to the fold. The 26-year-old is one of just seven riders to have started a minimum of 100 Moto2™ Grands Prix, and having claimed two wins and 14 podiums his speed has never been in doubt. Consistency has been the bugbear for Nakagami but his speed when riding a Superbike has shown that he can adapt to riding a bigger machine. In addition, the third Honda rookie is arguably the one that will receive the best support from the Japanese manufacturer.

New kids on the block: Takaaki Nakagami

The 2018 MotoGP™ season is just around the corner and promises once again to be a thrilling season. So make sure you catch all the action, from all the angles, on the MotoGP™ VideoPass.