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26 days ago

Mid-season improvers and losers: Moto2™

The champion has stayed to defend his crown against familiar rivals, but how is everyone performing compared to 2015?

As the World Championship begins the traditional summer break, takes a look at who has improved since 2015 and who is still searching for their past form.

The Improvers

In 2013 Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was one of the Moto2™ World Championship’s rising stars, rumours of a move to the premier class sweeping through the paddock. But in 2014 and 2015 he wasn’t the same rider and struggled to match his result. After the first nine races of 2015 Nakagami had 32 points and a best result of seventh. Fortunately for Nakagami and his fans around the world, the Japanese ace is back to his best in 2016. Now he heads into the summer break with 83 points, 51 more than last year.

He’s achieved his first victory and holds the honour of being the Moto2™ World Championship’s biggest improver at the halfway stage. His point haul is even more impressive when you take into account he crashed and remounted in both Austin and Germany.

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#DutchGP: Moto2™ Full Race

Since joining the World Championship full time in 2014, Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) has made steady improvements each year. This is most evident in 2016, the Malaysia taking 69 points away from the first nine races of the year. He’s failed to score only twice and has been in the top ten on six occasions, helping to more than double his points total over 2015, when he had 34 points after nine races. Surely a podium is just around the corner, especially if he can live up to his nickname of 'The Fish' in the wet.

For most of his career Axel Pons (AGR Team) has had the reputation of being a crasher. He’d frequently be near the top of the crash counts at the end of the year but towards the end of 2015 the Spaniard began to change. In Phillip Island he took his first ever front row, his calm and quicker approach to racing has transferred over to 2016. In 2015 Pons had just nine points after nine race, in 2016 he’s taken a total of 34 and has had four top ten finishes. His crashes have eased off too, especially on Sundays.

The Losers

While a change to Speed Up machinery has benefitted Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) hugely, the opposite is true for Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team). In 2015 he was aboard a Kalex and had just returned Belgium to the top step of the podium, taking his career first win in Germany. But 2016 has not been as kind, a number of crashes brining him just 28 points from the first nine races. Simeon is 56 points and two podiums behind where he was in 2015 and is Moto2™’s biggest points loser.

In 2015 Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) was the championship leader as the summer break began, and that’s still true in 2016. But as he looks to defend his intermediate class title he’s 28 points back on 2015. Interestingly he’s taken four wins from the first nine races of 2016 as opposed to the three in 2015, but a failure to score in France and two races off the podium have him trailing his past self. Fortunately after both his rivals fell in Germany, his championship lead is a comfortable 25 points. With three wins in the last four races, Zarco could very well move from being a 'loser' to an 'improver' when the season ends.

Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team) returned to the podium with a determined ride in Germany, hopefully starting an upward trend in the remainder of his season. The 2009 125cc World Champion has scored 21 points less in the first nine races of 2016 than the previous season. He’s on the same bike with the same team but hasn’t had the same consistency and missed the Spanish GP. More to come in the closing half of the year.