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The intermediate class will see three new – if familiar – faces on the grid for the upcoming season, with all riders having graduated from the FIM CEV Repsol’s Moto2™ European Championship. With that said, let’s look at the talent launching onto the international stage.
2018 Team: Forward Racing
Let’s start with the current Moto2™ European Champion, Eric Granado. The Brazilian rider started racing in his home country in 2003 before focusing on Europe from 2009, racing in the CEV and finishing fifth in the 125cc class just two years later. 2012 saw Granado move to the Moto2™ World Championship at just 16-years-old with the JiR Team, but a difficult season saw him dropping back to Moto3™ to hone his race craft.
The Sao Paolo-born rider was keen to get back on more powerful machinery and moved to the Moto2™ European Championship in the FIM CEV Repsol for 2015. He made steady improvements throughout the year before claiming his debut victory one year later at the opening round. A full title charge would emerge for 2017 as Granado fought Ricky Cardus for the title: six wins and three podiums saw him with the advantage as the Championship went down to the wire at the final round in Valencia. The 21-year-old took the victory and the title, and will return to the Moto2™ World Championship for 2018 with Forward Racing on-board a Suter.
2018 Team: RW Racing Team
Another returnee to the intermediate class is Steven Odendaal, who first made his debut in Moto2™ back in 2011 after having only started racing professionally just four years prior. After a difficult full-time year in 2012, the South African rider moved to the Moto2™ European Championship in the FIM CEV Repsol in 2015 after wrapping up a national title the year beforehand. Odendaal’s breakthrough year however would come in 2016 with the AGR Team on a Kalex, when he would take a then-record six victories in a season to dominate the year and become the Moto2™ European Champion.
After a change of scenery in 2017 to the NTS Sportscode T.Pro outfit on their chassis, Odendaal set about a year developing the bike before a plan to move to the World Championship the year after. Despite there being no victories, the Johannesburg-born rider claimed five podiums and third overall in the Championship.
As part of a collaboration between NTS and the RW Racing Team, Odendaal will return to the Moto2™ World Championship in 2018 and after having learned a great deal since his last spell, he could spring a few surprises.
2018 Team: RW Racing Team
Odendaal’s teammate in 2018 will be Californian Joe Roberts, whose career began in flat track before switching over to road racing from 2011. After three seasons in Red Bull Rookies, Roberts moved back to his homeland to compete in MotoAmerica where he claimed the Superstock 600 Championship one year later. More recently, 2017 saw Roberts in Europe once again, this time in the Moto2™ European Championship as part of the FIM CEV Repsol.
Despite having not ridden a Moto2™ bike before, Roberts’ pace was immediate on the AGR Team’s Kalex. He finished fourth on his debut and took a further two podiums throughout the year, but his big break came at Brno when he was called up to replace Yonny Hernandez in the team’s World Championship effort. Roberts finished tenth in his first race, which was held in mixed conditions.
His impressive performances in both the World and European championships were enough to earn him a full-time ride with the RW Racing Team on an NTS chassis for the 2018 season. Despite a few inconsistencies throughout, Roberts has shown he has the talent to fight with the best.
With riders such as Granado, Odendaal and Roberts on the grid in 2018, it’s sure to make the fiercely competitive Moto2™ field even closer, making it a very exciting prospect for the season ahead. Pre-season testing will give us a good idea of the pecking order, but only race day of the season opening round in Qatar will reveal all!
1 year ago