Spaniard Raul Fernandez is one of five rookies set to compete in the 2022 MotoGP™ World Championship, making the step up with Tech3 KTM Factory Racing. One thing looks abundantly clear for the Austrian manufacturer; they have a real gem within their ranks.
Growing up in San Martin de la Vega on the outskirts of Madrid, Fernandez began racing when he was just 11 years of age. Having competed in the Cuna de Campeones, he made the step up to the FIM CEV Moto3™ Junior World Championship in 2014. After a spell with KTM, the Spaniard switched to Husqvarna machinery and in 2016, he experienced an upturn in fortunes. A maiden podium came in the Algarve, which was swiftly followed by a second in Jerez. The end of season doubleheader in Valencia saw him on the podium once again before he took the chequered flag first in the season finale, helping him to finish third in the Championship. He was concurrently competing in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, and he ended his time in the Road to MotoGP™ programme in third.
Red Bull Race Week: Raul Fernandez' title hunt in Misano
2017 saw him switch machinery one again, this time to Mahindra, but it proved a dismal season. Fernandez only cracked the top 10 twice before he was back with KTM and enjoying life on the track again. Three victories and four further podiums saw him take the 2018 title and graduate onto the World Championship circuit.
By the time he lined up on the grid as a full-time rider, he had already made several wildcard appearances in the previous three seasons. A P9 finish at the German GP in 2018 was his best result, but he bettered that immediately in 2019’s season opener at Qatar, coming seventh. A couple of front row starts and a fifth place finish at the Sachsenring crowned a positive development year for Fernandez, before he began to show everybody what he was about in 2020.
The Qatar GP saw him take P2 on the grid for lights out, and he followed that up with six pole positions and four more front row starts throughout the season. Fernandez was a qualifying sensation, but he had to wait for his first lightweight class podium. It eventually came in Aragon, crossing the line third. It opened the floodgates for the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider, as he soon picked up his first victory in Valencia, followed up one week later with a podium and then a second victory to close out the season in Portugal. He left it too late to challenge for the title, but his end of season form helped him to a fourth place finish in the Championship.
That was the end of his time in the lightweight class, as a seat alongside Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) in Aki Ajo’s Moto2™ was available to Fernandez, and the intermediate class rookie made the jump up look easy. A top five debut was followed by a podium at the Doha GP, before he tasted victory in Portimao once again.
Fernandez lost for words over shocking Moto2™ crash
Seven more victories came as he surpassed Marc Marquez’ (Repsol Honda Team) record and went toe-to-toe with teammate Gardner for the title. In the end, Fernandez fell short in a battle that went to the wire, a crash at the Emilia Romagna GP when leading proving pivotal, as he watched his Australian teammate pull on the #1 t-shirt in celebration at the end of the year.
After such an incredible year, it was no surprise to see him attract plenty of premier class suitors, with the likes of Yamaha reportedly sniffing around. External pressures seemingly forced KTM’s hand and in order to secure the Spaniard’s future, they gave him an early promotion to MotoGP™. The 21-year-old will don the Tech3 colours alongside Moto2™ rival and teammate Gardner, and we cannot wait to see what he can produce in 2022.
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