Veterans vs rookies: Moto3™ gets ready to rumble

Masia, Foggia, McPhee, Binder, Rodrigo; the veterans were up there in testing. But then there are the rookies...

What's the perfect way to end the last day of testing? Probably something like Jaume Masia's (Red Bull KTM Ajo) new – although unofficial – lap record. The Spaniard seems pretty settled in at Red Bull KTM Ajo already, and his warning shot will likely be heard by his rivals. But then, so too will that of new teammate Pedro Acosta. So is this season going to begin a clash of the rookies and veterans?

Masia's lap was certainly a stunner, but we already know that Moto3™ is rarely a runaway game at the front and the likes of Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing), John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), his new teammate Darryn Binder – adapting well to the Honda – and Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) won't go down without a good few classic lightweight class battles. We also know that the rookies this year have hit the ground running in a way we've not seen for some time. Acosta is one – the 2020 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup winner second in testing behind only his teammate – and Izan Guevara (GasGas Gaviota Aspar Team) another as the reigning FIM Moto3™ Junior World Champion blazed out the blocks with some serious speed.

What makes their performances all the more impressive is that they don't know the track like they do some of the venues in Europe they've been racing at often for the last few years, and that's something else to maybe make a few a little nervous later in the season. But for more, what is too much to ask? Wins? Podiums? They certainly have the speed, but the tactics will be a key test – as will holding their nerve.

That said, it's been some time since this pedigree of CV has been on show. Both the FIM Moto3™JWCh and Rookies are known proving grounds and two of the most successful programmes on the Road to MotoGP™, but both Acosta and Guevara have even more in their track records. Acosta absolutely dominated the Rookies, which has been done before, but he also backed it up with race wins in the FIM CEV Repsol as he came third overall in the aforementioned FIM Moto3™ JWCh. Guevara, meanwhile, just can't stop progressing. European Talent Cup winner in 2019, the Spaniard then moved to the FIM Moto3™ JWCh and by Jerez mid-season was almost unbeatable. At Aragon, he won all three races – riders have done that before, a good match between man, machine and venue can create a little magic – only after a nightmare qualifying, Guevara managed it three times in a row from outside the top 20 on the grid. Convinced yet?

Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing), meanwhile, may not have been quite as near the front as his rookie compatriots, but he's also already got a Grand Prix podium as he took to the rostrum on a wildcard in Valencia in 2019, too. On his first Grand Prix appearance. He ended the test in 11th, only just behind Darryn Binder, and shouldn't be overlooked either after a season at the front in the FIM Moto3™ JWCh too – he's the man who lost out on the crown to Guevara, losing a little momentum but after most definitely having done more than enough to impress regardless.

The timesheets gave us plenty to be excited about in testing. The lightning speed of the rookies and the aforementioned veterans alike, as well as riders like Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) and 2020 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) and their consistent pace. Who will take the first flag of the year in Moto3™? We'll find out soon, after another 18 laps of wonderful lightweight class chaos.

Tune in for the Moto3™ race at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar at 17:00 (GMT +3) on Sunday the 28th of March.

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