The FIM today announced the provisional entry list of riders for all three classes of Grand Prix motorcycling.
In the MotoGP class the number one plate will be emblazed on the front of Jorge Lorenzo’s Yamaha M1. The Spaniard clinched the third world title of his career, and first premier class title, last season and will start 2011 as a short priced favourite to repeat his success. Lorenzo will be joined by Ben Spies on the factory Yamaha after the American spent 2010 learning the ropes of MotoGP with the satellite Yamaha Tech 3 squad.
There are two rookies in the class next year with Moto2 race winner Karel Abraham stepping up to the premier class aboard a Ducati. He will be challenged for “rookie of the year” honours by Cal Crutchlow. The Englishman comes to the GP paddock with a growing reputation after success in the World Superbikes paddock. Crutchlow is hugely talented but he will be under pressure to replicate the success of Spies aboard the Tech 3 Yamaha.
Toni Elias, the inaugural Moto2 world champion, will return to the top tier of motorcycling with the LCR Honda squad in place of Randy de Puniet after the Frenchman joined the Pramac Ducati squad.
In the intermediate Moto2 class 38 riders are confirmed as contenders for what is sure to be the most competitive class in racing once more. Reigning 125cc world champion, Marc Marquez, will make the step up to the class aboard the Repsol backed Team Catalunya Suter. Marquez will be under pressure to challenge for race wins during his rookie season after a superb championship year in 2010 that saw many liken his performances to Valentino Rossi.
Pol Espargaro challenged Marquez for the 125cc title and the Spaniard has been rewarded with a Moto2 ride. He will race for the Tuenti squad and interestingly will compete with his brother, Alex, in the class. The close relationship of the brothers was one of the more interesting elements off the track last season. It will be very interesting to see if they can maintain their closeness while competing on the track.
Ratthapark Wilairot has been confirmed as racing in 2011. The Thai rider had a strong season last year but suffered terrible injuries after crashing his road bike while returning home in the off season. His team confirmed that he will be ready to compete when the season opens in Qatar.
Andrea Iannone stared in numerous races last year, including taking dominant wins at Mugello and Assen, and will start as a title favourite aboard his Suter. The Italian will face stiff competition from the likes of Julian Simon, last year’s runner up. Mika Kallio returns to the intermediate class after racing in MotoGP for the last two seasons.
The 125cc class will feature 31 full time riders in its final year; the two stroke class is to be replaced by the four stroke Moto3 class in 2012. Nico Terol will start the year as firm favourite aboard the Aspar Aprilia but the biggest surprise of today’s entry list was that Danny Kent will replace Marc Marquez as a rider for the crack Ajo Motorsport squad. Kent impressed in a series of late season wild cards and the Englishman will be joined by compatriot, Danny Webb, on the grid.
Webb had a strong season in 2010 and was a consistent points scorer. Webb will race for the all new Mahindara squad and will be partnered by German Marcel Schrotter. Schrotter failed to impress in 2010 after being hampered by an outclassed Honda and the chance to race for a factory squad should give a good indication as to whether he can replicate the strong wild card performances of two years ago.