Best Match – Assen Moto3
It was sad to say goodbye to the 125cc class, with all its history and prestige. The new Moto3 bikes may have sounded like a cross between a lawnmower and a spitfire, but the action on track was frequently thrilling in the new category. Assen was the best of the bunch: An exhilarating dice between Maverick Viñales and Louis Salom, decided on the final chicane, a photo finish between three riders for the final podium spot and the tight tangle between team-mates Sandro Cortese and Danny Kent. There was no more exciting race than this one in 2012.
Best Moment – Pedrosa’s Czech-mate move at Brno
The sight of Valentino Rossi back on the podium at Le Mans was pretty special, but for one particular moment that stands out, you have to go with Dani Pedrosa’s final corner move on Jorge Lorenzo at the Czech Republic GP. MotoGP had been missing a bold battle for the lead that went the duration. Let’s just hope it becomes the norm in 2013.
Funniest Moment – Fenati speeds ahead at Mugello
Everyone wants to take centre stage at their home Grand Prix and to come in ahead of their rivals. Romano Fenati took this slightly too far at Mugello, however. Storming around the Italian track, the rookie had time to pull up in front of amazed pit wall spectator Valentino Rossi and sit, arms folded. His rivals were out of camera shot, so far were they behind. The only problem? It was only the warmup lap. Fenati was later pipped to the line by Maverick Viñales, but his antics before the race were comic genius.
Best Player – Jorge Lorenzo
I’d like to be contrary and go for someone other than the World Champion, but there’s no better candidate than Jorge Lorenzo. Faultless, bar that one crash with the title already sewn up, J-Lo rode smoothly, intelligently and assuredly against the competition in 2012. Kudos to the champ.
Biggest Surprise –Stoner’s retirement announcement
It had been hinted at –and categorically denied- weeks before, but that didn’t prevent Casey Stoner’s retirement announcement from being a huge surprise. Stoner dropped the bombshell at the pre-race press conference in Le Mans, just four races into the 2012 season. Early announcements are en vogue in MotoGP, but this one sent the rider roundabout into overdrive and caught everyone off guard in the process.
Worst Moment –Stoner’s crash at Indianapolis
With the countdown on for Stoner’s retirement, we looked set for a great three-way title fight between Lorenzo, Stoner and Pedrosa. The worst moment of the season came when we were denied this, and it only took a second and some dodgy asphalt for the plans to unravel. One free practice crash at Indianapolis took Stoner out of contention and the title battle down to two.
Biggest Disappointment – Ben Spies’ season
Five retirements, two DNS’ and a host of mechanical problems; this wasn’t Ben Spies’ year, by any stretch of the imagination. The American wasn’t at fault for much of the -at times bizarre- goings on with his Yamaha M1, but bigger things were expected of him after a strong 2011.
Unsung Hero – Andrea Dovizioso
It was a tough decision between Andrea Dovizioso and Sandro Cortese, whose Moto3 title win was rather overshadowed by Maverick Viñales’ brilliance and subsequent petulance. Dovi gets the nod, for adapting seamlessly to the Yamaha M1 and then not even being considered for the 2012 factory team ride. Now he’s off to Ducati to try and work his magic where Rossi couldn’t.
Who to look out for in 2013 – Marc Márquez
Watch out for Marc Márquez –particularly if you think you’re safe going even slightly off the apex into a corner. Quick, fearless and reckless in equal measures, nobody is going to be indifferent about the speedy Spaniard when he makes his mark on MotoGP next year.