There is no doubt that the 2012 season summer break has given some riders like the Spaniard Luis Salom and German rider Jonas Folger just what they needed – plus machinery in Folger’s case - to believe in themselves as genuine Moto3 winners.
After finishing sixth in the standings last year, this year's winner of the Czech Moto3 Grand Prix Jonas Folger trusted his instincts very unsuccessfully at the start of 2012 season. Riding the all new Ioda Moto3 machine, the winner of the soaking wet 2011 British GP finished just one single race out of nine in the current season. This poor performance mainly came from the Ioda suffering from mechanical failures with terrifying frequencey, making a nightmare of what should have been a challenging season for the German rider.
Folger was nowhere near the front, in deep contrast indeed to some better results from less experienced new winners like Romano Fenati or Louis Rossi. It seemed there was no way out of such a frustrating situation, not until Spanish Moto3 Mapfre Aspar team decided to look for a new rider in the middle of the season.
Folger meets Aspar
Everyone inside and outside the Valencian team was almost sure that the lower than expected results from home rider Héctor Faubel would see him left out of the squad sometime during the current season. But in the end, it was Faubel's teammate Alberto Moncayo, from Cádiz in the south west of Spain who was forced out of the team, despite getting on the rostrum at Le Mans. Moncayo could at least rejoin Team Machado Racing to replace injured rookie rider Iván Moreno.
So, Aspar team hired Jonas Folger after Mugello and the German rider joined the team for the Indianapolis GP, getting to a strong start as the third fastest rider in FP1, and starting 15th on the grid to finish third on the rostrum. It was clear that something good was coming, as it did at Brno with Folger’s first victory of the season -also the first for one of the most successful teams in the 125cc class in recent years. Team manager Jorge Martínez proved to be a smart mind once more, finding a winning rider again when he needs it most, and also spurring Faubel to take advantage of a Kalex KTM that other riders on the grid such as Folger had been dreaming about to ride.
On the other hand Faubel got the message immediately, and he gave everything at Indianapolis to prove Mapfre team manager Jorge Martínez made the right choice keeping him on the Kalex. He was injured at Indy in a very ugly crash, but tried everything to go back and race at Brno where he finished eleventh in a race in tricky conditions.
Salom, the third man
If there is a happier man than Folger on Moto3 grid, then it is undoubtedly Luis Salom. The Spaniard made the big time with his first ever Moto3 win at Indy and finished second behind Folger at Brno, making him the most successful rider of the class after the summer break.
After witnessing Cortese and Viñales’ domination this season, it was hard to believe that the outsider Luis Salom was finally going to be able to get a first ever win in 2012 season. Fenati and Rossi had already proved it was possible and even Salom was close to a win, but for one reason or another the Spaniard was beaten on several occasions.
If you look back in Grand Prix racing, you’ll find some riders that were repeatedly beaten by one rider or another until they got their first ever win. Such is the case for Salom, after a fantastic win at Indianapolis over Cortese. The Spaniard was not only fighting against Viñales, Cortese, Fenati or Rossi, but also against his own circumstances.
Being part of a generation of riders formed in the powerful Spanish national championship –CEV-, Salom did not come to the top of the World Championship thanks to a Spanish team, as Viñales or the last ever 125 world champion Nico Terol did. With so many fast 125 riders in recent years like Marc Márquez, Pol Espargaró, Efrén Vázquez or Alberto Moncayo, Salom looked like a kind of surplus of Spain’s road racing rider assembly chain. So, Salom’s journey to success took a different way, helped by smaller non-Spanish teams like Lambretta or RW Racing GP.
I must admit that I did not expect Salom to go too far with the RW Racing GP team in 2010. Maybe I saw the Spaniard in pit lane complaining too many times about settings to his technical crew, and not in a particularly polite way. However, after some rostrum finishes, both team and rider found glory with a victory that does not look like it will be the last of the season. The Spaniard even finally explained the secret of the «Mejicano» nickname from his team – it was the name of a race horse that refused to budge from the starting line in the one single race of its career. Salom is now a real winner, and announced at Brno a three season agreement with Team Switzerland to stay in Moto3 in 2013 and jump to Moto2 class in 2014. But Salom is also a stronger potential winner at any of the following races and could likely become a key man in coming between the championship ambitions of Cortese and Viñales.
Cortese vs. Viñales
Sandro Cortese started the 2012 season leading KTM's aspirations in the new class and sharing a garage with former Rookies Cup riders Danny Kent and Arthur Sissis. Cortese has won just two races through the course of this season, but has been on the rostrum for every race except Le Mans and leads the championship standings over Viñales by 32 points.
Viñales started the 2012 season as everyone’s favourite contender for first ever Moto3 world title, thanks to a rookie season that saw him take four victories in 2011. Then, Nico Terol was the man to beat and, as Viñales is showing this season, being the favourite is just a very small part of a successful season.
Viñales has won five races in 2012, far more than leader in the standings Sandro Cortese, but two DNFs and an embarrassing 17th place at the Sachsenring prove that even being the most gifted rider in recent times is not enough if you have any real aspirations of becoming champion in a season in which every result counts. But we won’t discuss today if wins weigh count enough in the results or not, so we better keep watching the next six races to find out who finally deserves to become world champion. Added to this fact, Cortese and VIñales have now also been warned by the constant presence at the front of Salom, still third in the standings and only 19 points behind Viñales.
So, what can we expect from the rest of the season? The fight for the championship will be surely be between Cortese, Viñales and maybe Salom too, but to race winners like Fenati or Rossi we could likely add some new names like those of the injured Jack Miller, Álex Rins, Jakub Kornfeil, Alexis Masbou, Niccolò Antonelli, Efrén Vázquez or Zulfahmi Khairuddin, just to mention a few of the riders with a serious chance of winning in the wild Moto3 class.