After rating the top ten finishers in the championship, it is time to turn our gaze to those outside the top ten worthy of note. Below is a look at the seasons of Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone, in the news in 2013 for very different reasons.
Aleix Espargaro – Championship Position: 11th – Rating: 8/10
Aleix Espargaro became the poster boy for the CRT class in 2012, beating out his teammate Randy De Puniet. The two Aspar riders showed that even with less than a year of development, a slightly modified Superbike could compete with the slower of the satellite prototypes. 2013 saw the Aprilia ART take another step forward, but it was a step only Espargaro could follow, De Puniet complaining of a lack of feeling all year, his performance plummeting.
Espargaro shone in 2013, regularly making it into Q2 under the new two-part qualification system, and even starting from the second row at the Sachsenring and Misano.
The race was always a different matter, the underpowered Aprilia no match for the prototypes, and even after the great start he got in German, running in the top three in the first few laps, Espargaro dropped back through the field as the race progressed.
Despite his disadvantages, he still bagged a bunch of top tens, consistently finishing ahead of the Ducatis. Espargaro demonstrated that the rider is still a key part of the equation in motorcycle racing.
In the end, Espargaro’s success actively worked against him. A clause in his contract with the Aspar team meant that his contract was automatically renewed if he became CRT champion. But as the year progressed, and the factories promised to supply better equipment for 2014, Espargaro was made offers he found too difficult to refuse.
After he signed the contract, Aspar announced they would be running Honda’s new RCV1000R production racer, a prospect which could have kept Espargaro in the fold. But at the Valencia post-race test, Espargaro was half a second quicker than Nicky Hayden on the Honda, validating his choice to leave. At least, so far…
Andrea Iannone – Championship Position: 12th – Rating: 4/10
In 2011 and 2012, Andrea Iannone was regularly battling for victory in Moto2 with Stefan Bradl and Marc Marquez, taking eight wins in two seasons, and looking like a championship contender. In 2013, the only time Iannone saw his former Moto2 rivals was as he walked past their garages on his way to the Clinica Mobile. Their fortunes were radically different now all three are in MotoGP.
Granted, while Bradl and Marquez raced the Honda RC213V, and the other former Moto2 rider Bradley Smith is on the Yamaha M1, Iannone was left to struggle with the Ducati Desmosedici. That he was willing to push as hard as he did was commendable, but his penchant for going beyond the limit would be punished mercilessly in 2013.
Iannone crashed often, and when he did crash, he invariably hurt himself. He injured a knee at Jerez, had surgery to cure arm pump after that, then had a huge crash at the Sachsenring in which he damaged his shoulder. That injury effectively ended any hope of being competitive, Iannone lacking strength to manage the troublesome Ducati.
Iannone was widely tipped as a dark horse at at the start of the 2013 season, but the Italian simply failed to live up to expectations. In MotoGP, Iannone found out that courage alone is not enough to compete at the highest level. What he needs to learn from the other two MotoGP rookies is that you need brains as well as guts to succeed in the premier class.
Photos: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.