MotoGP: who’s the next big thing?

Continuing our ‘Burning Questions’ series, five MotoGP experts predict who’ll be the stars of the future.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM.AU

In any MotoGP season, there’s always a fascination of what comes next. Who’ll have the best bike at the start of the year? Which Grand Prix will produce the most fascinating spectacle? And who’ll be left standing triumphant at the end of the season?

Our ‘Burning Questions’ series for 2016 has already touched on the latter, but what if we looked even further afield and wondered who the stars of the future might be? Who could come through from Moto2 or Moto3 and muscle in on the “aliens” in the not-too-distant future? And which riders have shown in their early world championship days that they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the premier class before too long?

More Burning Questions: Will Marquez v Rossi rumble on?

In the third of our ‘Burning Questions’ series on redbull.com.au, we put that very question to our assembled collection of MotoGP insiders.

Our experts:

Nick Harris: the voice of MotoGP on the world TV feed, and a hugely experienced authority on the sport for more than three decades.

Matt Birt: Nick’s offsider on the MotoGP world feed coverage, and a journalist with more than 20 years of experience in the paddock.

Chris Vermeulen: the MotoGP race-winner now excels in his off-track role as a MotoGP analyst for Fox Sports in his native Australia.

Dylan Gray: MotoGP’s premier pit-lane reporter and on-the-ground newshound.

David Emmett: editor of motomatters.com and one of the sport’s most prolific and authoritative voices.

The Burning Question: Who are the riders in Moto2 or Moto3 who are the next big things for MotoGP?

Dylan Gray: Moto2 has to be Alex Rins. Rins always looks like he’s on an in-lap or an out-lap – he looks so slow and so smooth like (Jorge) Lorenzo, but he’s going flat-out. In Moto3, I’ll say Niccolo Antonelli. He’s one of those guys who has struggled a bit with more things away from the track, but people say that when he has his team just right, he’s right there. Motegi last year – he led that race from start to finish in extremely difficult conditions, and that’s one of those races where you really show what he can do.

Nick Harris: I agree on Rins, he is the hot tip at the moment. I also think Johann Zarco could be a very good MotoGP rider.

Chris Vermeulen: Yes, Rins is a very simple answer. He’s sort of regarded as the next Maverick Vinales, who’s regarded as the next Marc Marquez. Vinales, Rins, Marquez – we’re going to see those guys fighting at the front of MotoGP in a few years’ time.

Matt Birt: Two words: Alex Rins. I don’t think there is a factory boss on the planet that hasn’t pencilled in his name as a target for 2017. Quite how he never won the Moto3 title in 2013 is beyond me, and then he really showed his class in Moto2 last season with two wins and eight other podiums. And it seems strange to say this when Johann Zarco dominated Moto2 last season with eight wins, but for me Rins was the overwhelming pre-season favourite going into 2016. Personally I think Alex is going to end up on a Yamaha YZR-M1. I think his smooth riding style is similar to Jorge Lorenzo’s and is tailor made for the M1. He doesn’t make many mistakes and doesn’t seem to lose his head when things aren’t going his way. I think he is ready to move to MotoGP now, but he has time on his side.

David Emmett: Rins is going to make a similar impact to Vinales. When I talk to his Moto2 team, they rate him as highly as Vinales, who rode for them in 2014. Predicting Moto3 is much more difficult. Two names to watch: Jorge Navarro has shown real maturity and is riding very well, and Joan Mir is going to make a big impact, has been really fast in testing, and is in a strong team.

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