Who are the race favourites going into round three at Le Mans?
Never an easy question to answer and with just two rounds gone there are bound to be some riders just finding their stride. However, let’s take a look at the riders at the top of the leaderboard at this early stage and one surprising name that has yet to score a point.
Yuki Kunii (45 points)
He leads both the Moto3 Junior World Championship and the Red Bull Rookies cup at this early stage. The Japanese rider finished 6th overall in the CEV last season with his sole race victory coming in Jerez. Well, this year he’s won again at Jerez, but this time in the Red Bull Rookies and only narrowly (0.199s) missed out on a double race winning weekend.
In the Moto3 JWC first round of 2019 at Estoril he had a DNF. At Valencia in round two, he came back strongly. He won the first race and was second in race two. He is an in form rider at the moment and he should arrive in France very positive.
Xavier Artigas (44 points)
Artigas raced in the European Talent Cup in 2018. Although he won the title it is still quite something that he is to be found at the sharp end already in the Moto3 JWC. It shows there are some strong competitive riders coming through from the ETC and that they can compete on the open machines. He has finished all three races in the JWC this season and despite not winning a race last year it was his consistency that took him to the title. He also put in a very strong performance in the Red Bull Rookies last year finishing third, winning in Austria.
Barry Baltus (41 points)
The Belgian rider crashed after just three corners of his Moto3 JWC debut last season, which came at Le Mans. He switched to the Reale Avintia Academy from their European Talent Cup set up after taking 54 points from the opening two rounds. That included victory on the opening day in Estoril. In 2018 after switching to the Moto3 JWC he only managed to score seven more points. However, in 2019 he again took victory in Estoril, albeit this time on in the higher Moto3 category. He then went on to pick up another 16 points across the two races in Valencia. Baltus is also competing in the Red Bull Rookies. He took a third place in the opening race. In the second he was lucky to escape without serious injury after he collided with Carlos Tatay and after trying to hang on the bike he was spat off into the barrier and the bike came after him. This season, he will clearly be looking for a better race than he enjoyed last season in France.
Jeremy Alcoba (41 points)
The LaGlisse Academy rider is a veteran in the Moto3 Junior World Championship. He is now in his fourth season having previously ridden for Estrella Galicia. In Le Mans last season he finished 6th at the head of a huge group of around fifteen riders. Alcoba also rode three times last season at Moto3 World Championship level with a best finish if 18th in Thailand. An experienced and talented rider, we would be surprised if he wasn’t near the front of the pack in France.
Ryusei Yamanaka (37 points)
The second Japnese rider inside the top five. He took victory in the second race in Valencia. The 17-year-old finished the championship in 18th last season. He only started scoring points toward the end but has kept that form going into 2019. After his race win he is fifth overall having scored 7 more points than he did in the entire 2018 season.
Daniel Holgado (29 points)
He was too young to race in the opening round in Estoril. The rider from Alicante was only 14 at the end of April but what a start he made when he turned up at Valencia. In his debut Moto3 JWC weekend he qualified 8th, less than a second behind pole-sitter Yuki Kunii. In his first ever race in the championship he finished 0.067 seconds shy of the podium. However, like Artigas he showed the ability of riders coming up from the European Talent Cup. In the second race at the Ricardo Tormo circuit he stood on the podium, winning a four-rider battle for the last spot on the rostrum.
Deniz Öncü (0 points)
The Turkish rider has yet to score a point after three races. There is no doubting the rider’s talent but the results have not come so far this season. In Estoril, he qualified second but a crash whilst eighth, after seven laps, ended his chances of a points scoring finish. In the two races held at the second round in Valencia his luck didn’t change. He led part of the first race and was sitting comfortably in second with a real opportunity to pounce for the win in the closing laps. Unfortunately, he was robbed of a potential victory and any points when a mechanical issue ended his race with five laps remaining.
Misfortune continued to plague the 15-year-old rider in the second race. Having taken the race lead he began to make a gap at the front but crashed out on the second lap. I think it is safe to say that Öncü will be looking to quickly make up for the lost time when the riders meet again in France next weekend.