The world championship of motorcycling is divided in three categories: MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3. The first one is where most young riders want to be, the pinnacle of motorcycling, while the other two are pools of promising riders who fight for promotion.
Moto3 never fails to provide exciting races, reaching the final laps with 10 riders or even more in position to fight for the win. The middle class (Moto2) is the one which is known for having the smallest discrepancy between teams, hence leaving the responsibility for the riders to stand out for their skills.
MotoGP teams have always kept an eye on both these championships to get a grasp of who are the most talented riders out there. Last season there were some riders who attracted more attention and will probably become MotoGP stars in the near future.
Starting with Moto3, Romano Fenati has certainly got a great future ahead of him. Since his debut in this class he has proven his talent, despite lacking consistency and sometimes being overaggressive. In 2016 the Italian rider paid the price for his behaviours and was dropped by his team, thus missing the second half of the season.
However, Fenati started this season looking for redemption. That break might have been good after all, since he became more grateful for having a ride, which was noticeable in his first win after the break where he was emotional in the lap of honour. I also believe it made him moderate his aggressiveness and increase his focus, which led to his 2nd place in the final standings – his best season ever.
Another up-and-coming rider who could never be overlooked is Joan Mir, who, after being crowned rookie of the season in 2016, dominated this season. The Spaniard even broke the record of points in a season (341) and was only one victory away of equalling Rossi’s all-time record of 11 wins in a single season in the lower class.
Both these guys were promoted to Moto2 for 2018 and it will undoubtedly going to be thrilling watching them shaking things up in this class.
Regarding the riders who competed in Moto2 this season, Brad Binder made great progress in his rookie season. Coming from winning the Moto3 Championship in 2016, he had an unlucky start of 2017, since he sustained two injuries: one in preseason testing and another in the beginning of the season, making him miss some precious tests and three of the first five races.
Nevertheless, the South African rider, went from fighting for midpack positions in the first half of the season to a regular presence in the top 10 during the second half of the season. Binder ended the season with three straight podium finishes which made him the 2nd best rookie of Moto2 in 2017.
Francesco Bagnaia was the only rookie who beat Binder and surprised most people in the paddock by getting two podiums in his first five races in the middle class. Throughout the season, Bagnaia was mostly fighting for a position in the top 10 or top 5 and he never retired, which was a key factor to be the top rookie and 5th in overall standings.
Last but not least, Miguel Oliveira had an excellent season with 9 podiums with the last three being victories while leading the development of the KTM chassis. In his second Moto2 season, he finished in a solid 3rd place overall only behind two riders with much more experience in the class – Morbidelli was in his 4th season in Moto2 and Luthi in his 8th. These two moved to MotoGP for 2018, which makes Oliveira one of, if not the biggest challenger for the middle class title next year.
We could also speak of Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli, but the former was rookie of the season in MotoGP this year and the latter already joined the line-up of the premier class for next year. So, in my opinion, they are more stars of today rather than tomorrow. Besides, Álex Márquez could also be mentioned, but he seems to have a lack of consistency that keeps him from showing as much potential as the riders above mentioned. Nonetheless, he may well prove me wrong next season.
To sum up, those five riders written in bold are the ones that stood out the most in the lower categories this season, and will likely become stars in the premier class in the next few years.