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Motor Oil's 2016 Moto2 Preview

Johann Zarco looks to defend his crown in the intermediate class, but he's likely to have a stiffer challenge this time around.

Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images

Last year's Moto2 championship was a case of when, not if, Johann Zarco won his first major championship. The Frenchman, aided by his black Ajo number five bike, had the measure of the field for most of the year, claiming the title with three races to spare after Tito Rabat had to withdraw from the Japanese Grand Prix.

It shouldn't be that easy for him this year though, with a few rider switches to better bikes, and some incoming talent too, meaning that we should have a decent challenge for the intermediate class this year.

A Brief Refresher

For those not familiar with Moto2, there's limits on what the bikes can have. The biggest is the engine - all engines are 600cc four-stroke engines supplied by Honda. Tyres are supplied by Dunlop, and ECUs are only allowed by FIM-approved suppliers with a 650 Euros spending cap. Brakes must be steel - carbon fibre brakes are not allowed.

Chassis, however, are fair game. Do what you want with them. That's where the difference in teams lie. There are a few different chassis suppliers, with the majority of the field using the tried and tested Kalex.

The champion awaits

Johann Zarco was fantastic last year. There's no two ways about it, with eight wins and an eventual winning margin of 118 points, there's no way you can deny him that. It was his best season by a long way, with his last win before 2015 coming in the 2011 125cc championship. The pressure will be on the Frenchman though, as he proves 2015 wasn't a flash in the pan.

The likely challengers

Sam Lowes is a ridiculously good rider who spent last season stuck on a pretty dire Speed Up bike. He moves to the Gresini team, with a Kalex chassis, for 2016, and has designs on the title. There were rumours last year he would be on the Aprilia bike in MotoGP with the same team, but that may be something to look for next year.

Alex Rins ended last year's championship second, after an incredible first year in the championship. He stays with the Paginas Amarillas HP40 team this year, and on paper probably looks like the closest rival to Zarco.

Franco Morbidelli will also be worth a watch this year, taking Tito Rabat's place on the Estrella Galicia Marc VDS.

The line-up

With so many new faces joining the roster this year, it's probably just best if I list everybody and then pick up a few notable additions at the end.

Team Chassis Riders
Stop And Go Kalex 2 Jesko Raffin 39 Luis Salom
Ajo Motorsport Kalex 5 Johann Zarco (C)
Forward Kalex 7 Lorenzo Baldassarri 10 Luca Marini
JPMoto Malaysia Suter 8 Efrén Vásquez
Dynavolt Intact Kalex 11 Sandro Cortese 94 Jonas Folger
Technomag Interwetten Kalex 12 Thomas Luthi 70 Robin Mulhauser
77 Dominique Aegerter
Idemitsu Team Asia Kalex 14 Ratthapark Wilairot 30 Takaaki Nakagami
QMMF Racing Speed Up 19 Xavier Siméon 60 Julián Simón
Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex 21 Franco Morbidelli 73 Álex Márquez
Federal Oil Gresini Kalex 22 Sam Lowes
AGR Kalex 23 Marcel Schrötter 49 Axel Pons
Speed Up Speed Up 24 Simone Corsi
Tech 3 Tech 3 32 Isaac Viñales 97 Xavi Vierge
Tasca Racing Scuderia Kalex 33 Alessandro Tonucci
Páginas Amarillas HP40 Kalex 40 Álex Rins 57 Edgar Pons
Leopard Racing Kalex 44 Miguel Oliveira 52 Danny Kent
Italtrans Racing Kalex 54 Mattia Pasini
Petronas Raceline Kalex 55 Hafizh Syahrin

The most notable addition is the reigning Moto3 champion Danny Kent. After he was offered a deal by Pramac Ducati to ride in MotoGP, Leopard were able to convince him to spearhead their assault on Moto2. He is joined by one of his main rivals in Miguel Oliveira, while his team mate from last year, Efrén Vásquez, takes a ride on the JPMoto Suter bike. Isaac Viñales also makes the move up on the Tech 3 bike, after being in and out of jobs all last year.

Also notable is the incoming of Luca Marini, the half-brother of Valentino Rossi. Is he any good? We'll see.

Make sure to join us every race weekend for full Moto2 coverage, starting this weekend with the Qatar GP.