Livio Suppo managed the factory Ducati, Honda and Suzuki teams. So he knows a lot about success in MotoGP and has had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest champions in the discipline. When asked about the current hierarchy of the premier class, the Italian has a formula that sums it all up: “We have gone from the Fantastic Four to the Fantastic Twelve!”.
There was a time, in fact, when MotoGP was dominated by a superior quartet. Or rather two quartets if we consider that the famous “Fantastic Four” date back to the period in which Casey Stoner crossed swords with Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, or if we consider the next phase with Marc Marquez as the new main opponent of this trio (after Stoner’s retirement in late 2012). Objectively, this dominance intensified when the Spaniard took over from the Australian, to the point where the four aliens in question won 61 races in a row, before Jack Miller’s surprise win at Assen in 2016.
Jorge Lorenzo, Fiat Yamaha Team, Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team, Casey Stoner, Ducati Marlboro Team
Photo by: Yamaha Motor Racing
That season had been a real turning point, with nine different winners celebrated over the months, including four new ones. Since then, in seven years, 20 riders have climbed to the top step of the podium, with a consequent tendency for results to be dispersed. As proof of this, in 2022 alone, 14 riders won a race. Domination phenomena have become much rarer, with the only notable exceptions being Marc Márquez’s record-breaking season in 2019 (12 wins and six second places in 19 races, with the most points scored in a single season). and Pecco Bagnaia’s outstanding second half of the season in 2022 (four wins in a row and champion after closing an unprecedented gap of 91 points).
It will be difficult to predict what the 2023 season will be like. Livio Suppo, for his part, does not dare to bet a coin on any potential champion. “I expect a very competitive season. In the last four years we have had four world champions: Marc, Joan Mir, Fabio Quartararo and Pecco. This means that the sport is very balanced. It is not like what we saw a few years ago, when Marc dominated,” he noted. “There is no one who is clearly stronger than the others, except Marc if he manages to get back what we saw in 2019. And we don’t know yet if that is possible or not.
If there is a trend that has emerged in the last three years, it is that of the strong progression of the European brands, led by Ducati, against the regression of the Japanese clan. The manufacturer from Borgo Panigale has dominated the last few months, winning 16 of the last 26 races and demonstrating a multiple and repeated presence on the podiums and on the front rows of the starting grid. One of the big questions of the moment is therefore what he will be able to write next.
This year, Ducati will have in its factory team two riders who took more than half of last season’s victories. However, Livio Suppo does not lose sight of the manufacturer’s overall potential and sees opportunities for its satellite teams. “Ducati has a very strong group. Not only with its factory team, but also with Pramac, because I strongly believe that Jorge Martín is a candidate for the title,” he declared.
Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
But it’s difficult for the former team manager to make a precise forecast, because there are so many candidates. For example, Fabio Quartararo cannot be left out of the equation. “Fabio is Fabio. He’s proven to be very fast and very strong mentally, because it’s not easy to do what he’s been doing in the last two years, to be the only one capable of being fast on a bike that everyone says isn’t good enough If Yamaha can give him a little more top speed, then Fabio will clearly be among the protagonists.”
What about Aprilia, which surprised you by entering the title race last year? “It won’t be easy for Aprilia to prove that what happened last year wasn’t a coincidence. What happened with them in recent years is almost a miracle. They started from nothing and made a lot of progress in a very short time.” observed Livio Suppo, who underlined the arrival of former Suzuki rider Manu Cazeaux, “one of the smartest engineers I’ve ever seen”, alongside Maverick Viñales. “Maverick could be the big surprise of 2023,” he says.
Key figures have also been hired at KTM for the technical team, in particular from Ducati, starting with Fabiano Sterlacchini, who will become technical director in 2021. “KTM has done a lot to improve by hiring people and changing its structure”, praises Livio Suppo . “Jack is Jack, we know he can be fast. And with Brad Binder they have one of the strongest riders. They also have their own satellite team, which is now much more organized than before. The name change is not just a marketing tool; from what I understand, they will have four factory bikes on the track”.
With five manufacturers still involved and 22 riders on the grid, is MotoGP ready to give us the new era of the “Fantastic Twelve”?
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