Deciphering The Inscrutable - MotoGP Silly Season Review, Part 2

This is the second part of our silly season overview. Before starting on this part, make sure you have read the first part of the review, published yesterday.

If Jack Miller is parachuted into Aspar, the second seat in the team is up for grabs. Though Dorna are keen to have an American in MotoGP, it is widely believed that Nicky Hayden's days are numbered. Despite his denials, there are question marks over Hayden's wrist, and he has not been as competitive on the Open Honda as he had hoped. Hayden was at the last round of World Superbikes at Laguna Seca a couple of weeks ago, where he was seen talking to a lot of teams. There is a lot of speculation Hayden could end up on an Aprilia in World Superbikes next season, the American already having visited the factory's Noale HQ in 2013, before he left Ducati to sign for Aspar.

Could Hayden take the second Aprilia seat in MotoGP? This seems extremely unlikely. The factory already has an experienced development rider in Alvaro Bautista, and is really looking for someone faster and younger to lead the challenge. One name being bandied about is Stefan Bradl, the German being a particularly attractive prospect for the Italian factory. With Melandri having abandoned the Gresini Aprilia team, the second seat in the team is being filled by Michael Laverty. A sensible choice under the circumstances: Laverty is already Aprilia's official test rider, and the RS-GP is still very much a test bed for collecting data, to be used to build the 2016 bike, which will be a full prototype built from scratch. The downside to having Laverty is that he is also racing in BSB for the Tyco BMW team. The two calendars clash only once, when MotoGP goes to Phillip Island, and BSB is at Brands Hatch, so Laverty is able to fill in on a race-by-race basis.

However, with Bradl having announced that he has rescinded his contract with Forward Racing, due to the fact that they cannot guarantee him a ride for the rest of the season, Bradl becomes a more appealing option for Aprilia. The German could start racing almost immediately – a start at Indianapolis is probably too early, with the Brno test a more likely date – and could fill in until the end of the season. Bradl is still relatively young – he will be 26 in November – a former Moto2 world champion, and highly motivated. Signing Bradl to what is effectively an 18-month contract could be a smart move for Aprilia, as they would get someone young, fast, and able to help develop their new 2016 bike. If Bradl is fast in 2016, Aprilia could keep him for the future, if he isn't, he can keep working on improving the bike for 2017, and his successor.

With so many teams disappearing, it may be possible for the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing team to fulfill their wish of expanding to become a two-rider team. Honda would rather a competent, well-funded team took over one of the bikes which become available than give it to someone without the resources – financial and human – to make it competitive. At the Sachsenring, team owner Michael Bartholémy told us that he would very much like to have a second bike, but only if he could run it within budget. To do that, he would require the full IRTA support package, comprising transport allowance and free tires. As a new team, they are not getting that for 2015, and at around €1.2 million, that is a lot of money to find.

If Marc VDS do get a second bike, then Tito Rabat is the first rider who would be eligible for the bike. Bartholémy is keen to hold on to the Spaniard, but Rabat has made it very clear that his priority is to move up to MotoGP. Adding a second bike would be one way of keeping Rabat, and keeping him happy. Rabat would have to find a new crew chief, however, as Pete Benson is believed not to be interested in a return to MotoGP.

Bartholémy may not get his way, however. There is also a chance that Honda will decide who goes on the second bike. It seems unlikely that they would put Jack Miller there, as there is still a history of legal proceedings between Miller and Marc VDS over a contract the Australian signed with the team two years ago. But the intriguing option could be having Cal Crutchlow inside the team. Honda are keen to keep Crutchlow on the bike – having a 'normal' rider who can be competitive on the bike is important, making it easier for HRC to develop the bike around mere mortals, rather than the freakish talents of Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa. If LCR do drop one of their bikes, then Honda may decide place Crutchlow at Marc VDS and keep Miller at LCR.

Whatever happens with the second bike, Scott Redding is almost certain to remain in MotoGP with Marc VDS. Redding has gotten off to a torrid start since switching to the Honda RC213V, finding it a much more difficult bike to ride than the RCV1000R he had raced in 2014. All of his career, he has spent his time watching his weight and trying to compensate for his size and weight on an underpowered bike. Finally, he has a bike with a lot more horsepower than traction, and is having to relearn and rethink his approach to riding. Redding was starting to make real progress at the Sachsenring, but a first-lap crash put an end to his hopes of improvement. Though there is a performance clause in his contract with Marc VDS, Bartholémy told us he does not want to invoke it. He still has a strong belief that Redding will come good. The British rider has the second half of the season for that to happen.

While the combinations of Hondas and teams are pretty endless, the satellite Ducati teams look pretty well sorted. Pramac will continue to act as the Ducati junior team, and will get the bikes from this year's factory team for 2016. Having a GP15 will be a big step forward for Danilo Petrucci, who has a two-year deal with Pramac. The second seat is still open, with Yonny Hernandez, Stefan Bradl and perhaps even Eugene Laverty a possibility, though Laverty has a contract with Aspar for 2016. This is perhaps the most highly prized seat available in MotoGP, all the more so because the bike will be a GP15. Bradl, Tito Rabat and more are looking at this bike, and team manager Francesco Guidotti can almost take his pick.

As much as Yonny Hernandez would like to get his hands on a Ducati Desmosedici GP15, it is not looking likely to happen. There are strong indications that Hernandez will move back to Avintia, as the Colombian has good ties with his former team. That would mean racing a GP14.2, basically the same bike he is on now. As the third-ranked Ducati team, Avintia are last in line, and will be racing the GP14.2 in 2016. The other seat at Avintia will almost certainly be taken by Hector Barbera, as the Spanish rider brings both money and results to the squad.

We may know what Ducati will be doing, but just what Honda and Yamaha will be doing for the private teams is still uncertain. The AB Motor Racing team of Karel Abraham is believed to be eying a switch to World Superbikes, though Abraham himself is much less keen on the switch. Abraham Sr was seen talking to KTM's Pit Beirer in Assen by Dutch site Nieuwsmotor.nl, after which Beirer admitted he had spoken to Abraham about running the KTM factory team. AB Motor Racing is attractive not just because they have a MotoGP team, but also a MotoGP circuit, as Abraham Sr owns the Brno track. Beirer said they were talking to several different teams about this, and it was still very early. Any deal made would still leave AB Motor Racing out in the cold for 2016, as KTM are only looking at an entry in 2017. If the team leaves MotoGP next year, then Abraham's grid slot will become available, though it may not be such an appealing prospect. IRTA have already announced that they will only be providing financial support for the top 22 riders, ranked according to the special system they use to measure a rider's performance (based on the championship standing, but taking finishes outside the points into consideration). That means that 3 of the current 25 grid slots are due to lose their support. At the moment, Abraham, IODA Racing's Alex De Angelis, and Marco Melandri (or his successor) are in the hot seat.

IODA is almost certain to leave, the team having struggled ever since they joined the class, losing first CAME and then OCTO as sponsors. The second Aprilia rider (whoever it is) should start scoring enough points to lift them out of trouble. That would put Mike Di Meglio (and the second seat at Avintia) into the firing line, and potentially Eugene Laverty. The disappearance of Forward Racing, should they prove not to be able to continue until the end of the season, may just save their bacon.

If IODA goes, as seems certain, and Forward Racing cannot make it onto the grid next year, who could take their place? IRTA and Dorna have always said that 22 is the optimum grid size they are aiming for, though they are happy to have 24 or 25 on there. If nobody moves up to replace Forward and IODA, that would be fine. But there are candidates to replace them. Sito Pons has been eying a return to MotoGP for a while now, and 2016 could be a good opportunity. 2017 would be even better, though, as it would allow Pons to take Alex Rins up into the premier class.

Aki Ajo is the other man looking at opportunities in MotoGP. The addition of a Moto2 team for Johann Zarco has been a success, the Frenchman closing in rapidly on a Moto2 title. A seat in MotoGP would allow Ajo to move up and take Zarco with him. Having both Pons and Ajo in MotoGP would please Dorna immensely, as the aim is to fill the grid with the best teams in racing, and both Ajo and Pons have shown they are extremely competent.

2016 looks like being a difficult year for MotoGP, with so many teams in financial disarray. The year after should be better, however, as the new deal for private teams will come into effect, with each team getting around €2 million per rider from IRTA, rather than the €1.3 million they receive at the moment. Combined with a cap on lease prices, that should ease the financial pressures on the team, and allow for more continuity. We may be getting new rules in 2016, but the new era really begins in 2017.


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Total votes: 62
Total votes: 123

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Comments

It is interesting to see how smaller teams take on the available grid spots in MotoGP. Do teams work their way up from the smaller classes; from Moto3 to Moto2 with the ultimate goal of obtaining a grid spot on MotoGP? Or will a team hire experienced crews and riders and hope for the best.

It looks like Aki Ajo team has the right formula to be successful in the lower classes but will that same formula work in MotoGP?

Total votes: 96

great info david , sightfull and a good explanation too
nice effort.

i will become a site supporter in the coming weeks

greets hjm

Total votes: 111

Thanks for filling us in on the rider/team/sponsor chess game. Very Interesting!

Total votes: 110

To have a team on the grid still racing a GP14.2 in 2016 seems like madness. The bike has been demonstrably bad for years, and that a team would still pay good money for it, 2 years after the whole design was canned, seems crazy.

Total votes: 114

... to have Hernandez on it. He's often been the best of the GP14 riders, I have been impressed with him lately.

Total votes: 113

Let us look at what was the past. Apart from the Rothman's Honda team which was the factory team, the team that was favoured next by Honda was the Honda Pons team as also the Gresini Honda team. Now the fact that Pons disappeared because of the recession and his inability to raise funds to me raises doubts about his having the resources to get back into MotoGP and what machinery will he get. A Honda? Ducati? One can be sure that it will not be a Yamaha (unless Forward's open bikes are given to him) and certainly not Suzuki or Aprilia. So it seems kind of difficult that any teams from the Moto2 category can be expected to rise into MotoGP. In fact, I think the Moto2 model and the mindset it has created (cut price racing with low tech machinery). Maybe the time has come to create a Moto1 category just like the Moto2 and then have a MotoGP category with just 8 motorcycles (factory ones only). Anyway, there are no more than 8 motorcycles racing seriously in MotoGP and up front it is a four horse race (and has been for some years now). So in fact, you can have MotoGP only for the aliens (though there is one person here who has problems with this classification). Really what is the point in having a number of uncompetitive bikes circulating? I am sure just the factory bikes will probably more interesting because of the fact that they are competitive. I will be quite happy to see eight factory bikes and the four aliens fighting it out. This way the money maths will also be simpler.

Total votes: 103

I think you're being a bit too harsh with that. There are only four bikes that might win the championship at the moment - but there are many more that a racing seriously. All the factory Hondas and Yamahas have a chance at winning, although the factory teams are much more likely. The factory team Ducatis have been on the podium this year, and with a bit more improvement will be looking for the top step. Suzuki have come in a year earlier than expected and are already looking like they might be a threat in a couple more years. Aprilia are a bit of an unknown quantity at the moment - because they're still racing a production derived bike this year. Then there's the big shake-up that will happen with a different tyre manufacturer and spec electronics - remember 2007.

I think the problem with a smaller grid in the top is that there will be even less mobility to allow good riders a chance at motogp. Factories will keep the same eight riders on the bikes forever, because it's always safer to go with what you know, and without the satellites nipping at their heals there will be little incentive to try a change.

Total votes: 99

Aside from comments made by other guys, can you imagine how boring the race would be to watch at the track?

A lot of the enjoyment of watching a live racing is seeing the battles further down the field, watching people make their way through the field, that you don't get to see on TV.

It's a bad idea for so many other reasons actually, too many to list.. ! :)

Total votes: 84

Have the rumours of a Moto gp ride for Sam Lowes next year gone away now? BT Sport had been saying Aprilia were after him...

Total votes: 97

... rider, I think Aprilia need to aim even higher for their (full) MotoGP bike debut next year. Bradl had as good an opportunity as any rider in the class with a factory RCV to prove himself, and he didn't quite pull it off despite a few impressive rides. I think taking a risk on someone outside the class, like Jonny Rea, or expending a lot of capital to lure an even greater rider is the best way to make a real impression for 2016-17. Otherwise, why even bother going racing at this level?

Total votes: 108

I'm not sure what Bradl will bring to the Aprilia team above or beyond Bautista. Both have had time on the Honda, both have had a few good results, but neither managed to be consistently near the top.

Total votes: 94

Agree that Aprillia need to lure a top-quality rider.

I'm not sure Rea would be willing to go and spend 2-3 years as a development rider (which I think this needs), and his comments suggest that the move is unlikely (he's said he is 'too old'!) unless he goes straight into a top-flight ride.

I was hoping Alex Lowes was going to make the move, he's as fast as hell and is prepared to ride to the absolute limit. Think his results in WSBK flatter the capabilities of that bike and team (look at his team-mate Randy De Puniet's results, and also Alex's own ride at the front of the field for the first 45 mins at the Suzuka 8-hour).

But, for this year Bradl certainly sounds like a good candidate.

Total votes: 82

...Loris Baz? He is an exciting rider and got the Bridgestone tires by the horns pretty fast. David spitt the info right away! :D

Total votes: 88

Even with a purpose built MotoGP bike rather than the hot-rodded RSV4 they are still going to be well off the pace. If I was in charge of the purse strings I'd be thinking the coin required to employ a rider capable of challenging for a podium would be better poured into developing the bike.

Bradl is a gift from the gods for Aprilia given his currently poor bargaining position, he knows what a good Factory bike feels like, and he's still well motivated to prove himself.

Total votes: 84