MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Ducati’s man-management disaster could cost it MotoGP glory
Ducati won its first MotoGP race in five months on Sunday, but the weekend proved that the Italian factory has forgotten how to look after its riders
MotoGP wasn’t supposed to have a silly season this summer, because all the big names have two-year contracts to the end of 2020 or one-plus-one deals that seemed certain to roll into next year. Then all of a sudden MotoGP is having a stupid season.
At Sachsenring last month Jack Miller announced that his 2020 contract renewal with Pramac Ducati was all but signed. “We’re just sorting out the pennies,” he said.
At Brno he wondered why the contract hadn’t arrived in his email inbox. On Thursday at Red Bull Ring he found out why. Ducati was talking to its 2018 factory rider Jorge Lorenzo about returning to the brand next year, by taking the Aussie’s seat.
Miller was upset and angry. “It hit me like a tonne of bricks,” he said on Friday. When Miller, who is one of the easiest-going riders in racing, told us this he welled up. In other words, he felt he had been properly stabbed in the back.
And no wonder. The 23-year-old has been having a great second season with the Italian brand, which saw him as a major part of its future in MotoGP, until last week.
Ducati has had form on this kind of thing. Its management structure – previously in the MotoGP team and now inside Ducati Corse but mostly at the top of Ducati Motor itself – has made a habit of stitching up its riders and losing their trust.
In 2004 team management harried Troy Bayliss out of Ducati’s MotoGP team, after they‘d refused to let him use the crew that had guided him to the 2001 World Superbike title. In November 2006 he showed Ducati what he could do with that crew when he won the season finale at Valencia.
In 2009 factory management failed to support their first MotoGP champ Casey Stoner when he was sick, so he got out of there as soon as his contract expired.
In 2014 Cal Crutchlow decided to quit the Ducati factory team before he had even completed the first year of a two-year deal with the factory. And last year top company management decided to let go the fastest rider they’d had since Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo.
The Spaniard had learned how to get the maximum out of the Desmosedici at the very moment he learned that Ducati Motor CEO Claudio Domenicali didn’t want to keep him; no matter that he was Ducati’s best hope of regaining the title it last won in 2007.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.