MotoGP Silly Season Stirs Into Life: Pramac Expect Jack Miller To Take Factory Ducati Seat

With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully behind us, the gears of the motorcycle world are starting to grind again. Riders are training once again, and their thoughts are turning to the future.

It is also clear that riders, teams, and factories are starting to think about 2021. This summer had promised to unleash a Silly Season of unrivaled scale, with all riders bar Tito Rabat out of contract at the end of 2020. January and February threw a wet blanket over the wilder speculation, as Maverick Viñales extend his contract with the factory Yamaha squad, Fabio Quartararo was promoted to the factory Yamaha team, and Valentino Rossi was promised a factory-supported Yamaha should he decide to continue for 2021.

After the Sepang test, HRC damped down the fire even further, signing Marc Marquez to an unprecedented four-year contract, which will see him race for Repsol Honda team until the end of 2024. Then in April and May, Suzuki did their part to remove any room for speculation by signing Alex Rins and Joan Mir to two-year contracts. And with racing out of the question during the lockdown, Silly Season went quiet.

But with racing now on the horizon again, albeit distantly and with some uncertainty, Silly Season is inching back into the limelight. In an interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Pramac Ducati boss Francesco Guidotti said that the Ducati are close to a deal with Jack Miller to ride for the factory team in 2021.

Pramac has always played a role as a junior team for Ducati, and a conduit for talent - the fact that Danilo Petrucci is currently in the factory squad after stepping up from Pramac is proof of that, as is the fact that Ducati signed a contract with Pecco Bagnaia for 2019 at the start of the 2018 season, when the Italian was still in Moto2. But that relationship and role has been made more explicit recently, Guidotti explained.

They used to be free to sign whoever they felt best suited the team, the Pramac team manager explained, but under the terms of a new deal, Ducati took over the reins where finding young talent was concerned. "Now the first approach is done by Ducati because they wanted to make a plan in the medium to long term with young riders and they asked us if it was possible," Guidotti said. As part of that process, Ducati were talking to Miller about stepping up to the factory team. "As far as I know, it’s not done yet. But, of course, from both parties there is the intention to do the deal. I think it’s close," Guidotti told MotoGP.com.

If a deal with Miller is close, whose place will he be taking in the factory squad? The chances are that it is Danilo Petrucci who will have to make way for the Australian. That swap almost happened at Valencia last year, when Ducati tried to find a spot for Johann Zarco in the Pramac team, which would have seen Miller bumped up to the factory team and Petrucci demoted to Avintia. In the end, it was Zarco who went to Avintia, after promises of strong factory support from Ducati boss Gigi Dall'Igna.

Petrucci is a stronger candidate for replacement than Andrea Dovizioso. Despite a trouble relationship with Gigi Dall'Igna, Dovizioso has been instrumental to the development of the Ducati Desmosedici since arriving at the factory in 2013. In recent weeks, Dovizioso's manager Simone Battistella has been carefully neutral in his comments about Dovizioso's future. He has held open the option of moving elsewhere, although the options appear to be limited. The best choice for both Dovizioso and Ducati could be to stick together for at least another season.

The question of who takes Miller's place at Pramac is open to question. Jorge Martin is the hot favorite at the moment, the Red Bull KTM Moto2 rider keen to make the jump to MotoGP, but with few options with KTM. KTM bosses have made clear they are happy with their current rider line up, and the only slot available would be at the Tech3 team, if either Miguel Oliveira or Iker Lecuona were to choose to leave at the end of 2020.

Martin is just one of a host of young riders who are also keen to make the jump from Moto2. Lorenzo Baldassarri, Remy Gardner, Jorge Navarro, Xavi Vierge, Luca Marini; perhaps even Enea Bastianini, Joe Roberts, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Tetsuta Nagashima. But with no racing since the Qatar season opener for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, team bosses will have little data on which to base a choice.

Beyond Ducati, the situation surrounding Valentino Rossi and the Petronas Yamaha team remains delicate. Rossi and Petronas team boss Razlan Razali are engaged in a careful courtship dance in what seems like an inevitable relationship for 2021. As Razali told Tammy Gorali in an interview for MotoMatters.com, the goal of Petronas is to invest in young talent for the longer term. In response, Rossi told the MotoGP.com website that if he joined them, it would not be for a farewell tour, but to race to win a title.

At the moment, talks are happening through the intermediary of Yamaha. Both Rossi and Petronas are discussing options with Yamaha, and as Yamaha will have a major role to play in putting together any team for Rossi, they are the first port of call for clearing away obstacles.

The link up feels inevitable, however. Rossi looks determined to continue for 2021, and Yamaha have promised him a bike, and in the cash-strapped post-COVID-19 era, having Yamaha bear some of the financial burden should be attractive, even to a well-funded team like Petronas. Speaking to MotoGP.com, Rossi admitted his options were either race with Petronas next year or retire. Right now, Rossi does not look anywhere near ready to retire.

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Comments

im calling it right now.

Pol Espargaro & Jack Miller at Factory Ducati 2021.

Ducati's hands were forced to sign Miller or else KTM would have.

KTM says they don't want Dovi.  Thats because KTM still want Miller; but because of the Miller to factory deal, the are already negotiating with Dovi right now for more money than Ducati will give him. Ducati had to give a big pay raise to keep Miller in red and a promotion to the factory team.  Only so much money in that Ducati 2021 rider salary budget.  (3) 2nd place seasons don't get you much in COVID 2020 dollars.  Not to mention Dovi's done pretty well for himself by Ducati and has yet to produce a title.

KTM says they want to keep all four of their current riders. 

What it really means is KTM doesn't want to lose Pol.  But Pol will go to a factory Ducati seat for basically free if you offered it to him.  And honesty if you look at the list of riders available; he's at the very top.  A Moto2 World Champion, a huge smile and a riding style that would suit an agressive bike like the Ducati.

Pol flirting with Honda rumors.  Ha.  Smokescreen for Ducati.

Dovi may have a short term offer for low salary on the table from Ducati - but there is no way a 3-time runner up to Marc Marquez would see himself being valued by Ducati in that situation when he has an offer on the table from KTM.  Red Bull athlete club status will ensure it happens.

Dovi and Pedrosa on the same team again.  What a sight that will be.  So much nostalgia these days.

I believe Dovi's only shot of maintaining influence and a spot in the Ducati team for 2021 is to somehow keep a Dovi / Petrux lineup going into 2021. Which is against everything I just wrote will happen.

Jackass
Earned
Every
Euro
Pramac may have you know whowonderkid to Quarararo with, they'll be JUST fine.
Petrucci did great. Time for another full blossom in WSBK.
:)

All eyes are here, on Ducati's next signing after Jack. Of course Miller gets the well earned seat. Petrucci looks headed to Red WSBK? Hats off to you, particularly bagging a MotoGP win on an Italian bike. Be proud. Blossom again immediately upon throwing a leg over the V4. Draft in behind Redding in the 1st session.

Duc was able to first secure Tito (wink), it has been plateaued 2017-2018 hope Prof Dovi that has been teetering. He knocked at Honda to no answer. Duc has considered letting him go, and are lowering his salary in negotiations now. He looks to be staying put. All respect to #04, he has done SO MUCH and the hard honest way. He deserves to stay, and may be under an overtaking by a handful of riders right now. Time to respond.

(Side bar, Vale will Yellow with Aqua. The indelicate part was already cared for decisively by Yamaha/Jarvis in giving Quartararo the Blue seat. Less to see here for me, as much as I love Vale and wish his sunset to be regal).

SO, Jorge Martin, Baldassarri and Remy Gardner. An American with a name like Roberts has marketing appeal for Dorna, and he is on a swell. It looks to be Martin. Good pick.

Goodness of fit of Martin and a Ducati? Going to research a bit. VERY interested in your thoughts.

Bikes are back on track in Spain! Far from a crowdless circus event, but a step nonetheless.
:)

Shrink, in an alternate universe where Marc does not exist, you might be asking, "can anyone stop Dovi?"

I don't think so, but do really like the guy. Look at how close 3 Duc bikes have been running for several years - Dovi has been very good, but not excellence trancending terrestrial bounds. Yamaha was in a bad rut for the few yrs that he was running 2nd too. I think he is now running 2 spots rearward of 2nd.

Marc is amazing. This Honda sure isn't, thank goodness. I think someone is coming, if not two someones (neither being Dovi. But what do I know, I thought it was Bagnaia. So tricky to get the rider-bike-circumstances chemistry on boil, but at least now we have a close field of bikes on tap). When he gets pressured, he may get hurt over-overriding that bucking gravel muncher too.

Other Universe ponderings drive me a bit bonkers (if only Binder were on a Suzuki...and it had a bit more motor, and...). The permutations in this Universe are plenty! The new Bridgestone rear for instance ticks a box in detriment to Honda. Yamaha just got their bike back in order, and major structural changes to their project. The new Ducati is turning better. Quarty is here and on the gas. Vinales is back into a sweeter spot. Suzuki has two riders to push each other and develop the bike. So on. There used to be FOUR bikes on the whole grid that could do the pointy end business. Now, what, 14 ish?

For me, a Ducati rider to emerge as a next #27 has been a vacuum. And Suzuki major sponsor/2nd team. Looking fwd to some fresh turnover on the Duc. Let's not forget Zarco btw. He may rocket and get one of the four big boy bikes for his next contract.

I like that! Particlarly slotting into Davies seat. Regarding Dovi, he still can fight for the championship so I'd like to see him continue in '21. In my view, Ducati missed out on acquiring the few rising talents capable of winning it all when they fumbled around with Rossi, Melandri and Crutchlow before Gigi improved the bike. They still haven't recovered from that and if Miller can't step it up, maybe they never will for a long time... HRC and Yamaha have always had 1 or 2 riders capable of taking the whole thing. Suzuki had Vinales but lost him. They must've learned something from that, going all-in with their two rising stars. One or both have the speed to win races. Hopefully many races. Too bad about Binder sticking with KTM. He's the kind of rider that Ducati needs. As a result both Binder and Ducati missed a chance to do something great. Maybe Zarco can reclaim himself. I am sure Ducati thinks so which is why Gigi made the deal for him. 

Regardless of Rossi's performance, which is likely to still be competitive, his popularity has to be worth a lot for bringing in cash to whatever team and manufacturer he rides for

Anyone else having a hard time watching Martin preferring to "stay with KTM" or pursuing Honda?

Please take all that Ducati money and the NASA missile to the front. The more unconventional and particular a bike is, the more circulation of riders it needs aboard it. Duc should do what LCR does w sponsors for one bike, but re riders. Hey Carmelo, can we please have a permanent wild card bike? Make it Tito's? :)

Agreed 645, Rossi brings resources raining down. Staff and kit too. But also hugely disruptive to a team, not without a cost. Your garage would get rather mauraded with staffing changes. The culture goes Yellow and Italian. Shots you used to call are no longer yours. After you lose a third of your staff, then what do you do two seasons later?

Sort of a hit and run. She looks great on your arm, when she is around. She moves in and her whole extended family ends up under your roof, yelling in a foreign language over an ever busy pasta pot. Where did they toss your rice cooker? Then as swiftly as they came they shuffle back out the door, leaving empty Peroni bottles. No hams.

Petronas/SIC has plenty of money, and a fresh fertile path worth continuing. For it to be favorable, it needs a future partnership w VR46 while retaining Aqua necessities. Is Vale open to focusing that way and making commitments? Is he ready to present what he offers for the future? Or just asking for what he deserves as an extension of the past?

Yamaha has done the hard part. Aqua is new here. Asian, not European. And looking forward along with Yamaha. Entirely understandable reticence.

St Stephen, in that alternate universe can we have Rossi and VR46 return to roots with Aprilia? 2nd Team, the bike is ready to step fwd and desperately needs it? While twice as far from Tavullia to Noale as it is to Bologna, it is under 3 hrs to drive. (Endless conjecture might entertain but doesn't ever provide a place to hang your leathers, eh friend?).
;)

Dear god please get us racing again before I lose my friction plates.

I agree with your sentiment regarding Rossi joining Petronas and then leaving.  I would really love Rossi to come (almost) full circle and end his career with the single rider team, just the same way as he started it. The team could dissolve quickly or turn into the Sky46 Team if need be.  Not sure why this hasn't been proposed as by Yamaha.

I really need to see 22 prototype motorcycles on a combined 6000+ hoursepower barrelling into turn 1 in a thunderous roar of intensity. Please, let it be so.