Today, the Gresini Racing Team announced that their immediate future lies with Ducati. The Italian team, now run by Nadia Padovani, the widow of team's founder Fausto Gresini, will lease Ducati Desmosedici machines from the Bologna factory for the 2022 and 2023 MotoGP seasons.
The link with Ducati had been widely trailed, the Gresini team wavering between remaining with Aprilia as a satellite squad or switch to Ducati. The projected rider pairing may have had an influence on that decision: that Fabio Di Giannantonio would be moving up to MotoGP with Gresini for 2022 was a given, part of his deal for Moto2. But Enea Bastianini's switch from the Esponsorama squad, set to leave MotoGP at the end of 2021, to Gresini was not a foregone conclusion. Bastianini's ties to Ducati may well have weighed in the balance.
While Di Giannantonio already has a contract with Gresini, and is racing for the team in Moto2, it is something of a return for Enea Bastianini, and a reunion for the two riders. Bastianini started his Moto3 career with Gresini, first on a KTM, then later on a Honda, winning two races and scoring another 7 podiums for the Italian team. He was joined by Di Giannantonio in the Gresini Moto3 squad for the 2016 season, before leaving for the Estrella Galicia team.
Although no details of what level of machinery Ducati will be supplying were announced, it is widely expected that the team will have one-year-old bikes, meaning that Di Giannantonio and Bastianini will start the 2022 season with Ducati Desmosedici GP21s. That this is no bad thing is plain from the current MotoGP championship standings, where GP21s occupy positions two, three, and four. The fourth GP21, in the hands of Jorge Martin, has also had a pole and a podium.
Gresini's choice to sign with Ducati means there will be 8 Ducati Desmodedicis on the grid in 2022. The VR46 team, who will take over both slots from Esponsorama next year, are also expected to announce a deal with Ducati soon, with Luca Marini on one machine, and an open seat for the other. However, as the VR46 team is set up to provide bikes for members of the VR46 Riders Academy, the most logical choice would be for current Sky VR46 Moto2 rider Marco Bezzecchi to make the step up alongside Marini. Paddock reports suggest that Marini will get a GP22, while the second rider will be offered a GP21.
The separation of Gresini from Aprilia is part of the new team and factory contract period with Dorna for the coming five seasons. When Aprilia entered MotoGP, there were no spare grid slots, and so Aprilia were only able to enter in partnership with the Gresini squad. This led to the awkward situation of a full-factory effort being present in Parc Ferme as the first independent team rider, and the team taking part in the Independent Team Championship.
Dorna and Aprilia agreed to grant Aprilia their own grid slots for the coming contract period, from 2022 through 2026. Aprilia will now compete as a separate, full factory team, while Gresini become fully independent once again. That independence gave them the freedom to choose who to lease MotoGP machines from, which in turn led to their decision to switch to Ducati.
The press release from Gresini appears below:
THE NEW GRESINI MOTOGP PROJECT IS BORN
The future of Gresini Racing is ‘red’
Starting from next year, Gresini Racing will be back as an Independent MotoGP Team, with Ducati as the manufacturer of choice. This decision has been strongly supported by Fausto’s family, and it leads to a whole new project tied with the Borgo Panigale brand for the next two seasons.
Team Gresini will be back in full control of their Premier Class effort and will do so with the all-Italian line-up of Fabio Di Giannantonio and Enea Bastianini, two talented young riders who are no strangers to Fausto and Gresini Racing.
A big thank you goes to Aprilia Racing for the seven years spent together, which made for an especially important chapter in the history of Gresini Racing.
NADIA PADOVANI – GRESINI RACING TEAM OWNER & TEAM PRINCIPAL
“It’s a very emotional moment for each of us. In previous months, our efforts merged with a strong emotional push to shape the future of Gresini Racing, and now are immensely proud and happy to make the official announcement. It is a project born out of continuity and based on values upon which Fausto built this amazing institution. My thank you goes first and foremost to Carmelo Ezpeleta for making sure we never felt alone during these months, to Ducati for trusting our projects, to Flex-Box who joined us in this new challenge as title sponsor and obviously to Fabio and Enea: I’m sure they will give their best to wave the Gresini Racing banner high.”
GIGI DALL’IGNA – DUCATI CORSE GENERAL MANAGER
“We’re incredibly happy to have reached this agreement with Gresini Racing for the next two MotoGP seasons. We had laid down the foundations of a possible agreement with Fausto already at the end of last year and we would like to thank - from the bottom of our hearts - his family for carrying this project forward with us. Gresini Racing has been an especially important institution in MotoGP for many years and we are confident this partnership, which can count on two very talented riders such as Enea and Fabio, will be of great satisfaction for all parties involved."
CARMELO EZPELETA – CEO DORNA SPORTS
“First of all, it is a pleasure to continue working with Gresini Racing as an Independent Team. I know how much Fausto cared about this project and I'm sure he would be very proud of it now. I had the opportunity to speak with Nadia in recent weeks and I see in her, in her sons and the whole team the determination and the great passion for this sport that characterized him so much. We’re thrilled that Gresini Racing will continue, at least, 5 more years in the Premier Class”.