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MotoGP To Introduce "Transfer Window" For Rider Contract Negotiations

As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. While there is great concern over the state of the rider market and the earliness of when Silly Season commences nowadays, there are no concrete proposals to restrict it in any way, as far as I am currently aware. Despite the fictional nature of this story, the logic behind Dorna wanting to keep things as they are - increased interest in the sport during the off season - is sound. But whether the factories would either be willing or able to restrict negotiations to a set time is open to question. Policing such an agreement would be extremely difficult. This was the last of the fictional stories for 2018, we hope. for another year at least, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed... 

There has been a trend over the past decade for rider contract negotiations to get earlier and earlier. Where once, talks about new contracts would start sometime in June, and agreements finalized and signed during August, now, initial discussions start at the Valencia Grand Prix the year before a contract is due to end, and deals are signed in the first few races, or as in the past two contract cycles, before the season has even begun.The underlying causes for this trend are numerous, but at its heart, it comes down to the glut of talent that is in MotoGP these days, both in terms of riders and in terms of bikes. The best riders have more choice of competitive machinery, and there are more talented riders for the factories to choose from. This has forced the factories into pursuing and signing up the riders they want as early as possible. As former HRC team principal Livio Suppo told ace French journalist Thomas Baujard, "In the MotoGP class, the manufacturers are the slaves of the top riders."

The MotoGP Silly Season for 2019 and 2020 rider contracts has been particularly frenzied. Maverick Viñales announced his contract extension in January at the Movistar Yamaha team launch. Talented Moto2 prospect Pecco Bagnaia was signed by Ducati to race with the Pramac team ahead of the factory Ducati team launch in January. Marc Márquez announced he was extending with Repsol Honda before the Qatar test, and Valentino Rossi made his new two-year deal with Movistar Yamaha public on the Thursday before the Qatar race.

This frenzy of negotiations has caused the factories to push for the introduction of a "transfer window", a practice common in other sports such as soccer. From the 2020 season, when the next round of rider contracts is due, negotiations will only be allowed to take place within a narrow window, with deals signed within that window and no talks allowed either before or after. That window will be in the week following the final race of the year at Valencia.

Grand designs

The factories, as represented by the MSMA, hope to achieve a number of objectives with this move. Firstly, by not allowing any talks during the season, riders, teams, and engineers will be able to spend the season focusing on racing, rather than worrying about how a rider fits into a team after they have either decided to leave, or been pushed out to make way for someone else. Secondly, the manufacturers hope to be able to contain the rise of rider salaries, which are being driven up in part by riders being able to shop their talents around between multiple factories.

Though the other members of the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule-making body, have agreed in principle, sources with knowledge of the situation tell that Dorna have made the MSMA pay a very hefty price for the introduction of a transfer window. The new rules on contracts are part of the sporting regulations, which are in principle have to be agreed among all four members of the GPC: Dorna, team representatives IRTA, the FIM, and the MSMA. The factories had pushed hard for the new rules as a cost-cutting measure, but Dorna were opposed to the move.

For Dorna, MotoGP's Silly Season generates a bonanza of publicity for the series. Contract negotiations and rumors about rider moves keep the news cycle buzzing throughout the year, only tailing off once all the available MotoGP seats have been filled. Contract rumors and signings in the preseason suits Dorna's agenda even better, generating interest in the sport in a time when there is little or no on-track action to celebrate. Dorna, with support from IRTA, had threatened to block the MSMA's request for a transfer window, unless they got something in return.


And boy, did they get something in return. The manufacturers, believing they would be able to save millions in rider salaries with the introduction of a transfer window, acquiesced to the demands of Dorna. To compensate for the loss of publicity in the preseason surrounding rider contracts, and to maximize interest in the season which follows, the MotoGP transfer window will be open solely during the week following the final race of the season at Valencia, ahead of the first test of the year the following weekend. What's more, the entire proceedings – from contract talks to the deal being signed – will be part of a special Dorna TV show called "Racing With The Stars".

The idea behind "Racing With The Stars" is that it will be a daily, two-hour show following a set pattern, and shown from the Monday to the Friday in the week following Valencia. It will be part reality TV show, part racing extravaganza, part panel discussion show. Contract talks will still happen behind closed doors, but Dorna will film teams and rider managers going into the talks, and then interview them after such talks have happened.

Every day, the riders will undergo a physical challenge relating to racing, and the results of those challenges will earn them bonuses from the teams they eventually sign with. The initial idea is to have a series of physical tests on the Monday, including a VO2 Max test, reaction time testing, and balance skills. Tuesday through Thursday will see the riders compete against one another in bike-related challenges, including a trials competition, a Supermoto race, and a flat-track race, culminating in a bicycle race around the Valencia track on Friday.

While the riders are testing their mettle on the track, their managers and the teams will be busy flexing their negotiating muscles. As part of securing a transfer window, the factories have agreed to make public the state of contract negotiations at the end of each day. Intriguingly, that will include the latest agreed salary offers for each rider.

Bike off

To add further spice to the spectacle, the week will be include some elements of a knockout competition. The entire MotoGP field from the previous season will start the week, along with hopeful prospects from Moto2 and the WorldSBK paddock. At the end of each "Racing With The Stars" show, the riders will assemble in a line up, and the presenter will read out a list of the latest salary offers, finishing up with a list of riders who have not managed to generate any interest from factories or teams, and who will not make it through to the next day.

The climax of the week will be a prime time extravaganza to be shown live on Italian and Spanish TV. On Friday night, the riders will find out which team or factory they will be racing for the following season. They will then be shown the bikes they will be riding for the next two days – Saturday and Sunday – at the first test of the season. Dorna will then provide live coverage of that two-day test on the website, and TV broadcasters will also have the opportunity to show the test.

It was a compromise that all parties could live with, despite the obvious downsides for all of them. The factories were prepared to give up the chance to negotiate earlier, as they believe this allow them to significantly reduce rider salaries, and keep them affordable. Dorna was prepared to give up extra media coverage of the sport in the preseason, in exchange for a spectacle which will increase the value of their TV rights. The teams were willing to give up some control of their negotiations with riders, as they get the chance to see and talk to more riders from a wider talent pool, and possibly sign a rider they hadn't expected.

The riders were not consulted on the change.


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Private Testing Completed For Honda, Aprilia, Ducati At Jerez

The importance of a private test can sometimes be measured by the lack of news emerging from the track. For the past three days, the Jerez circuit has resounded to the bellow of MotoGP and WorldSBK machines, as Honda, Ducati, Aprilia, and KTM have shared the track.

Yet other than a couple of social media posts on Twitter and Instagram, there was next to no news from the test. The only official source was a brief news item on the official website of the Jerez circuit.

Despite that, it was an important test for the factories involved. For HRC, especially: on Monday, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa used the first of their five days of private testing to try the 2018 Honda RC213V at a tighter European track. The test was aimed at verifying the engine selected for this season, and setting it up for the slower, tighter tracks which form the bulk of the European rounds of the series. Given that the engine is now frozen, Jerez is an ideal place to work on chassis and setup, something which was deprioritized over the winter in favor of selecting an engine for the season.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Stefan Bradl took over from the Repsol Honda riders, carrying on the work in his role as Honda test rider. Bradl was joined by Matteo Baiocco testing the Aprilia RS-GP, Mika Kallio and Pol Espargaro on the KTM RC16 MotoGP machine, Danilo Petrucci working on the Ducati Desmosedici GP18 - Ducati using Petrucci as a test mule, to spare the test days of the factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo - and Michele Pirro, riding the Ducati Panigale V4 in race trim. KTM's Moto2 testers Julian Simon and Ricky Cardus were also present.

KTM had the track to themselves on Thursday, the other factories having already left. As a team with concessions, KTM are free to test as much as they want, limited only by the season's supply of 120 tires per contracted rider during testing.

The absence of Bradley Smith was notable, in part because of the presence of Pol Espargaro. Though Espargaro had been forced to miss a lot of preseason testing after aggravating a back injury in a massive crash at the Sepang test, and was therefore in need of more time on the bike, it is noteworthy that Smith was not invited. Smith has been the subject of fierce criticism by KTM bosses, most recently by KTM Motorsports Director Pit Beirer in an interview with the German language publication Speedweek. In that interview, Beirer expressed his frustration at Smith, who would demonstrate that he was capable of pushing for a very quick lap, but spent most of the tests and practice sessions going too slow to provide meaningful data, in Beirer's opinion. His ability was not in doubt, just his approach, Beirer told Speedweek.


Testing is now complete, and the teams are preparing to board flights for the long haul across the Atlantic to Termas de Rio Hondo, and the Argentinian round of MotoGP, which takes place on 8th April.


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Three Days Of Private Testing Commences At Jerez: Repsol Honda Spend First Test Day

For the next three days, the Jerez circuit will resound to the noise of MotoGP machinery, as private testing gets underway. The Repsol Honda team will be the first to take to the track on Monday, with Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa riding behind closed doors. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Stefan Bradl takes over the Honda testing duties, while Aprilia, Pramac Ducati, and the Ducati WorldSBK team takes to the track. 

The fact that Marquez and Pedrosa are testing is noteworthy. Repsol Honda are using the first of their five days of private testing (Yamaha and Ducati used their test days in November at Sepang and Jerez respectively, Aprilia, Suzuki, and KTM have unlimited testing as concession teams). With HRC having been completely focused on getting the engine right during preseason testing, they have done little work on the chassis. Now that the season is underway and the engine design is frozen for 2018, Marquez and Pedrosa will turn their attentions to improving the chassis and suspension.

Marquez and Pedrosa will use just one of their five days for testing, before handing the bikes to Stefan Bradl, now test rider for HRC.

From Tuesday, Pramac Ducati, Aprilia, and Ducati's Superbike program will be testing. Unlike the Honda test on Monday, which is completely closed to the public, the circuit will be open to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday. Pramac Ducati will be charged with doing some of the lifting for the factory Ducati team, as Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo have already used two of their days of private testing.

It is unlikely that times will be published for any of the three days of the test, but there will definitely not be any test times published from Monday's Repsol Honda test.


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Valentino Rossi Signs On For Two More Years At Yamaha, Will Race Through 2020

Valetnino Rossi will race for two more years with the Movistar Yamaha team in MotoGP. At Qatar, Yamaha announced that they had signed a new deal with the 39-year-old Italian which will see him racing through 2020. 

The only surprise about the announcement is that it took so long to announce. Rumors of Rossi's imminent signing had been doing the rounds of the paddock since the Sepang test, but it took until the eve of the 2018 season to make the new contract public. 

What is interesting in the press release is that the language Rossi uses gives absolutely no hint of a possible retirement at the end of 2020. The tone of Rossi's quote suggests he will keep on racing for as long as he is competitive. So far, he shows no signs of slowing down.

Rossi's new contract brings the total of signed riders to 7 for the 2019 season. Rossi and Maverick Viñales will keep the Movistar Yamaha team unchanged, Marc Marquez will stay at Repsol Honda, Cal Crutchlow still has a contract with LCR Honda, as does Xavier Simeon at Avintia and Franco Morbidelli at Marc VDS, while Pecco Bagnaia will be making the move up to MotoGP in 2019 with Pramac Ducati.

The press release announcing Rossi's contract extension is below:

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. is delighted to announce that it will continue its strong relationship with nine-time World Champion and living MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi, having signed a new two-year agreement.

Losail (Qatar), 15th March 2018

Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and Valentino Rossi are delighted to have reached an agreement that will see the Italian rider remain with Yamaha‘s factory team for the 2019 and 2020 MotoGP seasons, aboard the Yamaha YZR-M1.

The contract extension comes just before the 39-year-old will embark on his 13th season with Yamaha, starting at the Grand Prix in Qatar, held from March 16th – 18th.

The combination of the Doctor and the YZR-M1 has led to many milestones in the past and together they secured four MotoGP World Championship titles. He is Yamaha's most successful Grand Prix rider in history, with 56 wins, 43 second places, and 35 third places secured in 206 races together. Moreover, out of the manufacturer's 500 Grand Prix victories, achieved in Le Mans 2017, exactly 11% of those victories were secured by him, making him the biggest contributing rider, having scored 55 victories on a Yamaha up to that point.

For an overview of some of Rossi‘s records and career highlights, visit Yamaha‘s special Valentino Rossi Webpage. Clicking on the statistics will reveal a hidden image.

With six strong podiums last year, including a brilliant GP victory in the Netherlands, the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team is confident in their partnership with Rossi and look forward to being a serious title contender for 2018 and the following seasons.


The confirmation of Valentino‘s two-year extension of his Agreement with Yamaha is a great way to start the 2018 season that kicks off officially on Friday in Qatar. The news may not be a great surprise because Valentino has made it clear that he wanted to continue to race, but the reconfirmation will surely come as welcome news for his millions of fans around the world.

It was very easy to reach an agreement together – as a Factory Team we need top riders capable to win and with the total commitment to do what it takes to achieve the goal. Despite his many years in the sport and his 39 years, Vale is as committed today as he ever was and there is no doubt he is still a top rider, as witnessed most recently by his second position in the final pre-season test here in Qatar. Now it is our job as a team and a factory to give him the best possible YZR-M1 to let him fight for race wins and championship success.

Having both Maverick and Valentino now signed for 2019-20 allows us to just focus all of our energy on the 2018 season and to be strong contenders at every single MotoGP Grand Prix. It promises to be a highly competitive season and like all the fans - we in Yamaha are truly excited to go racing on Sunday night here in Losail.


When I signed my last contract with Yamaha, in March 2016, I wondered if that would have been the last contract as a MotoGP rider. At that time, I decided that I‘d take that decision during the following two years. During the last two years I came to the conclusion that I want to continue because racing, being a MotoGP rider, but especially riding my M1, is the thing that makes me feel good.

Having the opportunity to work with my team, with Silvano, Matteo and all my mechanics, and working with all Japanese engineers, Tsuji-san, and above all Tsuya-san, is a pleasure - I‘m happy.

I want to thank Yamaha - Lin Jarvis and Maio Meregalli in particular - for their trust in me, because the challenge is difficult: being competitive until I‘m 40 years old! I know it‘s going to be difficult and it requires a lot of effort from my side and a lot of training but I‘m ready, I am not lacking in motivation, that‘s why I‘m signing for two more years.


Rossi is known as one of the greatest of all time.

He equals Mike Hailwood and Carlo Ubbiali, who both wrote nine titles to their names in all classes, only Giacomo Agostini and Angel Nieto have more. With 56 wins from 206 races Rossi remains the most successful Yamaha racer of all time since he joined the Japanese factory.

Moreover, Rossi is the only rider to win premier class titles on five different types of motorcycles (500cc 4-cylinder two-stroke, 990cc 5-cylinder four-stroke, Yamaha 990cc 4-cylinder four-stroke, Yamaha 800cc 4-cylinder four-stroke and a Yamaha 1000cc 4-cylinder four-stroke).


  • Rossi is the most successful Yamaha rider in history (56 wins, 43 second places, 35 third places on a Yamaha, scored in 206 races).
  • He is the rider that's been active the longest in Grand Prix Racing (he made his debut in 1996, this will be his 23rd season, and he has made 365 Grand Prix starts in total, of which 273 were in the MotoGP class).
  • He competed the most seasons on a Yamaha in the MotoGP class (this will be his 13th season).
  • He is the only rider to win the MotoGP World Championship four times in a row (2002 - 2005).
  • He secured the most podiums for Yamaha in the MotoGP class (so far he has stood on the rostrum with Yamaha 134 times).
  • He holds the most first places for Yamaha in the MotoGP class (56 wins).
  • He is the only rider to complete 230 races back-to-back, without missing one (from his debut in 1996 in Malaysia until the race in Mugello in 2010).
  • He holds the record for most races started overall and in the premier class. (He has started 365 GP races across all classes; 305 of which have been in the premier class and 206 of those races were ridden on a Yamaha.)
  • He was the first rider to take back-to-back premier-class victories with different manufacturers (after his win at the 2004 season-opening GP in South Africa).
  • He scored five successive premier-class victories on a Yamaha (2008: USA, CZE, RSM, INP, JPN).
  • He achieved the highest number of premier-class victories in a single season by a Yamaha rider (11 wins in 2005).
  • He finished on the podium at all 16 races in 2003, achieving a perfect 100% podium rate.
  • He repeated the 16 podiums score (which has been equaled but never surpassed) from 2003 in the 2005 and 2008 season, making him the only rider to score that many podiums in more than two seasons.
  • He stood on the podium in the premier-class on 191 occasions.
  • He has been on the podium 227 times across all classes, more than any other rider.
  • He won at least one GP in every year of his 12 seasons with Yamaha so far.
  • He is the only Grand Prix rider that also excels in rally racing. (He is a six-time winner of the Monza Rally Show.)
  • He is the only rider to win premier class titles on five different types of motorcycle (500cc 4-cylinder two-stroke, 990cc 5-cylinder four-stroke, Yamaha 990cc 4-cylinder four-stroke, Yamaha 800cc 4-cylinder four-stroke and a Yamaha 1000cc 4-cylinder four-stroke).
  • Out of Yamaha‘s 500 Grand Prix victories, achieved in Le Mans 2017, 11% of those were secured by him, making him the biggest contributing rider (55 victories of the 500 GP wins secured by Yamaha).
  • He is the most successful premier-class rider in Assen (8 victories) and Brno (5 first places). He also holds records for most wins over all classes in Mugello, Catalunya, Estoril, Phillip Island, Welkom, Jerez, Sepang, Donington Park, and Rio.
  • He is the only active Grand Prix racer who is also a lower-classes team owner at the same time.
  • He secured 5,875 points in total, if you combine his results over all the classes he competed in (125cc, 250cc, 500cc, MotoGP).
  • He will start his 23rd racing season this weekend… and there are many more impressive statistics to come in the next two years.

For a full rider biography visit:


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Former 250cc Star Ralf Waldmann Dies

Ralf Waldmann, former superstar of the 250cc class, has died at the age of 51 years of age. The immensely popular German rider was found dead near his parents home after apparently suffering a heart attack. 

Waldmann was one of the best 250cc racers never to win a title. The German was a ferocious competitor throughout the 1990s, taking on such greats as Max Biaggi, Loris Capirossi, Daijiro Katoh, Tohru Ukawa, Tetsuya Harada, and Olivier Jacque. Waldmann never managed to win a title, though he finished runner up to Max Biaggi twice.

The German tried his luck in the 500cc class in 1998, though he did not meet with the same success. He finished fourteenth on the Modenas KR3 triple. 

After his retirement, Waldmann turned his hand to broadcasting. He spent several years as a pit lane reporter for German TV, most recently for Eurosport Germany. He was a vivacious and lively character, who was much loved in the paddock. His death unleashed a wave of sadness on social media from riders who raced against him, teams who had both hosted him and raced against him, and from journalists who had worked with him.


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Marc Marquez Signs On For Two More Years With Repsol Honda

Marc Marquez has become the third rider to sign a new contract for the coming season. Today, HRC announced that the reigning world champion will be staying with the Repsol Honda team for two more years, for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

The news doses not come as a surprise, despite recent comments by Marquez that he was open to listening to offers from other factories. Marquez is very happy with Honda, and at this point in his career, his main ambition is to keep winning races and championships. He has proven that he is capable of doing that with Honda.

The improvement in the Honda RC213V may also have factored into his decision to sign now. Throughout winter testing, the Honda riders have been much more positive in their comments than they have been in previous years. Marquez has been both very fast and very comfortable in winter testing, his long runs an indication of just how fast he is, even in race trim. With Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow also quick on the bike, the RC213V looks like being extremely competitive this year.

Marquez is the third rider to sign a new contract before the season has even begun. Maverick Viñales announced that he would be back with Yamaha for two more years at the Movistar Yamaha team launch, before he had even swung a leg over the bike, and Ducati announced they had signed Pecco Bagnaia to the Pramac team for two years before the Italian has even started his second year in MotoGP.

With Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, and Xavier Simeon all having contracts for 2019 with their current teams, that brings the total number of riders already signed for next year up to six. More are almost certain to follow before the season opener at Qatar on 18th March.

Below is the press release from the Repsol Honda Team:

Honda Racing Corporation Renews Contract with Marc Márquez for Two Years

Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) is pleased to announce the extension of its contract with 25-year-old Spanish rider Marc Márquez, currently competing in the FIM MotoGP World Championship for the HRC’s factory team “Repsol Honda Team,” that will see him continue to race for two more years beginning in 2019.

After winning the 125cc Championship in 2010, Márquez moved on to Moto2 racing in 2011 to win the title in 2012. In 2013, in his debut year in the premier class, he became the world’s youngest champion after taking the title for the Repsol Honda Team.

In 2017, he became the youngest rider in history to win four titles in the premier class.

Marc Márquez’ World Championship Achievements

World Champion: 4(2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)
Starts: 90
Podiums: 63(35 x 1st, 19 x 2nd, 9 x 3rd)
Poles: 45
Fastest Race Laps: 37

World Champion: 1(2012)
Starts: 32
Podiums: 25(16 x 1st, 6 x 2nd, 3 x 3rd)
Poles: 14
Fastest Race Laps: 7

World Champion: 1(2010)
Starts: 46
Podiums: 14(10 x 1st, 4 x 3rd)
Poles: 14
Fastest Race Laps: 9

Marc Marquez

“I’m excited to continue to race for Honda’s factory team in the MotoGP class. I’m proud to race as a member of the Honda family, and I appreciate how Honda and the team always do their best to provide me with everything I need. I would also like to thank everyone who has given me such warm support over the years. The first two official tests went well and, with my contract renewed, I can focus on racing in the new season. I will continue to enjoy racing, share my joy with everybody and do my best to reach our shared goals. Thank you!”

Yoshishige Nomura
HRC President

“I am very pleased that Marc Márquez will continue to ride for our factory team. Márquez has consistently pushed himself to the limit and matured as a rider, and given Honda many titles. We were able to announce the contract renewal at such an early stage due to our mutual trust, and our common passion for racing. I am certain that we can provide an environment for him to concentrate on the final tests in Qatar this week and in the lead-up to the opening round, and that we can start the 2018 season strongly. HRC will continue its challenge with Márquez, a vital rider in the future of MotoGP. I appreciate and look forward to everyone’s continued support for the Repsol Honda Team.”


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Bombshell: Yamaha And Tech3 To Part Ways For 2019 - Who Takes Yamahas, Who Supplies Tech3?

If you thought the 2019 MotoGP Silly Season was already in high gear, a bombshell announcement has just put it into overdrive. Today, the Monster Tech3 Yamaha team announced that from 2019, they will be parting ways. Tech3 will no longer be a satellite Yamaha team.

The split brings to an end an association of nearly 20 years with Yamaha. They first started in 1999 with Shinya Nakano and Olivier Jacque in 250cc, before switching to the premier class with the same pair in 2001. Tech3 have been a loyal partner for many years, giving up one seat to a factory-backed rider on a number of occasions, as occurred with Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, and Pol Espargaro.

However, there had been a few signs of tension over the past few months. Although Hervé Poncharal remained ever the gentleman when talking about Yamaha, toeing the company line, there were occasional hints of frustration in his response to questions, though never anything explicit. With Tech3 having been given a better offer from a different manufacturer - as the press release states - that made it easier to end the association with Yamaha.

That huge piece of news opens up a whole range of questions. Who will be supplying Tech3 with MotoGP bikes next year? Will Yamaha have a satellite team in 2019? And does this open the door to the VR46 team to make their entry into MotoGP? 

To address the first question first, there are only really two candidates to supply Tech3 with MotoGP bikes from 2019: KTM and Suzuki. Neither the budget nor the size of the racing department at Aprilia would suggest that the Italian factory would be capable of offering Tech3 a better deal than Yamaha. Both Honda and Ducati are already supplying a lot of teams with bikes for 2019, and neither would be able to add another satellite squad.

Between KTM and Suzuki, a similar principle applies: KTM has one of the largest budgets in the paddock - the Austrian factory is investing €250 million over a five-year program - and the resources in the racing department to support a satellite team. Both KTM CEO Stefan Pierer and head of racing Pit Beirer have expressed an intention to have a satellite team in the near future. In an interview with MotoMatters held last year at Aragon, team boss Mike Leitner said "Of course, it would be nice to have a satellite team one day. This is clear. This is the commitment from Mr. Pierer and Pit." 

Suzuki, on the other hand, has a much smaller racing department and budget. Team boss Davide Brivio has also expressed a desire to have a satellite team, but has always met with some resistance from senior management in the Japanese factory. When discussing the possibility of a satellite team, Brivio has always said that having a single satellite rider would be manageable, but supplying two riders would be more difficult. 

So although it remains speculation at the current moment, it looks more likely that Tech3 will partner with KTM than anyone else. That would also make sense given KTM's expression of interest in having Johann Zarco ride for them in 2019. Zarco would then swap to the factory team from Tech3, and make room for new riders in the Tech3 satellite squad. Those riders would most likely be Miguel Oliveira and possibly Brad Binder, who are both under contract to KTM in Moto2, and are believed to have clauses in their contracts offering them a seat in MotoGP in the future.

Tech3 parting ways with Yamaha would almost certainly also mean a split with current title sponsor Monster. The obvious replacement for Monster would be Red Bull, and if Tech3 were to become a KTM satellite team, then the F1 Toro Rosso junior team would serve as an example.

If Tech3 are parting ways with Yamaha, where does that leave Yamaha in 2019? The most likely answer is, without a satellite team. Although Dorna is know to be keen to have the Sky VR46 team in MotoGP, the series organizers have guaranteed the grid slots to the current MotoGP teams for a five-year period ending in 2020, meaning that a vacancy for a new team would only open in 2021. Dorna has stated explicitly that they do not want to expand the grid beyond 24 riders, as that would require them to support those riders financially as well.

The current satellite teams know that any contract with Yamaha would be merely temporary, until the Sky VR46 team could take a grid slot in 2021. Given Valentino Rossi's strong association with Yamaha (beyond his own history with the brand, the VR46 Riders Academy also has a contract with Yamaha to supply bikes), there is no doubt that when the team bearing his name enters MotoGP, it will be with Yamaha. This would also open up a route for talented riders from the VR46 Academy into MotoGP, whoever is in the factory team.

The only realistic way for the Sky VR46 Racing Team to enter MotoGP before 2021 would be to either partner with an existing satellite team, or to purchase the grid slots of the team. Partnering with the VR46 organization would be a very one-sided affair, and basically amount to a takeover. Selling grid slots would be a better, more lucrative deal, though it would mean stepping out of MotoGP. With the money involved - an educated guess would put the price of two grid slots for two years somewhere in the low seven figures - a team would be able to race in Moto2 or Moto3 quite comfortably for several seasons.

All this is speculation, for the moment. What we do know is that Tech3 won't be with Yamaha from 2019. Who they will be with, we expect to find out fairly shortly.

Below is the press release announcing the split:


Yamaha and Tech3 announce that 2018 will be their last season as partners in the FIM Grand Prix MotoGP World Championship.

Gerno di Lesmo, Italy & Bormes les Mimosas, France - 22nd February 2018

After 20 mutually successful years of partnership, Tech3 have informed Yamaha that they will end their collaboration with Yamaha at the end of the 2018 season.

Yamaha have accepted Tech3‘s decision and will provide its full support to the team until the last race of the 2018 season.

Tech3 will continue its participation in the MotoGP (and Moto2) World Championship and will announce its plans for 2019 and beyond at a later date.

Yamaha is in the process of deciding whether they will run a satellite team for 2019 and, if so, what form that collaboration will take.


Very recently we were informed by Hervé Poncharal, the owner of Tech3, that he has decided not to extend his contract with Yamaha to lease YZR-M1 bikes. After discussions with Hervé it was clear that he has chosen to align with a new partner for the future and therefore, regretfully, we were obliged to respect and accept his decision.

The end of such a successful partnership is always a bit sad, as it also marks the end of a long-term relationship. We are very grateful for Hervé‘s loyalty and support to the Yamaha brand and for the excellent results obtained throughout that time.

We will continue to provide our full support to the Tech3 team and their riders throughout the 2018 season, while we simultaneously evaluate our options for an alternative team in the MotoGP World Championship class for 2019 and beyond.


To summarize 20 years of an incredible partnership between Tech3 and Yamaha in a few words is a very difficult mission. Since I first met Mr. Iio in 1998, where he gave me the opportunity to join Yamaha Motor Corporation, it has been an extraordinary journey together. All I remember are fantastic memories, great results, an awesome atmosphere and astonishing feelings we shared with the Yamaha family, which will always be in my mind and in my heart. Clearly, to end that kind of partnership is a big decision for me. All I want to say is more than a huge thank you to Yamaha, to Mr. Tsuji, Mr. Tsuya, Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Nakajima, plus all the guys that have been supporting and helping us.

Tech3 is a small company, which has to think about the future and has to weigh the different options. We‘ve been offered a deal, that includes something we‘ve been waiting for almost since we started with Tech3 and I couldn‘t say no. But obviously, we are the Monster Yamaha Team until the last lap of the Valencia GP 2018. Johann Zarco and Hafizh Syahrin will be fighting for top positions and without a doubt, Yamaha can count on us to be a loyal performant partner.

One more time a huge thank you for Yamaha‘s support. I hope they can carry on and have the success they deserve and eventually find a partner to replace Tech3.

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Pecco Bagnaia To Move To MotoGP In 2019 With Pramac Ducati

Pecco Bagnaia is to move up to MotoGP with the Pramac Ducati team in 2019 and 2020. The news was announced on Twitter by the SkyVR46 team, and confirmed by Bagnaia himself on his Twitter feed.

The move is not a surprise. Bagnaia had been widely tipped to move to MotoGP with Ducati, with Paolo Ciabatti admitting at the launch back in January that the Italian factory had an interest in the 21 year old. 

Bagnaia's contract is official confirmation that Danilo Petrucci will be leaving the Pramac team at the end of this season. Petrucci's current contract with Ducati contains a clause granting him a seat in the factory Ducati team, if a seat is open. As yet, there are no open seats in the factory team, with Ducati expected to sign both Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo to new contracts.

The signing of Bagnaia is the second contract to be finalized in the 2018 MotoGP Silly Season, after Maverick Viñales signed on with Yamaha for two years, and testing is not even complete yet. More is likely to come, and sooner rather than later.

The press release from the Alma Pramac Team appears below the Tweet from Pecco Bagnaia:

Alma Pramac Racing announces agreement with Pecco Bagnaia for 2019 and 2020 MotoGP seasons

The Italian rider signed a contract directly with Ducati

Alma Pramac Racing announces that it has reached an agreement with Francesco Bagnaia for the 2019 and 2020 MotoGP seasons. The Italian rider, who signed a contract directly with Ducati, will step on board the Ducati Desmosedici GP of Alma Pramac Racing during the next official Valencia tests at the end of the 2018 MotoGP season.

Francesco "Pecco" Bagnaia was born in Turin on 14 January 1997 and made his debut in the Moto3 world championship in the 2013 season. In 2014 he joined the SKY Racing Team VR46, scoring his best result with a fourth place at Le Mans in France. After his first podium finish in the 2015 French Grand Prix, the following year Bagnaia was one of the Moto3 protagonists with two victories and four podiums that allowed him to finish fourth in the championship standings. In 2017 Pecco moved to Moto2 with the SKY Racing Team VR46 and had a great season (four times on the podium with two second places), finishing 5th in the championship standings and winning the Rookie of the Year trophy.


Milan, February 21st 2018. The Sky Racing Team VR46 has hit its most important goal of identifying the young Italian riders, making them grow and helping them to become the champions of the future. In fact, it is now official the debut of Francesco Bagnaia in MotoGP in 2019. From next season the young Italian rider, supported in these years by the Sky-VR46 project, will continue his professional career in MotoGP on the Ducati of the Pramac Racing Team.

This is a prestigious result for Sky and the VR46 of Valentino Rossi, which have been working together with the VR46 Riders Academy since 2014 with the aim of enriching the Italian motorcycle movement with new talents.

"Next year I my dreams will come true. Often I have said that I would have like to debut in MotoGP riding a Ducati and it will finally happen.” - says Bagnaia – “For me it is a great result and I have to thank the Team, Sky and the VR46 Riders Academy, for all the support and for following me in my growth path in the last 5 seasons, three with the Sky Racing Team VR46. But now, it is important to stay focused on this last season in Moto2. We have a great opportunity”.

Francesco Bagnaia, after winning the Rookie of the Year title in Moto2 in 2017 with 4 podiums, will race again this year for the Sky Racing Team VR46; alongside him Luca Marini. In Moto3, confirmation for Nicolò Bulega and Dennis Foggia at his debut in the world championship.

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Photo Gallery: Andrew Gosling Shoots The Phillip Island WorldSBK Test - Tuesday

Master & Pupil - Jonathan Rea shows Toprak Razgatlioglu the way around Phillip Island

PJ Jacobsen moves up to WorldSBK, and is testing the Magneti Marelli electronics ahead of the Ten Kate team

Chaz Davies has some catching up to do

Anything PJ can do, Leon can do too

Xavi Fores puts the hammer down

Meet the wildcards. The name is on the backdrop

Kenan Sofuoglu has not made much of a mark yet at PI. But it isn't Sunday yet

And Troy Herfoss makes it three Fireblade wheelies

What Chaz Davies hopes Jonathan Rea will mainly be seeing this season.

Jake Gagne faces a steep learning curve


The Man In Black


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If you'd like a print of one of Andrew Gosling's shots, then send Andrew an email and he'll be happy to help.


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Photo Gallery: Andrew Gosling Shoots The Phillip Island WorldSBK Test - Monday

Phillip Island feels like a Ducati track. Marco Melandri agreed on Monday

Leon Camier hopes to revive Honda's fortunes in WorldSBK. So far, so good

Not the best of starts to the test for Jonathan Rea. Still third fastest, despite the highside

The brains of the operation

Aussie veteran Wayne Maxwell is still posting respectable times among the WorldSBK crowd

Tom Sykes' first objective? To beat the other side of the garage

Back to WorldSBK for Loris Baz, after a solid few years in MotoGP

Hot headers

Lucas Mahias: looks like a boxer, rides like the wind, wears a pink helmet. Any questions?

The Orange Menace: Luke Stapleford caused a bit of a stir on the Triumph 675 on Monday, finishing 3rd in WorldSSP

An American back in WorldSBK: Jake Gagne has big shoes to fill in the Red Bull Honda team

Peekaboo, Mr West

High hopes for the Pata Yamaha team, though Alex Lowes finished just 8th on Monday

Tom Toparis, wildcarding at his home round, on the Kawasaki ZX-6RR

Two-time ASBK champ Troy Herfoss demonstrating the Universal Racer Sign Language for "the front keeps wanting to wash out"

Daniel Falzon, teammate to Wayne Maxwell, and another Australian at the test

Built for speed, not for comfort

One of Xavi Fores' mechanics demonstrates the artisanal craft of tie-wrapping

Kenan Sofuoglu lost his WorldSSP title last year. Can he get it back in 2018?

Behold the steed of His Chazness

If you'd like to have desktop-sized versions of the fantastic photos which appear on the site, you can become a site supporter and take out a subscription. A subscription will also give you access to the many in-depth and exclusive articles we produce for site supporters. The more readers who join our growing band of site supporters, the better we can make, and the more readers will get out of the website.

If you'd like a print of one of Andrew Gosling's shots, then send Andrew an email and he'll be happy to help.


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