The Curious Case Of Jack Miller: Marc VDS Issues Press Release Clarifying Contract Situation

Jack Miller is a rider in demand. The current leader in the Moto3 world championship has been linked to several top teams, and has been openly flirting with a step up to MotoGP, skipping Moto2 altogether. The fly in the ointment for Miller is the pre-contract he signed with the Marc VDS Racing team in 2013, securing his services for 2014, 2015 and 2016. Under the terms of the contract, Miller was released to ride for the Red Bull KTM Ajo team in Moto3, as Miller was keen to have a shot at the Moto3 title before moving up a class.

That situation appears to have caused some confusion. Jack Miller told the media as recently as Assen that he has no contract to ride for 2015, and is free to race wherever he wants. That is a position which was earlier laid out in a press release from the Red Bull KTM Ajo team, in which Miller made the same statement. Marc VDS Racing and their team manager Michael Bartholémy insist that this is not the case, and the situation has gotten so far out of hand that the Marc VDS team has issued a press release of their own, clarifying the deal which they have with the Australian.

The press release sets out Marc VDS Racing's perspective on the deal. A binding, three-year deal was agreed between Miller and Marc VDS, laid down in the form of a pre-agreement. The full details were to be fixed in a final contract, which was agreed in full with Miller and his parents. but Marc VDS claim that Miller and his management team - Red Bull KTM Ajo team manager Aki Ajo - have failed to sign the final document. According to the Marc VDS team, this is not a problem, as the pre-agreement already signed by Miller and his family means that they are bound by contract to ride for the team.

The situation will have to be resolved quickly, one way or another, as both Miller and Marc VDS will want some clarity about the future. It would be unwise for Marc VDS to force Miller to race for them if he does not want to, but Marc VDS is also unable to negotiate contracts with other riders until the situation with Miller is resolved. If the situation is as Marc VDS claims, then Miller will either have to race for the team, or buy his way out of the contract. The press release from Marc VDS is shown below:

Marc VDS confirm binding contract with Jack Miller

Gosselies, Belgium – 4 July 2014: While the Marc VDS Racing Team would prefer to keep confidential their negotiations and agreements with riders, circumstances dictate that the team clarify their position with regards to Jack Miller.

Jack Miller recently stated on the official Ajo Motorsport website that he has no contract for the future. This statement is inaccurate. Jack Miller signed a binding three-year contract with the Marc VDS Racing Team for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons.

Under the terms of this six-page contract, the Marc VDS Racing Team negotiated on Jack Miller’s behalf to secure him a Moto3 World Championship ride with the Red Bull KTM Ajo Team in 2014.

During the course of these negotiations Ajo Motorsport team owner, Aki Ajo, was made aware of the contract between Jack Miller and the Marc VDS Racing Team and also that, under the terms of this contract, Jack Miller would contest the Moto2 World Championship for the Marc VDS Racing Team in 2015 and 2016.

The three-year contract was in the form of an extensive pre-agreement, covering the relevant key points such as exclusivity, payment conditions and technical support. Nowhere was there a clause related to early release from the contract should Jack Miller receive an offer for MotoGP in 2015. Following the signing of this pre-agreement a final contract was negotiated and agreed between the parties, with the key elements remaining unchanged.

This final agreement was not signed and all requests by the Marc VDS Racing Team for a meeting with Jack Miller, his parents and his management team, to clarify the situation with regard to Jack Miller’s contractual obligations for 2015 and 2016, have gone unanswered.

In the absence of a signed final agreement, the signed pre-agreement remains extant and binding on both parties.

“It is regrettable that we’ve had to make public this situation, but we really were left with no option,” stated Michael Bartholemy, Team Principal of the Marc VDS Racing Team. “We have a contract with Jack Miller and we are already preparing for his arrival in the team for the 2015 season because, for us, a deal is a deal. If Jack has changed his mind and doesn’t want to ride for us next year then he or his management team need to come and talk to us, rather than simply ignoring our numerous requests for a meeting to clarify the situation. We are not interested in playing games; we just want the situation sorted out expeditiously. Until it is resolved we cannot move forward with our own plans for the 2015 season, as we have no intention on reneging on the agreement by offering Jack Miller’s place in the Marc VDS Racing Team to another rider.”

Finally, the Marc VDS Racing Team would like to wish Jack Miller the best of luck with his 2014 Moto3 World Championship campaign.

More information and high resolution images are available on the Marc VDS Racing Team website at

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There's a reason pre-agreements are not called contracts. The pre-agreement may even specify time terms (Millers alleged 3 year obligation to represent Marc VDS) but without all dimensions clearly stated and agreeed to by all parties (i.e. in a contract) can it be binding? Imagine agreeing to work for someone for years before discussing the price, or any other significant dimension for that matter.

Most insightful in David's article is that Marc VDS clearly do not want an resentful and unmotivated rider in their saddle. Let's hope a peaceful outcome can be achieved quickly and respectfully without involving the lawyers and the state's (often contract-undermining) laws.

Yes and no, as always.

If the agreement is sufficiently explicit then it can be binding. For a 'contract' to exist, there needs to be offer, acceptance and consideration. If what is mentioned above is correct then offer and acceptance have both been completed. It seems, with the clever inclusion that MarcVDS negotiated on behalf of Miller for his Moto3 ride that the consideration is met. If these are completed then there can be held to be a contract; even a pre-contract.

Of course, it does rather depend in which jurisdiction the pre contract was signed, presumably European but..?

Please note: this is just my opinion not in any way to be construed as legal advice in this or any other matter.

Perhaps of more interest is whether a rider should and could successfully move directly from Moto3 to MotoGP. I have no clear knowledge but it would seem strange not to mention set a precedent that any 'good rider' skips Moto2. I doubt Dorna want this any more than MarcVDS. The again, maybe Dorna do- an Aussie back in the premier class?

there has to be a 'post'. Therefore, it's 'just' a contract. 'Remains extant' - that is the key phrase in this Marc VDS release. Also, from the Ajo involvement (remarkably similar to Vinales and his then manager in Moto3) it seems Marc VDS stumped up the ante and are now expecting some 'pay back' (not unreasonably).
Miller needs to clarify his position PDQ, or his reputation could go down hill fast.
Contracts are a nightmare for plain-speaking folk. The nuances and differences between normal language and legal meaning can be a long way apart.
'Pre' does not mean it isn't really a contract (which may be the Miller understanding)or you don't have to sign the 'real' one. You don't, but you are bound by the first one........

Jack should get in the room, face-to-face, and sort it.

For some reason, with Ajo involved, I am not surprised. However, I am disappointed. If the Marc VDS statements are accurate, then I suppose Jack Miller has found another way, in addition to his racing, to prove that he has a long way to go on the maturity scale. If the Marc VDS claims are accurate, Miller needs to honor his commitments.

"The enforceability of a pre-contract will depend on the specific terms of the agreement. Pre-contracts are generally not binding under English law as they are usually marked “Subject to Contract” and are simply a commitment by the parties to enter into a later contract. The difference between a pre-contract and a contract is that the parties to the pre-contract have not agreed the essential terms and so the pre-contract does not reflect the final agreement. However, if a pre-contract contains all the essential terms that have been agreed, then the pre-contract is effectively a final contract and is likely to be binding."

The real question is why a team would allow a rider to even start the first race without having signed a final contract. I suspect that the answer is that this failure is very convenient as it favours the team. if the rider doesn't perform then it easy for the team to part company with the rider by using the "we didn't sign a final contract" excuse. If however the rider does perform they 'use' the pre contract card.

So unless we see a signed pre agreement with all the details it's really not reasonable to say who is in the right and, I believe, unfair to defame Miller by calling him immature.

Contract stuff aside, a jump from Moto3 to MotoGP sounds like too much too soon to me. It would be interesting to ask guys like Marc, Pol, Smith, Redding et al, what they believe it would have been like for them had they made that jump.

for any rider going from Moto 3 to Moto 2 Marc VDS is the dream ticket.

Just a subjective opinion, but either JM is being really badly advised or he has something really special and career changing up his sleeve....... ???????

Commercial shenanigans are not limited to racing and we have heard of a few falling-outs over the years.

Whatever the legal position, which we are not privileged to see, as fans we expect people to act ethically and with morality. The teams are the 'dogs' in all this and the riders are the tails. It is quite clear that there are more backsides than seats and some backsides bring cash too.

The thing that puzzles me in all this is that MarcVDS come across as enthusiastic and benevolent (as with Redding) benefactors of the sport. They do not appear to be manipulative,or self-interested.

At the moment we seem to be in the pantomime stage: yes-you-did; no-I-didn't from each party. Trust and/or honesty need to be re-instated or, as suggested a parting of the ways agreed. If MarcVDS are funding this years entry for JM and he couldn't be where he is without that support then he owes them something. A meeting as they request would seem a good start. Preferably without Ajo, but that may not be contractually possible from his perspective.

JM seems to be staring down an AE-type situation/cost.

If the pre-contract agreement is binding, wouldn't it make the contract itself redundant? I do not think that pre-contract agreements are binding. They only lay the foundation for the contract and if someone does not sign the actual contract it means that they are without a contract and therefore by extension a free agent. That is my understanding of things.

With lawyers and managers involved it can take a long time to refine an agreement to the point where you have a fully agreed and signed contract. By agreeing 'heads of terms' you take a discussion to a more formal but non-contractual/legal position - you basically agree that you want to work together and have agreed on the general basics of the deal.
A pre-contract is a binding agreement that 'locks you in' prior to agreeing all the details. This protects both parties. (e.g. we'll pay for your Moto 3 season if you sign this and come to us afterwards).
It may be that Miller/his advisors didn't want things like salary set before he won the world championship. MarcVDS probably didn't want to shell out a WC's salary for the runner-up ( or 4th).
It sounds like the contract was pretty much set down and all that needed filling in were things like the numbers......but maybe not.

This sounds similar (but not as bad) as the Maverick Vinales fiasco where he walked out on his team mid-season.

Assuming that Marc VDS' statement is accurate, then my guess as to Ajo's strategy is that by publicly stating Jack's open for business, then they are trying to get teams in the door far enough to consider buying his contract out from VDS.

Anyway, it's entertaining to read all of the pure speculation based on an unseen document :-)

It is entertaining!
It's an interesting point you make about Ajo broadcasting Miller's 'availability'. Given that there are only a handful (and maybe only two) MGP teams that would have the wherewithal to get Miller into MGP on competitive bike, wouldn't talking to them be a good way?

It also doesn't explain why MarcVDS felt it necessary to issue a press release in an attempt to bring Miller/Ajo to the negotiating table.

Talking seems to be what's missing here, not convoluted rider management strategies.

Miller seems to be a big talent and I'm sure he is on several teams radar now if he wasn't last year, but he seems to be a little behind in the management arena. I sincerely hope that this has more to do with bad advice than Miller sticking the proverbial finger up to Marc VDS. Bad advisors can be changed, bad attitude less easily.