Dominoes Falling Like Mad in MotoGP

© Bruce Allen

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Sudden and/or impending rider contracts with rival teams and builders for 2021-22 have begun a sort of sequencing process that will be fun to watch. It was always going to happen going into a contract year. I had thought teams would wait until the remnant of the 2020 season was underway before beginning the actual poaching process.

In early June, and not having run a race in anger since last summer, the factory teams have decided that the theme heading into 2021 is Getting Better and Younger. This started with Yamaha orchestrating a trade between the factory and satellite teams in which The New Kid in Town, young Fabio Quartararo, the Spanish rider with the French name, takes the factory seat of the legendary Valentino Rossi alongside Maverick Vinales without so much as a fare thee well, and Rossi, graciously swimming in visions of an entire new line of gear branded with SRT for his swan song in 2021, accedes, a Yamaha team player first and foremost, his VR46 academy protege Franco Morbidelli gently under his wing. An investment banker on the side. These ranches aren’t cheap.

Vale apparently has several objectives in mind. He wants to appear on Barron’s list of the 500 wealthiest people in the world. He wants to own a MotoGP team, a Yamaha-supported satellite team, and to beat Honda Racing Corporation into the dirt with it. He’ll sell a lot of VR46 gear and assemble a great team behind the bike. Yamaha has fixed the issues that suddenly began plaguing it in 2017 and can run with Honda and Ducati on most of the world’s tracks.

So the factory Yamaha team gets younger with Fabio and Vinales.

Fabio Quartararo 2019 Age 19

Fabio in his Moto2 days.

The factory Honda team signed Marc Marquez to a contract which runs through 2024. (!) HRC shocked the world again this week, leaking the fact that Pol Espargaro, the younger of the Espargaro brothers, would take Alex Marquez’ seat on the #2 Repsol Honda for 2021-22 before poor Alex had ever turned a lap. This didn’t make the factory Honda team younger, but it certainly made it stronger. Pol Espargaro has been wrestling point-and-shoot bikes at KTM since 2016 and should find the RC213V relatively easy to ride. The difference is the Honda is very fast and the KTM RC16 is not. KTM has now taken  shot below the water line, losing its only experienced rider to a hated rival who is beating it like a rented mule.

Espargaro won Moto2 in 2013 and was a consistent top tenner in his first three years with Yamaha, his future brighter than big brother Aleix. But he got in bed with the good people at KTM in 2017 and became a top twenty rider, although a top data provider. He has been a big help in developing the bike even though it is still not yet competitive. Losing him is a blow to the KTM program, one that could be filled by an experienced leader such as Andrea Dovizioso.

So now it is assumed Alex Marquez will toddle on over to LCR Honda to team with Takaa Nakagami, owned and operated by HRC on behalf of Japan, and the LCR team gets younger. Poor Cal Crutchlow will then have to choose between an Aprilia, for God’s sake, or calling it a career.

Pramac Ducati loses Jack Miller to the factory team, but picks up new Moto2 KTM grad and fast mover Jorge Martin to ride alongside Pecco Bagnaia, and the Pramac team gets younger. Danilo Petrucci, booted from the factory team, is left to go out and find honest work again, possibly with Aprilia, possibly over at WSBK.

Suppose Andrea Dovizioso, never the object of much respect, his few career chances at a world championship turned to mud by the genius of Marc Marquez, goes for the money and jumps to KTM, the new career wrecker of MotoGP. When he joined Ducati it was, at the time, the career wrecker. He and Gigi D’Alligna have created a bike that is difficult to turn but has incomparable top end speed. A good question is who would take Dovizioso’s hypothetical seat, leaving Miller the #1 factory rider. Would the rumors of a Jorge Lorenzo return come to pass? The factory Ducati team would get a little younger, too, with Miller and Lorenzo aboard. KTM, losing Espargaro and Martin, is listing seriously. The Austrians need to work harder to get the bike up to snuff, lest it continue to wreck careers. It certainly didn’t do Pol Espargaro any good. If they can’t get Dovizioso they’ll have to make a run at Cal Crutchlow.

The two young guys at Suzuki, Joan Mir and Alex Rins, are signed for 2021-22. It would be nice to see Suzuki acquire a satellite team; their bike is competitive, needing only a few more horsepower to accompany its sweet-handling properties. Mir will be an Alien; Rins probably as well. For Suzuki. That is a good thing. See what 40 years in the desert will get you.

So, for a season which has, so far, been rendered an epic fail by Covid-19, there is suddenly a lot of activity, a silly season earlier than in a normal year when guys are actually racing. Barring a second peak in transmissions–the viral type–there is supposed to be some kind of MotoGP season commencing the end of July and running into the early winter. Mostly in EU countries. Asian, US and Argentinian rounds are still on it but looking sketchy, virus-wise. The heat of southern Europe in the summer should make the virus less active and less likely to spread as rapidly. For awhile, anyway. We here at my kitchen table look forward to bringing it to you.

 

 

 

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18 Responses to “Dominoes Falling Like Mad in MotoGP”

  1. Starmag Says:

    Agree with all of that.

    If that Pol switch happens it will be perceived as unfair to Alex by almost everyone, not the least of which by Antman, nor by many others such as myself, and I’m no fan of brothers in the same team or Alex. That seems like an impossible thing to smooth over by Honda to me.

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    • Bruce Allen Says:

      My take is that they’ve already seen enough of him practicing to determine he’s not packing the gear, so to speak. Espargaro seems custom-made to step on the bike and be fast. No edge grip necessary, thank you, we’ll just get it turned and twist it.

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      • Starmag Says:

        I don’t disagree, Pol may indeed be better, but I still say that’s a huge PR problem. Very little chance to prove himself and step up because of Coronamadness, which he had nothing to do with. If it happens, I guess we’ll see some world-class BS. Not like we shouldn’t be used to it by now though.

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        • Bruce Allen Says:

          I think Alex was a long-shot from day one, appointed to appease Marc, for a year. It turned out not to be a year. Got him out of Moto2 and into MotoGP. I’m sure HRC has seen enough of Alex on the bike to determine that he is not a top-15 rider in MotoGP and that he would be better off with Lucio and Repsol would be better off with Espargaro. He is used to wrestling difficult bikes and doesn’t rely on corner speed. He should do well. Alex will hang around for a few years, more Karel Abraham than Maverick Vinales. IMHO.

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  2. Buzz Says:

    Isn’t Fabio a Frenchman with a Spanish name rather than the other way around?

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  3. Buzz Says:

    BTW, Moto America ran a race at Road America in Wisconsin and it was televised with no fans. It’s not MotoGP but it was something.

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  4. Vrooom Says:

    So nice to get some motorcycle racing news, thanks Bruce. Lorenzo coming back? Snort. His last season with Honda was so bad, I just don’t see him coming back and being successful.

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    • Bruce Allen Says:

      I dunno. He just couldn’t ride the Honda. But there at the end of his Ducati years he could fly on the Desmo on a dry track. With Miller on the way up and Lorenzo on the way down they could have some good equilibrium or something.

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  5. Old MOron Says:

    Oh, I hope it’s true. And I’m very interested to see which domino will land at factory KTM.

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    • Bruce Allen Says:

      Doesn’t sound like Dovi is going anywhere. It must be Crutchlow or Petrucci. Of the two I’d take Danilo. Crutchlow is old for his age.

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      • Old MOron Says:

        Yes, but Crutchlow has history going for him. KTM need a development rider. Crutchlow has ridden the Yam, Duc, and Honda. He has a broad base of knowledge on which to base his development comments.

        Petrux has also ridden three bikes, but I don’t think KTM are too interested in his privateer background.

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      • Old MOron Says:

        You were right, Brucey! KTM signed Danillo to Tech 3 KTM.

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  6. Dominoes Falling Like Mad in MotoGP - Project Biker Gear Says:

    […] Misano, Suzuki, Valentino Rossi, Yamaha. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own […]

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