MotoGP’s new “rookie rule” in some circles might be more aptly called the “Ben Spies” rule, since it adds a barrier for the American rider in his plans to join a factory ride in MotoGP. The rule, which comes from the IRTA (the organization that represents the teams of MotoGP), outlines that any rider eligible for the Rookie of the Year award would not be allowed to go straight to a factory team, but instead would have to spend at least a year on a satellite or private team. This gives the satellite teams an opportunity to secure young talented riders for a season before they get swept up into the factory teams who have much larger budgets. It could also make the field more even, by diversifying talent across teams with and without competitive machines.
Another possibility of this rule’s affect is that a factory wishing to sign a big name rookie will simply set up their own satellite team, in order to sidestep the rule, which will then of course leave the regular satellite teams out in cold once again. We’re not so sure that’s a bad thing though. It means more teams on the grid, and more teams with budgets that make them competitive. Could this also mean then, closer racing?
Other concerns center around the fact that top young riders may opt to stay out of MotoGP all-together, and instead choose to race in World Superbike, where they can join a factory team immediately. This is certainly the opinion of Paolo Flammini, President of Infront Motor Sports, the driving force behind the World Superbike series. Speaking to GPOne.com, Flammini said, “I believe that this decision can contribute to making the World Superbike Championship more attractive for young riders.” However, as long as MotoGP is percieved to be the pinnacle of motorcycle racing, we think any aspiring rider will not be content until they’ve stood on the winners podium at a MotoGP race, and will still enter into the series despite these new obstacles.