The rookie rule is to be dropped for the 2013 season. The Spanish daily El Pais is reporting that Dorna and IRTA have decided that the rule preventing MotoGP rookies from being signed to a factory team had to be scrapped due to the difficulties presented by the limited number of bikes available to ride. As a consequence, it was felt it was better to drop the rookie rule altogether, rather than create more problems for existing satellite teams by maintaining it.
The rule had outlived its usefulness, explained IRTA secretary Mike Trimby. “The situation has changed. There are far fewer opportunities for rookies now than there were when the Rookie Rule was introduced.” In 2010, the first year of its introduction, there were three satellite Ducati seats, two satellite Yamaha seats and four satellite Honda seats available.
In 2013, there will be just two satellite Yamahas and two satellite Hondas, with perhaps just a single satellite Ducati available, though Ducati team boss Alessandro Cicognani said that it was Ducati’s intention to keep two satellite Ducatis if possible, and the factory was willing to look at pricing to help achieve that goal.
The catalyst of all this is of course Marc Marquez. Though it appears as if Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta has caved in to pressure from Honda, who were known to be keen to have Marquez go straight to the Repsol Honda team, the pressure to drop the rule also came from the satellite Honda teams themselves. As LCR boss Lucio Cecchinello explained, maintaining the Rookie Rule would have caused massive problems for both the LCR and the Gresini Honda teams had they signed Marquez.
The Spaniard has a very long-standing relationship with Repsol, and that relationship would have meant the teams losing their own oil sponsors, LCR with ELF and Gresini with Castrol. They would also have to lose staff to make way for the crew Marquez is currently working with. With Marquez almost certain to then leave for the Repsol Honda team the year afterwards, there would have been massive disruption to the long-term relationships the satellite Honda teams had already built up with sponsors and crew, with little prospect of being able to repair them afterwards.
With the Rookie Rule out of the way, Marquez’ path has been cleared to join Dani Pedrosa at the Repsol Honda squad. A HRC source said that no contract had been signed, though they acknowledged that talks were ongoing. They also affirmed that Honda were keen to retain the services of Dani Pedrosa, who they still consider vital to their Championship chances.
No announcement has been made concerning the Rookie Rule, but it is likely to be included with a raft of other changes to be introduced after approval by the Grand Prix Commission at Assen in just under two weeks’ time.
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.