At Mugello, a large number of pieces in MotoGP’s Silly Season are expected to fall into place. The long-expected announcement of the Repsol Honda team will be made on Thursday, according to Catalunya Radio, with Marc Marquez taking his place alongside Dani Pedrosa, who has inked a two-year extension with HRC. Pedrosa acknowledged at the Sachsenring that there were only details left to clear up, and after winning Germany, the Spaniard appears to have cleared the final hurdles to a new deal.
Mugello also looks like being the deadline for Cal Crutchlow. The 26-year-old Coventry man has offers of two-year deals from both the Ducati Corse team and his current Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. What Crutchlow would really like is a seat at the factory Yamaha team, but with that seat probably unavailable – either being held open for a possible return to the fold of Valentino Rossi, or else retaining current rider Ben Spies – Crutchlow is instead likely to accept Ducati’s offer of a factory ride, believing that factory equipment is his only chance of winning races and a Championship. According to British motorcycling journal MCN, Crutchlow has been given until Mugello to make up his mind.
A Factory Yamaha ride was not entirely out of the question for Crutchlow, but the young Briton has simply run out of time, as Yamaha ponders its options. The factory was open to Valentino Rossi’s return, though the deal would surely have been tied to a sponsorship deal. After talks with representatives of Ducati’s new owners Audi at the Sachsenring, Rossi seems inclined to stay put where he is.
What price Rossi will exact for his signature is not known, but more important than the numbers involved will be the influence that Audi will bring to bear in Borgo Panigale. If Rossi believes that the Audi bosses can ensure that Ducati follows the development direction Rossi wants, then the Italian is almost certain to stay. Part of his decision, however, is due to a lack of options elsewhere.
Yamaha’s factory line-up could end up unchanged, with Ben Spies showing his speed but not scoring results. Spies has financial support from Yamaha USA, and Dorna are keen to keep fast Americans in the series to help break into the US market. But those goals do not require Spies to be on the factory team: there is a chance that Spies could be moved back to Tech 3, though with full factory support, allowing either Valentino Rossi or perhaps even Andrea Dovizioso to move up to the factory team.
One question mark hanging over the Tech 3 team is what it is to be done about Bradley Smith. Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal signed a two-year deal with Smith at the end of 2011, putting him in Moto2 for this season with the promise of a MotoGP ride in 2013.
After Smith’s mediocre start to the season, Poncharal has been making noises about breaking the contract, which sources close to Smith say contains cast-iron guarantees. The uncertainty has certainly been good for Smith, the young Briton having shown more fight and scoring consistently better for the past few rounds.
Smith’s fiercest rival in Moto2, Scott Redding, could also make the move up to MotoGP. Redding’s Marc VDS Racing team is currently in talks with Ducati over leasing a satellite bike, an option they had previously rejected over cost.
Ducati have since drastically reduced the price of its satellite bikes – a necessity, given that Cardion AB have already decided that they will not be running a Ducati for 2013 and the Pramac squad looks set to disappear next season – and this may have persuaded them to make the leap.
Redding is certain to get the nod if they do move up, though it is as yet unclear whether this will be a one or a two rider team, and whether Marc VDS Racing plays the role of Ducati Junior team played by Pramac in previous years.
The major casualty of all this looks like being Nicky Hayden. There does not appear to be any room for the American at a factory team, and none of the satellite squads have shown much interest in the 2006 World Champion. Hayden now looks set to join Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi in World Superbikes, and as he is about to turn 31, he has a number of years in that series to try to become the first man to ever secure titles in both MotoGP and WSBK.
Below is what we think we know of the situation so far. Entries in italics have not yet been finalized, or are the current best guesses at the situation:
|Dani Pedrosa||2014||Deal to be announced on Thursday|
|Marc Marquez||2014||Marquez will almost certainly sign up for two years|
|Jorge Lorenzo||2014||Signed before Silverstone|
|Ben Spies/Andrea Dovizioso||The most likely scenario is that the second factory Yamaha seat will be shared between these two|
|Valentino Rossi||2014?||Rossi’s options are running out, and if Audi gives Rossi guarantees about development, then he will probably stay.|
|Cal Crutchlow||2014||Almost certain to be signed at Mugello|
|Monster Tech 3 Yamaha||Yamaha|
|Bradley Smith||2013||Bradley Smith believes he has a contract to race with Tech 3. Herve Poncharal has said publicly he may be willing to go to court to get the contract torn up. If Smith ups his game, the point becomes moot|
|Andrea Dovizioso/Ben Spies||If Spies does swap with Dovizioso, he will probably receive factory material, funded by Yamaha USA|
|Stefan Bradl||2013||Bradl has a two-year contract, 2012 is his first year.|
|Alvaro Bautista||Bautista is Gresini’s best choice, given the available options.|
|Marc VDS Racing?||Ducati|
|Scott Redding||Talks have started for this team, and it looks likely to happen. The question is whether this will be a one or two-year deal.|
Photo: Yamaha Racing
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.