Today, the Gresini Racing Team announced that their immediate future lies with Ducati.
The Italian team, now run by Nadia Padovani, the widow of team’s founder Fausto Gresini, will lease Ducati Desmosedici machines from the Bologna factory for the 2022 and 2023 MotoGP seasons.
The link with Ducati had been widely trailed, the Gresini team wavering between remaining with Aprilia as a satellite squad or switch to Ducati.
The projected rider pairing may have had an influence on that decision: that Fabio Di Giannantonio would be moving up to MotoGP with Gresini for 2022 was a given, part of his deal for Moto2.
But Enea Bastianini’s switch from the Esponsorama squad, set to leave MotoGP at the end of 2021, to Gresini, was not a foregone conclusion. Bastianini’s ties to Ducati may well have weighed in the balance.
While Di Giannantonio already has a contract with Gresini, and is racing for the team in Moto2, it is something of a return for Enea Bastianini, and a reunion for the two riders.
Bastianini started his Moto3 career with Gresini, first on a KTM, then later on a Honda, winning two races and scoring another 7 podiums for the Italian team. He was joined by Di Giannantonio in the Gresini Moto3 squad for the 2016 season, before leaving for the Estrella Galicia team.
Although no details of what level of machinery Ducati will be supplying were announced, it is widely expected that the team will have one-year-old bikes, meaning that Di Giannantonio and Bastianini will start the 2022 season with Ducati Desmosedici GP21s.
That this is no bad thing is plain from the current MotoGP championship standings, where GP21s occupy positions two, three, and four. The fourth GP21, in the hands of Jorge Martin, has also had a pole and a podium.
Gresini’s choice to sign with Ducati means there will be eight Ducati Desmodedicis on the grid in 2022. The VR46 team, who will take over both slots from Esponsorama next year, are also expected to announce a deal with Ducati soon, with Luca Marini on one machine, and an open seat for the other.
However, as the VR46 team is set up to provide bikes for members of the VR46 Riders Academy, the most logical choice would be for current Sky VR46 Moto2 rider Marco Bezzecchi to make the step up alongside Marini.
Paddock reports suggest that Marini will get a GP22, while the second rider will be offered a GP21.
The separation of Gresini from Aprilia is part of the new team and factory contract period with Dorna for the coming five seasons. When Aprilia entered MotoGP, there were no spare grid slots, and so Aprilia was only able to enter in partnership with the Gresini squad.
This led to the awkward situation of a full-factory effort being present in Parc Ferme as the first independent team rider, and the team taking part in the Independent Team Championship.
Dorna and Aprilia agreed to grant Aprilia their own grid slots for the coming contract period, from 2022 through 2026. Aprilia will now compete as a separate, full factory team, while Gresini become fully independent once again.
That independence gave them the freedom to choose who to lease MotoGP machines from, which in turn led to their decision to switch to Ducati.
Source: Gresini; Photo: Ducati