Three days after announcing that they would not be replacing the injured Andrea Iannone, the factory Ducati squad has changed its mind.
On Thursday, the Bologna factory announced that Hector Barbera would be taking Iannone’s place in the factory Ducati team, while Barbera’s slot in the Avintia Ducati MotoGP team will be taken by Australian rider Mike Jones.
The decision was forced upon Ducati by Dorna and IRTA. Under the FIM regulations, teams must make “every reasonable effort” to replace an absent rider, with only force majeure (or exceptional circumstances beyond their control) acceptable as a reason to leave a seat empty.
The series organizers clearly believed that force majeure did not apply in this case, as Iannone’s decision to skip the race was due to an injury picked up at Misano, five weeks ago.
Ducati was placed in a difficult situation, as test rider Michele Pirro is currently giving the Desmosedici GP17 its first shakedown test at Valencia, a test considered too important in light of Jorge Lorenzo’s impending debut on the bike at the Valencia test.
Casey Stoner turned down the offer of replacing Iannone at Motegi, and so Ducati initially decided not to replace the Italian.
They have now been forced to. With their usual options limited, Ducati asked the Avintia team to allow Hector Barbera to replace Iannone in the factory team.
Barbera is a logical choice: the two Pramac riders, Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci, were not available, as they are in the middle of an internal team battle over which of them is to have the single GP17 which Ducati will make available to the Pramac team next year.
In addition to that, replacing a rider in Pramac would have been more difficult, Paolo Ciabatti told GPOne.com.
Hector Barbera was the best option in the circumstances. He is the best-placed Ducati rider in the championship behind the two factory riders.
He has shown good form in both wet and dry, and has finished inside the top ten several times this season, though Aspar’s Eugene Laverty has been running him very close all year.
Taking Barbera’s place in Avintia is Mike Jones. The 22-year-old Australian is currently racing a Ducati Panigale with the Desmo Sport team in the Australian Superbike championship, which he won in 2015.
Jones has no experience in MotoGP, but the Australian spent some time racing in Europe in the European Superstock 600 cup. Jones’ Australian Superbike team is run by Troy Bayliss, World Superbike legend and former MotoGP rider.
Last year, Jones ran the #1 plate as reigning Australian championship, replacing his normal #46. That number is rather famously taken in MotoGP, and so Jones will run the #7 this weekend.
Source: Ducati Corse; Photo: © 2016 Tony Goldsmith / www.tonygoldsmith.net – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.