Deciphering the MotoGP Silly Season, Part 2

07/30/2015 @ 10:45 am, by David Emmett27 COMMENTS

Friday-Sachsenring-German-Grand-Prix-MotoGP-2015-Tony-Goldsmith-445

If Jack Miller is parachuted into Aspar, the second seat in the team is up for grabs. Though Dorna are keen to have an American in MotoGP, it is widely believed that Nicky Hayden’s days are numbered.

Despite his denials, there are question marks over Hayden’s wrist, and he has not been as competitive on the Open Honda as he had hoped. Hayden was at the last round of World Superbikes at Laguna Seca a couple of weeks ago, where he was seen talking to a lot of teams.

There is a lot of speculation Hayden could end up on an Aprilia in World Superbikes next season, the American already having visited the factory’s Noale HQ in 2013, before he left Ducati to sign for Aspar.

Could Hayden take the second Aprilia seat in MotoGP? This seems extremely unlikely. The factory already has an experienced development rider in Alvaro Bautista, and is really looking for someone faster and younger to lead the challenge.

One name being bandied about is Stefan Bradl, the German being a particularly attractive prospect for the Italian factory. With Melandri having abandoned the Gresini Aprilia team, the second seat in the team is being filled by Michael Laverty.

A sensible choice under the circumstances: Laverty is already Aprilia’s official test rider, and the RS-GP is still very much a test bed for collecting data, to be used to build the 2016 bike, which will be a full prototype built from scratch.

The downside to having Laverty is that he is also racing in BSB for the Tyco BMW team. The two calendars clash only once, when MotoGP goes to Phillip Island, and BSB is at Brands Hatch, so Laverty is able to fill in on a race-by-race basis.

However, with Bradl having announced that he has rescinded his contract with Forward Racing, due to the fact that they cannot guarantee him a ride for the rest of the season, Bradl becomes a more appealing option for Aprilia.

The German could start racing almost immediately – a start at Indianapolis is probably too early, with the Brno test a more likely date – and could fill in until the end of the season. Bradl is still relatively young – he will be 26 in November – a former Moto2 world champion, and highly motivated.

Signing Bradl to what is effectively an 18-month contract could be a smart move for Aprilia, as they would get someone young, fast, and able to help develop their new 2016 bike. If Bradl is fast in 2016, Aprilia could keep him for the future, if he isn’t, he can keep working on improving the bike for 2017, and his successor.

With so many teams disappearing, it may be possible for the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing team to fulfill their wish of expanding to become a two-rider team.

Honda would rather a competent, well-funded team took over one of the bikes which become available than give it to someone without the resources – financial and human – to make it competitive.

At the Sachsenring, team owner Michael Bartholémy told us that he would very much like to have a second bike, but only if he could run it within budget. To do that, he would require the full IRTA support package, comprising transport allowance and free tires. As a new team, they are not getting that for 2015, and at around €1.2 million, that is a lot of money to find.

If Marc VDS do get a second bike, then Tito Rabat is the first rider who would be eligible for the bike. Bartholémy is keen to hold on to the Spaniard, but Rabat has made it very clear that his priority is to move up to MotoGP.

Adding a second bike would be one way of keeping Rabat, and keeping him happy. Rabat would have to find a new crew chief, however, as Pete Benson is believed not to be interested in a return to MotoGP.

Bartholémy may not get his way, however. There is also a chance that Honda will decide who goes on the second bike. It seems unlikely that they would put Jack Miller there, as there is still a history of legal proceedings between Miller and Marc VDS over a contract the Australian signed with the team two years ago.

But the intriguing option could be having Cal Crutchlow inside the team. Honda are keen to keep Crutchlow on the bike – having a ‘normal’ rider who can be competitive on the bike is important, making it easier for HRC to develop the bike around mere mortals, rather than the freakish talents of Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa.

If LCR do drop one of their bikes, then Honda may decide place Crutchlow at Marc VDS and keep Miller at LCR.

Whatever happens with the second bike, Scott Redding is almost certain to remain in MotoGP with Marc VDS. Redding has gotten off to a torrid start since switching to the Honda RC213V, finding it a much more difficult bike to ride than the RCV1000R he had raced in 2014.

All of his career, he has spent his time watching his weight and trying to compensate for his size and weight on an underpowered bike. Finally, he has a bike with a lot more horsepower than traction, and is having to relearn and rethink his approach to riding.

Redding was starting to make real progress at the Sachsenring, but a first-lap crash put an end to his hopes of improvement. Though there is a performance clause in his contract with Marc VDS, Bartholémy told us he does not want to invoke it.

He still has a strong belief that Redding will come good. The British rider has the second half of the season for that to happen.

While the combinations of Hondas and teams are pretty endless, the satellite Ducati teams look pretty well sorted. Pramac will continue to act as the Ducati junior team, and will get the bikes from this year’s factory team for 2016.

Having a GP15 will be a big step forward for Danilo Petrucci, who has a two-year deal with Pramac. The second seat is still open, with Yonny Hernandez, Stefan Bradl and perhaps even Eugene Laverty a possibility.

This is perhaps the most highly prized seat available in MotoGP, all the more so because the bike will be a GP15. Bradl, Tito Rabat and more are looking at this bike, and team manager Francesco Guidotti can almost take his pick.

As much as Yonny Hernandez would like to get his hands on a Ducati Desmosedici GP15, it is not looking likely to happen. There are strong indications that Hernandez will move back to Avintia, as the Colombian has good ties with his former team.

That would mean racing a GP14.2, basically the same bike he is on now. As the third-ranked Ducati team, Avintia are last in line, and will be racing the GP14.2 in 2016. The other seat at Avintia will almost certainly be taken by Hector Barbera, as the Spanish rider brings both money and results to the squad.

We may know what Ducati will be doing, but just what Honda and Yamaha will be doing for the private teams is still uncertain. The AB Motor Racing team of Karel Abraham is believed to be eying a switch to World Superbikes, though Abraham himself is much less keen on the switch.

Abraham Sr. was seen talking to KTM’s Pit Beirer in Assen by Dutch site Nieuwsmotor.nl, after which Beirer admitted he had spoken to Abraham about running the KTM factory team.

AB Motor Racing is attractive not just because they have a MotoGP team, but also a MotoGP circuit, as Abraham Sr. owns the Brno track. Beirer said they were talking to several different teams about this, and it was still very early. Any deal made would still leave AB Motor Racing out in the cold for 2016, as KTM are only looking at an entry in 2017.

If the team leaves MotoGP next year, then Abraham’s grid slot will become available, though it may not be such an appealing prospect.

IRTA has already announced that it will only be providing financial support for the top 22 riders, ranked according to the special system they use to measure a rider’s performance (based on the championship standing, but taking finishes outside the points into consideration).

That means that 3 of the current 25 grid slots are due to lose their support. At the moment, Abraham, IODA Racing’s Alex De Angelis, and Marco Melandri (or his successor) are in the hot seat.

IODA is almost certain to leave, the team having struggled ever since they joined the class, losing first CAME and then OCTO as sponsors. The second Aprilia rider (whoever it is) should start scoring enough points to lift them out of trouble.

That would put Mike Di Meglio (and the second seat at Avintia) into the firing line, and potentially Eugene Laverty. The disappearance of Forward Racing, should they prove not to be able to continue until the end of the season, may just save their bacon.

If IODA goes, as seems certain, and Forward Racing cannot make it onto the grid next year, who could take their place? IRTA and Dorna have always said that 22 is the optimum grid size they are aiming for, though they are happy to have 24 or 25 on there.

If nobody moves up to replace Forward and IODA, that would be fine. But there are candidates to replace them. Sito Pons has been eying a return to MotoGP for a while now, and 2016 could be a good opportunity. 2017 would be even better, though, as it would allow Pons to take Alex Rins up into the premier class.

Aki Ajo is the other man looking at opportunities in MotoGP. The addition of a Moto2 team for Johann Zarco has been a success, the Frenchman closing in rapidly on a Moto2 title.

A seat in MotoGP would allow Ajo to move up and take Zarco with him. Having both Pons and Ajo in MotoGP would please Dorna immensely, as the aim is to fill the grid with the best teams in racing, and both Ajo and Pons have shown they are extremely competent.

2016 looks like being a difficult year for MotoGP, with so many teams in financial disarray. The year after should be better, however, as the new deal for private teams will come into effect, with each team getting around €2 million per rider from IRTA, rather than the €1.3 million they receive at the moment.

Combined with a cap on lease prices, that should ease the financial pressures on the team, and allow for more continuity. We may be getting new rules in 2016, but the new era really begins in 2017.

Photo: © 2015 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.

  • Christopher Ring

    Shame about nicky hayden, not unexpected but a shame nonetheless. Doesn’t look like there is going to be a American in the premier class for years. Without a American in the series American companies will probably withdraw as sponsors so even if one of the moto America riders had the talent (I think Hayden Gilliam or Elena Meyers might be able to make the transition) they won’t be able to develop the financial backing to make to MotoGP in a position where they can succeed.

  • Armando Aj Marini

    Hayden really should make the move to a good WSBK team. There are places out there. I see a lot of good bikes, with not the best riders. Hayden could probably be a contender still on the factory MotoGP Honda or the Factory MotoGP Yamaha, but that isn’t going to happen. He just isn’t going to shine on a customer MotoGP bike. Personally, I would love to see him on the Panigale, but who knows how that relationship sits at the moment.

  • Ur Momma

    And expect to see a US rider come out of CEV or Red Bull Rookies Cup and not MotoAmerica – That will take 10 years at least.

  • John Walker

    Hayden can always walk away. He’s been paid I’m sure about 33 million since he’s been in the premier class. It’s OK to walk now with your head up high.

  • Hot_Lunch

    This has been coming since Hayden left Ducati. He has skill and until recently has consistently been the top RCV100R, but an older rider getting mediocre results on a mediocre machine doesn’t attract a factory team.

  • Christopher Ring

    I don’t see that happening, chaz davies is putting his panigale on the podium pretty frequently, Giugliano isn’t lighting the world on fire but he’s Italian and I don’t see ducati dropping all the Italians off there team. Kawasaki isn’t dropping Sykes or Rea, Aprillia might be possible Jordi Torres hasn’t been bad but he’s only been on the podium that 1 time and I think his contract is up this year. Then again Aprillia might actually decide to withdraw from Superbike after this year.

  • crm114

    In that pic the Kentucky Kid really looks like a samurai.

  • XL2C

    Aprilia are NOT going to replace Jordi Torres. Just get that silly idea out of your head as fast as you can. By any reasonable measure, for a rookie, Torres is having a stellar year.

  • XL2C

    ‘Bout to go rōnin…

  • XL2C

    The Jack Miller saga continues. Even has Honda doing somersaults and back flips.

  • ducman1198

    Personally I think that Nicky’s time in MotoGP is over. Over the past 7 years he has been given trash bikes to ride that really couldn’t show his true potential and flat out lied too from Honda about the customer RCV.

    Nicky believed like most of us that the customer RCV was supposed to be “almost” as good as the factory bikes. Per Casey Stoners “phantom” lap times in testing.
    But this lie coupled with the total lack of support from Honda doomed Nicky to 2 more years of suffering.

    For 5 years on a terrible Ducati, Nicky was still consistently a top 6 rider. Since he has been on the customer Honda he’s too often finished outside of 15th place and not even in
    the points. It’s not him; it’s the bike.

    Im sure Aspar is not to happy either with buying the Honda mule and not the Yamaha M1 rocket! The lie from Honda about how good their customer bike was “supposed” to be would be the last straw for me and if I was Nicky I would be done with Honda for good!

    But I honestly I don’t think Dorna is going to let him go. Nick Hayden is not just a rider he is a brand, an excellent goodwill ambassador for the sport and a marketing wet dream! He is still one of the most loved and popular riders on the grid with Rossi and Lorenzo.

    At the end of the day Dorna is a business and America is one of their biggest markets. To have no American riders on the grid and no up and coming American rider in the future is very bad for business. So keeping Nicky is essential!

    So the real question is where will he be in 2016? Or more importantly “what series needs him more MotoGP or WSBK” since Dorna ownes both of them?

    If you ask Nicky he would probably want to stay in GP’s but riding around in 15th place on the Honda mule has gotten very old when everyone knows he’s better than that.
    I think a ride on a satellite GP16 would be a great fit. Sad part is he will never see the podium but he will have respectable placing again.

    But on the other hand WSBK is in desperate need of a real star. The good ol days of legends like Bayliss, Haga and Biaggi are gone. The public, for some reason is not impressed with the current crop of riders and champs. Dorna has noticed because attendance numbers are down and one off rides every now and then by Biaggi is not going to cut it. At 44 Max is very long in the tooth and not a long term solution.

    Nicky’s presence would reinvigorate the series and give the public a real hero to root for. He just turned 34 and could easily have 6 more year of racing in WSBK if his wrist hold up. Thats 6 chances to with the title.

    MotoGP has Rossi, Marquez and Lorenzo, WSBK would have Nicky Hayden the American under dog that would accomplish something that not even the GOAT Valentine Rossi has not done.

    WIN THE TRIFECTA (US Champ, WSBK Champ, and MotoGP Champ).

    Dorna will keep Nicky Hayden so, as stated the real question is, where???

  • ducman1198

    i disagree, nicky has a great shot at the factory team. Remember Ducati didnt want him to leave 2 years ago, they wanted him on the factory wsbk team, plus Giugliano broke his back and is in bad shape. I dont see him racing next year he to much of a risk. Nicky already has a great relationship with Ducati, is great marketing for sponsors and hes a sure thing. I can easily see him on the factory team in 2016.

  • ducman1198

    For Nicky its not about the money! He still has that racing fire and until hes ready to leave, leaving isnt an option. I think if he moves to wsbk and starts getting podiums and winning races again, we will all see a new nicky hayden.

  • ducman1198

    As long as Marquez keep winning Jack is an after thought! The best thing that could happen for jack career is for Pedrosa to retire and Jack can take the 2nd Repsol seat. or if Honda made a 3 man team like they did with Dovi. Then we can see how good Jack really is on equal equipment with Marquez.

    Until then hes just a bridesmaid.

  • ducman1198

    I dont think he mediocre. His problem is the Honda mule or otherwise known as the lie of the century! You dont go from top 6 to not cracking 15th in 2 seasons. Niky was fed the lie like the rest of us and now hes paying for his faith in Honda. They screwed him in 2007 when he was the reigning champ with the pedrosa bike and now they have screwed him again.

  • ducman1198

    yeah on Honda!

  • XL2C

    Thing is, Nicky is already treading murky waters in MotoGP. Is he up for doing the same thing in WSBK, which by some accounts is a whole lot worse?

    I don’t know what choice Hayden will make for his future next year, but I bet that he’s going to do everything in his power to stay in MotoGP. Short of full factory backing for two years in WSBK, I don’t think Hayden will make the switch. For all we know, it is possible that is what has been the biggest sticking point that has kept him in MotoGP until now.

    Everybody goes fishin’ when looking for a new job. Or at least the smart ones do. Hayden visiting the WSBK paddock recently should come as no surprise to anybody. Being “seen talking to a lot of teams” is not something people should try to read into because if he’s thinking about moving to WSBK, then he has to get to know the deck that he’s going to be dealing with. Visiting with many teams is simply something that he has to do. In the past, he might have sent an agent or manager to discretely do the job.

    At any rate, I don’t think that Hayden would consider anything less than full-factory for WSBK. There is no point otherwise. So either factories are interested to that level of committment, or they are not. But Hayden is not going to make the move to sit mid-pack (or worse) for even two more years in another series. If he’s not signing to be a front-runner, he’s not going to sign. At least that’s what I believe.

  • John Walker

    Yup

  • John Walker

    I want him to stay but if I were forced to gamble, this is his last year in GP

  • John Walker

    Not paying off tho..

  • John Walker

    When DP goes, JM in in

  • John Walker

    Not so sure Hayden is suffering, it has been a great well paying job all these years

  • John Walker

    I agree too. I think he will retire in Moto GP

  • John Walker

    Perhaps Casey will need replaced as Hondas test pilot..

  • The Did’ler

    2006 World Champion, You the man Nicky

  • Mike McFadden M&M Customs

    It doesn’t help your cause either when your down 35hp than the top 12 bikes. That’s just pissing into the wind with hope.

  • Armando Aj Marini

    Ducati is like any other team. They have two Italians on the motoGP bike sure, but Giuliano isn’t on the WSBK because he’s Italian, it’s because he showed promise. He can lay down a fast lap, but he’s just too inconsistent. Aprilia is just going to keep rolling down hill. They simply don’t have the manpower to make a good bike anymore and the RSV4, albeit ahead of it’s time, is now getting long in the tooth, just like the RSVR did.