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:

Team/Rider Bike/Length Notes
Repsol Honda Honda
Dani Pedrosa 2014 Deal to be announced on Thursday
Marc Marquez 2014 Marquez will almost certainly sign up for two years
Yamaha Racing Yamaha
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
Ducati Corse Ducati
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
LCR Honda Honda
Stefan Bradl 2013 Bradl has a two-year contract, 2012 is his first year.
Gresini Honda Honda
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.

  • David

    I don’t see why Hayden’s age (30) should be an issue when he is only 6 points behind Rossi (33) and 4 points ahead of Spies who is riding the best bike on the grid.

    I would rather see Hayden get a shot at the Yamaha then Spies, age 28 btw.

  • Odie

    I think Ducati is being really stupid with letting Hayden go. Nikki is the hardest working, easiest to get along with rider that Ducati could ever have hoped for.
    They have gone from being MotoGP royalty to being an annoying, spoiled, entitled brat. They are becoming the touch of death to any MotoGP rider.
    Let’s go down the list of riders who never quite recovered once contracting Ducati-itis:
    Stoner (yes, he won the 2008 title, but I would argue that his time at Ducati was a significant factor in his early retirement).
    …and I am afraid that Rossi might end up on this list.

  • Shawn

    What possible reason could there be for no one wanting to sign Nicky Hayden? He’s a former World Champion, he’s widely known for being an affable, amiable guy, he’s – in my opinion – more of a team player than Rossi (if you want to define that as the about of time he DOESN’T spend publicly complaining about his bike), and he’s arguably shown more consistent performance on the ailing Ducati than Rossi has.

    The way I gauge Hayden, he’s one of the “rider conforms to the bike” kind of guys (as opposed to Rossi, who seems to have trouble conforming to anything that isn’t exactly the way he wants it), which I would think would make him a more valuable commodity than someone like Rossi who demands that the bike be formed in his image.

    Not to mention, Hayden is a FORMER WORLD CHAMPION, which is more than you can say for Ben Spies or Cal Crutchlow. But now I’m being redundant.

    I think Crutchlow would be mistaken to go to Ducati. He has it in his head that he needs a factory ride, but I think the evidence points to the fact that the Ducati factory bikes are not what you call “prime real estate”. If Spies could move to the Tech 3 team but “with full factory support”, why can’t that kind of deal be extended to Crutchlow? I’d think that with better support from the factory and the M1 being a far more mature design, that Cal would fare better there than at Ducati.

    Let’s face it – the Duck just isn’t getting it done, and there’s no sign that’s going to change any time soon. Why Ducati has it in their head that they HAVE to use an L-twin engine is beyond me; I’m all for brand identity and all, but isn’t Ducati’s identity about building PERFORMANCE motorcycles first, and L-twin motorcycles second? To me, it’s a simple question of value structures; is it more important to win, or to win using a certain engine? Honda has made championship bikes in varying series with inline-4’s (CBR series), V-twins (RC51), V-5’s (RC211V), and V-4’s (RC30, RC45, RC212V). There’s power in knowing when to do something different, and if Ducati doesn’t extract its cranium from its corporate rectum, it’s going to end with Ducati pulling out of Moto GP altogether.

  • Frankie

    Ducati should let go of Rossi and Hayden. They need new fresh blood on their bikes maybe somebody close to Stoner’s talent. Rossi is going to stay because Audi can afford him now. Hayden will go because he is being there for a while and no results. Yes, he is being working hard, but results count at the end of the day. Dovi is doing great this season like last season too and nobody is offering him a spot on a factory team . He deserves it more than Cal.

  • john


    I say get out of GP and ride WSBK. I will watch WSBK if you do this. Your 31, go have some fun on a bike you can win with. I will root for you to get a title! Moto GP is not the sport it once was from when I started watching in 2000. I can see why Stoner wants out, I would love to see Casey ride WSBK too.

    Centainly WSBK will be a better sport with Hayden in it.

  • john

    All your comments are great! I wonder who else reads them if you get my drift..

  • Peter G

    I dont understand why everyone gets all excited about Nicky Hayden. He has been in MotoGP for 10 seasons.
    All on factory machines, and has the princely sum of 3 race wins in that time.

    Two wins in the season that gave him the world championships.

    I agree with Frankie’s comment.

  • @ Odie: You forgot Marco Melendri…. LOL. Being the owner of a Duc myself I’d like to see Ducati have a repeat of ’07 with Rossi on the bike. If Audi actually steps in to the racing aspect of Ducati I would be amazingly surprised.

  • Riccardo


    WSBK is a better show without Hayden in it.

    I say he’d be the one to benefit from a move to it. Or he can go to AMA and then I’ll agree it’ll become better.

  • TexusTim

    I think the less than ethical Spies should be sent back to WSBK, Crutchlow should get his ride,hayden should be kept at ducatti,he never complains and will benifit from rossi being there, it would be great for them both to start scoring podiums, Spies is the problem right now He’s holding up some very good riders from advancing, just like he does on the track.

  • smiler

    Getting rid of Rossi and Hayden would be just daft. What they need is a consistent approach to getting the bike sorted.
    Dropping Hayden seems like a good idea on the surface. But if they get the bike sorted this and next season then Hayden will still be oung enough to to WSB and win, Ducati will have a bike thatcwill attract the best to replace Rossi and Hayden and both will have seen it through. No doubt also that Hayden is good for the team with less ego and the ability to work hard and consistently.
    Taking Cal on now would be unwise he is new now to MotoGP and is having a good season but why not wait a year and get on a Ducati that is a championship winner.
    Stoner talented, is that a typo.

  • Brian

    Other than what I read about it here, I am done with MotoGP. WSBK has gotten a lot more of my interest.

  • Westward

    Maybe what all the teams in MotoGP should do is run factory spec machines for their junior teams. Bautista has one at Gresini as Simoncelli had the year before. Besides, I am weary of the fact that realistically the series being a four bike race. After all it is a travesty that the CRT’s are even on the grid just for show.

    Bautista was last on the grid in Sachsenring and sliced his way up to 7th like a knife through butter, not just because he is an excellent pilot, but mainly the CRT’s are a joke.

    Yamaha could ease all tension by supplying factory machines to Tech3 and keeping things as they are. I think Smith would be a team player and race Moto2 one more year. Besides he is capable of winning that class title.

    Ducati should also provide factory bikes to all four entries, and even consider running three Ducati course squad. Besides, if Hayden went to WSBK for Ducati, that would not be a bad deal either, save for the fact that it would diminish the talent in MotoGP…

    As for Audi, the affect on the Rossi – Ducati situation is a little coy, it is more of a matter of the Audi – Ducati and Preziosi situation that will be the main focus…

    Edwards and De Puniet’s talents are being wasted on non competitive machinery…

    Also, I thought 2013 was the return of Suzuki, or was that 2014..?

    Which also bring light to Kawasaki. In WSBK Sykes has placed that bike on Pole nearly every round, that thing only needs better pilots. I think they can be competitive more so than before in MotoGP too. They just have to want to be…

  • Dave

    It sucks if Ducati lets Nicky go and signs Cruchlow. Hayden has bested Rossi in adapting to what must be a bear of a bike to ride competitively. But MotoGP has been losing my interest anyway. Watching Moto3 and Moto 2 has been much more interesting. Prediction is Crutchlow will bin quite a few red bikes..

    If Nicky goes WSBK, the only downside is there is no race in the East US I can attend.

    Only wish Hayden the best.

  • Bautista does NOT have a factory-spec bike.

  • Neil

    I am having trouble trying to write down how I feel right now about Nicky’s future…
    My thoughts:

    You can put anyone on a Honda (even Gresini/Bautista) and they will be competitive instantly, I have no doubt that if Nicky were on the current Repsol Honda bike he would still be winning races, Honda abandoned him when they went to 800’s after Nicky (beat Rossi) and won his title, they built the bike for Pedrosa (who has never won a title to this day)…

    I understand developing new talent but Bradley Smith has NO business in MotoGp next year at all…
    Herve Poncharal did not sign Edwards and is now pushing Crutchlow towards Ducati so he can slide Smith in there? then says he will go to court to rip up the contract if Smith doesn’t improve?
    He shouldn’t be there in the first place….

    As much as I like Cal, he will be making a mistake going from the Yamaha to the Ducati, factory backing or not, rude awakening….

    now on to Rossi:

    I like Rossi…correction, I used to like Rossi…
    I know he is a past champion many times over, he is very well liked, he sells a lot of t-shirts, Italian guy on an Italian bike, etc…but I have lost a lot of respect for him this year not because he is not winning but because of the way he cries about it and blasts the people who are paying him to ride for them.
    Nicky quietly goes about his business and does his best with what he has to work with, not stepping on anyone and eveyone knows he could be very critical of Ducati as well….watching him race and finish 6th to 10th every race is frustrating the hell out of me and I’m just watching on TV, especially when Nicky finished in 4th position for the first couple races a couple years prior….very frustrating, and now, possibly not having a ride in MotoGp next year, completely gutted…
    Nicky simply deserves better….

    …enough of my incoherent rambling,

    If Nicky goes to WSBK next year, thats what I will be watching…