Just when it looked like the MotoGP silly season was getting ready to wrap up, a few new developments threw a spanner or two in the works. A week ago, most MotoGP pundits were convinced that Cal Crutchlow would be going to Ducati, Scott Redding would be moving up with his Marc VDS Racing team, and there was next to no interest in Yamaha’s leased engines.

At the Sachsenring, many things changed, in part at the instigation of Honda, and in part because of Yamaha.

Honda has made the biggest move in the market. At the Sachsenring, credible rumors emerged of Honda attempting to secure both Redding and Crutchlow, in two different moves. HRC’s approach to Crutchlow could cause the biggest upset. The Japanese factory is known to be very impressed by Crutchlow, but their dilemma is that all four Honda prototype seats are ostensibly taken for 2014.

While both Marquez and Pedrosa have contracts for next year, and Bautista is locked in at Gresini for 2014, Stefan Bradl’s seat at LCR Honda could possibly be available. While Bradl is locked in to a two-year deal with HRC, Honda hold the option to decide not to take the second year, potentially freeing up Bradl’s bike, and that seat could then be taken by Cal Crutchlow.

Bradl’s camp insist that the deal to extend is close to completion, and that Honda are happy with Bradl’s performance. Yet witnesses at the Sachsenring heard some very heated exchanges going on in the LCR Honda truck when HRC staff came for talks. Putting two and two together (something all too often in the paddock results in a number which does not resemble four), it suggests that HRC are trying to persuade Lucio Cecchinello to cut Bradl loose and take Crutchlow in his stead.

That deal would be ideal for Crutchlow – the LCR Honda machine is a factory-supported Honda RC213V, and a slot at LCR would give him a shot at the Repsol Honda seat in 2015, when the contracts for both current riders – or more particularly, Dani Pedrosa – are up. LCR is less enamored with the deal, with Cecchinello being very happy with the way the partnership has worked and pleased with the progress Bradl has made. But HRC has expected podiums, and Bradl has not delivered those.

The LCR truck was not the only place where tempers were running high. An exasperated Herve Poncharal was seen having meetings with top Yamaha staff, and his general mood after those meetings was not good. Poncharal has made no secret of his desire to keep Crutchlow, but Yamaha have not been able to offer him the support he would like.

Yamaha is rumored to be putting pressure on Tech 3 to sever his contract with Bradley Smith, as this would allow Yamaha to slot Espargaro into Smith’s place, and keep Crutchlow where he is, though finances and support are the major issues here.

Both Poncharal and Cecchinello are finding that running a satellite team is the worst of both worlds: you have to pay to lease the bike, but you still don’t have the freedom to put whatever rider you like on it.

Cal Crutchlow could still stay at Tech 3 Yamaha, but he knows he has no chance of a factory ride in 2014 there. Jorge Lorenzo remains the best of the Yamaha riders, and Valentino Rossi is both extremely competitive and a huge marketing boon for Yamaha.

Crutchlow’s other option is a move to Ducati, which may be lucrative financially but remains a risk, given the continued problems Ducati is having at making the Desmosedici competitive. There is no doubting the efforts they are making, but questions remain over just how effective those efforts will be.

Nicky Hayden will be the man who Crutchlow replaces if he goes to Ducati, the American having been told he will not be kept in the factory team for 2014. Hayden’s loyalty to the Italian factory will not go rewarded, much to his dismay. The Kentuckian believes that the fact he was competitive with Valentino Rossi while the Italian was at Ducati, and is on a par with Andrea Dovizioso, who scored multiple podiums with Yamaha, proves that he can still be competitive on a good bike. But Hayden has his age and his longevity in the class against him.

Whenever I have asked team managers whether they have any interest in Hayden, the reply always centers around the fact that he has been in the series so long already, rather than any doubts over his ability. “What we need are fresh faces, young riders, to add a bit of excitement,” one team manager told me last year. With so many fast riders coming up from Moto2, and more on the way, team managers are more interested in trying to bring on young talent with which to try to face Marc Marquez for the next five years.

Hayden, who will be 32 at the end of July, is not the man team managers have in mind to take on that task. Hayden’s future appears to be in World Superbikes, where he will land a top-level ride, and help grow the US audience for the series, one of Dorna’s biggest goals.

Though the other satellite Honda is tied up for 2014, Alvaro Bautista could find himself across the garage from the man who will replace him in 2015. Scott Redding admitted that he had ‘one preferred option’ among the several from which he can choose for 2014. That option is to race the production Honda which Gresini will be using in 2014, with a view to replacing Bautista in 2015, after Redding has had a year of experience in MotoGP.

The sticking point for the talks currently underway is the support which Redding would receive in 2015. Redding and his manager Michael Bartholemy have no appetite to be taking on the likes of Marc Marquez while using Showa suspension and Nissin brakes. But Bautista was given the contract at Gresini precisely because he agreed to continue with Showa and Nissin, and Gresini is keen to continue.

Not least because the development contracts which he has with the Japanese suspension and brake suppliers are much more attractive financially than having to pay for Ohlins and Brembo support. Redding wishes to be competitive, however, and though both Showa and Nissin are close, they are not quite at the level of Ohlins and Brembo.

It may not be Bautista who Redding replaces, however. The former 125cc world champion is, like Hector Barbera at BQR, one Spaniard too many in the premier class. Dorna has already expressed their disquiet with Yamaha for moving Pol Espargaro into the Tech 3 team for 2014, as the series organizer believes there are already too many Spaniards in the class.

Dorna may prefer to see Nicky Hayden remain in MotoGP, as the American remains extremely popular in the US. Gresini may elect to sever Bautista’s contract early on performance grounds, and move Hayden into that slot. Gresini’s dilemma is that his sponsors are largely Italian, and he would ideally like an Italian in his team. But given Hayden’s universal popularity, he may be able to sell that idea to his sponsors.

The Honda production racer at Gresini means that there will be at least one of the dumbed-down RC213Vs on the grid for 2014, but whether the other four will be sold is still uncertain. At Assen, Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo told me that they would sell all five bikes, but it is hard to see where they will end up. There has been interest from Paul Bird’s PBM team, who looks likely to field Michael Laverty and another British rider.

Shane Byrne’s name has been mentioned, though that would mean leaving a championship-winning career in BSB. If the rumors are correct, Bird could be about to pull the plug on his BSB team and focus on MotoGP, meaning Byrne would have to either move elsewhere or come back to MotoGP. However, the presence of HRC favorite Jonathan Rea at the Sachsenring fueled speculation about a slot for the Ulsterman in MotoGP next season, and PBM would be a logical place for him to land, aboard a production racer.

There has also been talk of the Avintia Blusens BQR team buying a couple of production Hondas, but that team also has an option to remain with the Kawasaki engines and FTR-built frame which they are currently using. If the long-rumored pneumatic valve engine turns up, that bike could be a more competitive package.

Yamaha’s engine lease deal is close to seeing its first takers, and it will not be with Kalex, as was first expected. The NGM Mobile Forward team is believed to have signed a deal to lease two engines, to be housed in a chassis built by the team’s current chassis supplier FTR. Yamaha is set to offer support to FTR in designing a chassis, but though the engine package looks competitive at first glance, it is a risk for the Buckinghmanshire firm.

If the bike is competitive, then the credit will go to Yamaha’s engine. If the bike is not competitive – or the riders chosen to race the bike are not competitive – then the blame will be placed squarely with FTR, whether the blame belongs there or not. Colin Edwards looks set to stay on for one more year, but who the second rider might be is as yet unknown. Current man Claudio Corti could retain his place.

The Yamaha and Honda non-MSMA entry options are looking rather expensive, however. The Yamaha will cost well over a million euros including the chassis, while the price for the Honda production racer has gone up to 1.2 million euros, with an update package for the second year of ownership coming in around half a million. The alternative is to go with Aprilia, which are offering to lease ART machines for 400,000 euros a season.

Given Aleix Espargaro’s outstanding results on the bike, that looks like a pretty attractive option. The question for teams using the ART machines is what Aprilia intends to do next season. Will they use the spec Magneti Marelli software and take 24 liters of fuel and 12 engines, or will they stick with their Aprilia software, and try to manage with 20 liters of fuel and just 9 engines?

The Power Electronics Aspar team looks set to stick with Aprilia next season, and right now, it looks like they will retain both of their current riders. That makes sense for Aleix Espargaro, despite his outstanding performance this year, as it puts him on the market for 2015, when almost everyone’s contracts will be up.

Espargaro has caught the eye of many a team manager, and is sure to be in line for a prototype (or rather, MSMA entry, as we must now call them) ride at some point in the future.

Two more of the current CRT teams will stay as they are for 2014 as well. Karel Abraham will continue for another year on the Aprilia ART with the Cardion AB team, the bike doing exactly what they want it to do. Abraham has suffered a number of injuries this season, making it hard to judge his progress.

The IODA Racing team will also stick with their current crop of bikes, as they have already invested in the Suter BMW they are contesting. They have little incentive to trade up, as they do not believe they will get vastly improved performance if they spend a significant amount on a Honda production racer.

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • Brian

    If Suzuki is smart, they will sign Hayden to a multi-year deal. Have him race WSBK next year replacing Cuzel and then bring him back to Motogp in 2015. There would have to be big of money involved, but Hayden would bring a lot to Suzuki’s factory team as it makes it’s return.

  • Excellent summary. Popcorn’s a-poppin’. :)

  • TexusTim

    wow…nicky on a honda next year sounds awsome.:dorna wants to improve there american pressence with wsbk ?…dorna should buy ama from dmg before its a pos… then promote the day lights out of it and have a few combined races in the states. aprilla I want to see them come in more the whole software fule tank punishment thing drives me nuts…who benifits from this ?

  • JW

    As much as I would like to see Nicky remain in motogp, I think his best move is to WSBK on a non Ducati product. He more than ever needs to break free of Ducati… for good. Do well in WSBK and then come back with Suzuki in 15.

  • kev71

    Lots of great information to digest! My opinions: Pedrosa is gone at Repsol after 2014. Honda has invested a lot in him and he should be winning championships. When new guys to the bike (Stoner and MM) are out performing himin a shorter amount of time, his days are numbered.

    Crutchlow to Ducati = career killer! He does not have the international appeal of Rossi so 2 years on the Ducati battling for 8th place will not leave him much leverage when his contract expires. His best options are sign 1 year deal with Tech3 or 2 year deal with Honda and a probable promotion to Repsol in 2015. The Honda deal will give him 1 year to “learn” to ride the Honda and fight for the championship in 2015. The Tech3 deal will give him another year of 3rd-5th place finishes in 2014 but little hope of the Yamaha factory ride unless Rossi retires. He’s not getting any younger and the article comments on a desire for “younger” riders.

    Poor Nicky Hayden! I think he’s in the worst position of all; a tremendous talent but
    he can’t even win the championship without people saying there should be an * beside his name. Go to World SBK and win. DORNA says they want to “grow” their presence in America yet they sign a deal with a tv network much of America cannot get? Many have said the coverage is great; unfortunately I have no way of judging because I cannot get the channel!

    Just my 2-cents…….I could keep going but I don’t want my response to be longer than the articel

  • tony

    “poor nicky hayden” – wrong! rich nicky hayden! he’s an awesome rider and an all round great dude, but let’s not pity the guy…

  • Ruyter

    My wishlist for 2014:

    Nicky forming up a team at WSB with Canepa (Xerox Ducati), lead by Davide Tardozzi. And titles for Nicky in 2015 and 2016 …

    Crutchlow on DS16 2014, he can perform better on the bike as Dovi or Hayden. I really believe … ;) And why not Aleix Espagaro on a Pramac? These two guys are able to ignore failures in setup at least to some degree.

    Well, i am an optimist.

  • Max

    “kev71 says:

    ….. unless Rossi retires. He’s not getting any younger and the article comments on a desire for “younger” riders.”

    I think Rossi is the exception to this rule, being the reason so many still follow the sport, not to mention being a mega merchandising machine.

  • zipidachimp

    Job #1 for Dorna is moto/wsbk on a mainstream channel every Sunday am/pm during the season.
    Everything else is secondary!!!!!!!!

  • zipidachimp

    follow-up: the last 5 years were terrific for both moto/wsbk on Speed. the next 5 years look bleak.

  • smiler

    Interesting article and it seems silly season is much more silly than previous years, if nothing else because of the F1 type engine and chassis supplier discussions.
    It would be a shame for the series if Hinda (as usual) throw more money at winning than anyone by putting Cal and Redding on Hondas. The only person able to upset their domination in the past was Rossi.
    It would likelt be good for Redding and Cal though. Amazing that Yamaha are so in love with Spanish riders.
    As for Hayden, can we be more realistic. He as he said himself was very lucky to win the championship in 06. He has won 3 races in 11 years though he spent 6 years with HRC, with 3 top 5 placings in 11 years. He is however very well liked, is loyal, hardworking and not prone to being undiplomatic. He is 32 and Suzuki could happily get De Puniet and another younger rider with experience. WSBK on the Panigale, title in 2014 and the kind of treatment that Bayliss received post career.

    I am amazed no one has mentioned Spies being punted out of his contract.
    Is there anyone in AMA coming up these days. BSB still seems to be a feeder for WSBK for home and foreign talent and Moto2 and 3 for MotoGP.

  • zipidachimp

    follow follow-up: Note to Dorna: spanish or american or subterranean doesn’t matter. All they have to be is FAST!!!!

  • kev71

    To Max:

    my point was that Cal is not getting any younger and Rossi IS the exception to the rule, as you stated. Rossi was able to get the Yamaha factory ride because of his International appeal, even after 2 shit years on “the career killer.” Cal does not have that and; therefore, will have little leverage with factories after 2 year on the Ducati. Yamaha needed Rossi as much as Rossi needed Yamaha. They may never admit it but it was a piss poor business decision to let him go after 2010. No title sponsor since he left and Spies was a “bust” (although he did have a promising start).

    Spies will go the way of John Hopkins (who I hope to God is not signed to race for any series next year) if he does not get his mind straight. Go back to World SBK Spies… you can win in that series.

  • proudAmerican

    There are quite a few persons on here who’ve proclaimed, “Cal can ride the Ducati better than Hayden or Rossi”.

    Really? Where’s the proof of that? Burgess and Rossi thought they’d walk into Ducati and solve all problems within a few hours–we all know the outcome of that forward thinking.

    Hayden and Crutchlow have very similar riding styles. Cal “might” do well on the Ducati, but to say at this point that he “will” do well is a bit premature.

  • Ken

    Ooooooh!!! Crutchlow on an RC213V. Just 2 days ago I said that would be the ticket. Hope it comes to pass. Now if we can get WSBK (MotoGP too) away from Dormant (Dorna) life in racing would be good again. Since I heard about their new WSBK rules I decided NOT to go to Laguna and, in effect, boycott their nonsense. I’m getting really sick of the political climate in racing now. F1 is the same.

  • ‘There are quite a few persons on here who’ve proclaimed, “Cal can ride the Ducati better than Hayden or Rossi”.

    Really? Where’s the proof of that?’


    This. Totally. There is simply no reason to think that Cal could polish that turd any better than anybody else has in the last few years. Ducati have tried sports psychologists in lieu of any real solutions. Next? Voodoo dolls and chicken blood sprinkled around the garage bays.

    Cal’s good enough on the Yamaha that all he really needs is the new fuel tank. Give him that and he’ll be giving the factory Hondas and Yamahas absolute fits on a regular basis. Putting him on an RC213V will definitely put him on the back foot for at least a portion of a season, so any real shot at running at the front will be tossed for a season. At his age, is that really ideal?

    Stay tuned, I guess. :)

  • “I’m getting really sick of the political climate in racing now. F1 is the same.”

    All motorsport has politics. Just ask anybody who’s worked in any series (and that includes minor, regional level stuff). F1 has always had the FIA, but aside from trying to slow down the cars (fail) and keep them safer (win), I don’t see how the politics of F1 spoils the show. Heck, in the realm of F1, it’s all a part of the show. And the racing for the last several years has been brilliant.

  • L2C

    Cal wants the prestige of being a factory rider. He wants the money. And he wants the chance to win and win consistently. Even if Yamaha gave him the fuel tank, he wouldn’t shut up because he sees satellite teams as being second class. He’s a climber. He wants to get to the top and that’s all there is to it.

    If Cal took Bradl’s spot, he’d bitch and moan continuously because LCR is not Repsol. If he took Bautista’s spot, he’d bitch and moan because Gresini is neither LCR nor Repsol. And riding Showa and Nissin would only frustrate and aggravate him more.

    Cal is not looking to go sideways. An RC213V on a satellite team is not ideal for him. Going to LCR or Gresini next season would mean to Cal that his upward momentum had come to a halt. And so we’d see a repeat of his mouthy behavior next season. You can be sure that he would still ruffle feathers – especially since he’d have to start the process all over again with learning a new bike and adapting to a new team.

    Thing is, even though Bradl has full factory support for his factory-spec RC213V, he doesn’t receive updates and upgrades at the same time as Pedrosa and Márquez. When Pedrosa chose to go with a new chassis at the beginning of the second half of last season, Bradl didn’t also have that choice. So if you’re Cal Crutchlow in that situation, you’re going to have a big problem with that.

    Remember how Cal threw a fit when Dovi upgraded his Brembos?

    The only thing that’s going to satisfy Cal for a minute or two is him being able to say that he’s a factory rider. He would be able to go to bed at night knowing that he’s leet. Ducati might want to take advantage of Cal and his increasing marketability, but then that’s par for the course for Ducati. They use up riders on the regular for their own benefit just like all the other teams do. The difference is that most of the other teams seem to make regular and successful progress toward providing their riders with better bikes.

    Power Electronics Aspar and NGM Mobile Forward have both made astonishing leaps forward this season for their top riders and race results. Ducati? Not so much. At least Ducati’s riders are well-paid for their pain.

    The words money and factory are what gets Cal’s attention. Ducati has both. I’d be surprised if Ducati doesn’t win this contest for Cal’s services, because Ducati does identify with devils and monsters, and Cal is a little bit of both. He would be great for the brand and their bikes.

  • L2C

    Grammar = whatever. *SMH*