The 2013 MotoGP season has only just got underway, but as is seemingly customary in MotoGP now, thoughts are already turning to next year. With eight of the twelve men on factory prototypes on two-year contracts, the most attractive seats already appear to be taken.

There is no room for any movement at either the factory Yamaha or factory Honda teams, and only one seat potentially available at the factory Ducati team. Both satellite Honda seats are taken for 2014, as is Bradley Smith’s seat at the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team.

Despite this, there are some intriguing possibilities being played out. The most desirable seat still left is almost certainly the second Monster Tech 3 Yamaha seat currently occupied by Cal Crutchlow. Despite the Englishman’s outstanding performance since last year, Crutchlow may not be able to hold on to his seat.

There have been credible reports since 2012 that Yamaha have a keen interest in Moto2 title favorite Pol Espargaro, and in the run up to the season opener at Qatar, rumors emerged that Espargaro is already in talks with Yamaha for 2014.

With both factory seats taken, however, the only place where Yamaha could place Espargaro is in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, and with Bradley Smith already on a two-year contract with the French squad, that leaves Crutchlow’s seat as the only option.

When asked by us at Austin whether he was in talks with Espargaro for next year, Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal denied both the suggestion, and that he had any interest in the young Spaniard.

“I will never sign a contract with Pol Espargaro,” Poncharal replied in response to our questions. Poncharal was less certain about the option of Espargaro being placed in the Tech 3 team directly by Yamaha, as they have the right to do under their contract with Poncharal, admitting he would have no control over the matter in that case.

Though Poncharal is already happy with his current line up, sources have confirmed that Yamaha and Tech 3 have already had conversations about Espargaro, though the outcome of those conversations is unknown.

Where does this leave Cal Crutchlow? The Englishman has been impressive in both pre-season testing and in the first two races of the year, and is believed to be keen to stay where he is, unless an opportunity to ride for a factory team opens up.

With only Nicky Hayden on a one-year contract, that would leave only Ducati, or possibly Suzuki, when they make their long-awaited return to the series. Joining Suzuki would be a risk, given that it is not yet known just how competitive the bike will be. That will only become apparent at the first public test of the bike in Barcelona, in a month’s time.

Ducati, on the other hand, could be a better bet, given the progress being made on developing the Desmosedici. Though 2013 will be a tough year for the Italian marque, 2014 looks a lot more promising.

The complicating factor there is that the US is such an important market for Ducati, and they may want to retain an American rider to help promote the brand, something which Nicky Hayden does tirelessly for them.

If Ben Spies’ results improve over the coming year, that could satisfy Ducati North America’s needs, especially if Hayden were to move to World Superbikes with Ducati and race there.

That move would have the blessing of Dorna as well, as having a famous American racing in World Superbikes would help raise the profile of that series in the US as well.

The question is, just how reliable are all these rumors? Will Espargaro move to Tech 3, or Crutchlow switch to Suzuki, or Hayden go to World Superbikes? It is far too early for any real decisions to be made.

One thing is for certain: the second seat in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team is currently MotoGP’s hottest property, and a protracted battle between an established and successful rider like Cal Crutchlow and gambling on a young, upcoming rider like Pol Espargaro is likely to be fought out ver the heads of the riders.

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.

  • Ahh, the joke that is the money-saving measure of limiting factory bikes in MotoGP. Why not just let Yamaha stick Cal in the factory team. They’ve already changed the rookie rule for a Spaniard, so why not tweak another for Pol?

  • L2C

    At this point, Pol is much more promising than Bradley, I tell you that. It might be worth it to Yamaha to pay off Bradley and sign Pol. That’s what I would do. The UK market would still be covered should they decide to retain the increasingly successful and marketable Crutchlow.

    And after all he’s done for Ducati, Hayden deserves to ride the reinvigorated Desmo for 2014. Ducati will have plenty of top Moto2 talent to draw from for 2015-2016. Though, competition will be much more fierce then for the top riders of that class.

  • The Bad Guy

    Why would Yamaha want to Stick Cal in the Factory team when they already have the Best rider and the most marketable rider in the Paddock? Espargro is one of the few that has been able to get the best of Marquez fair and square and everyone sees how good Marq is in MotoGP,Cant say I blame Yamaha for having interest in Pol.

  • Mariano

    I thought 2102 was the “Silly Season” ….why is this journalist headlining his article like that…..annoying!

  • Silly Season is a time-honored yearly tradition in motorcycle racing where journalists speculate, rumor, and gossip on each paddock’s game of musical chairs for its riders. It’s not just a 2012 thing, though that was an especially good year for it.

  • TheSeaward

    “especially if Hayden were to move to World Superbikes with Ducati and race there.”

    Is this based on anything or have I been living under a rock?

  • Mariano

    @ Jensen Beeler, thank you very much for the clarification. Actually, that explanation was in the back of my mind, because it was the only way it made sense. Although I remember last year reading articles were journalist referred to 2012 as the “SillySeason” in particular. Thanks again!

  • TexusTim

    well….yamaha ha doesnt want pol to get taken by ducatti so before that can happen they will dump poor crutch and get another spainard for the team, i think crutch will be forced to ducatti but may opt for the suzuki if it’s fast enough and has the support……this whole mess about country’s and selling bikes is stupid and not in a competitive vein rather a super secret back door mess that takes away from pure racing…look at ponchs response he can say “never” but knows what the factory is up too.

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    Hayden to WSB and not Spies?

    I get it, Ducati will want to keep Nicky, but Spies gives the feeling he wants out of the motoGP circus.

    Bradley Smith has no business being in motogp. Espargoro is better, for sure. But so is Redding. Heck, that kid Vinales in moto3 is probably better.

  • Stevenk27

    @bad guy, obviously you are describing 2 riders in your statement. Lorenzo being the best rider, and Rossi being the most marketable. I personally believe they could give Rossi the boot and replace him with Crutchlow and the reprecussions would not be that severe. In 2 years time when he has achieved maybe 2 or 3 more wins Rossi will retire anyway so why wait. He is hogging a factory ride that should be with a more deserving rider anyway. Rossi and Crutchlow on the same factory spec bike and my money would be on Cal!!!

  • L2C

    ““I will never sign a contract with Pol Espargaro,” Poncharal replied in response to our questions.”

    It seems straightforward, but I wonder what the story is behind it. As it stands, though, it sounds irked, indignant, resentful… You get the picture. It could be Poncharal covering his ass. It could be nothing and Poncharal is just being stereotypically French. Who knows?

    Curious statement, indeed.

  • smiler

    Hayden’s future is determined by Spies. If Spies does not perform, which seems likely I think they will give Hayden one more year for his hard work and loyalty. Checa will likely want out of WSB end of next year, opening up a place for Hayden. If Spies performs really well, which is unlikely then I guess they will give Hayden the push.

    The idea that Rossi is hogging a factory ride at Yamaha is a joke. He is still the most marketable commodity in MotoGP and his results have proven that. 2nd in Qatar and 4th in the championship.

    It would be a shame if Cal gets the nudge but given the longtime move of the Series away from US and UK riders to Spain, it is likely. And Yamaha need a Merguez breaker after Rossi goes.

  • pooch

    Schwantz said that MotoGP is ‘nothing’ without Rossi, and while Rossi was and is a great character, and certainly greatly raised the popularity and profile of MotoGP, to say that the sport is nothing without him is short sighted and biased. MotoGP will survive just fine without him, there are enough megastars who consistantly out-perform him and have for years. Rossi rose to fame on not only fantastic results but charisma, play acting, and elaborate theatricals post-race, none of these he does anymore as his age has transcended such stunts – so too MotoGP will easily transcend Rossi.

    Bradley Smith well, give the guy some time to adapt and prove himself before writing him off. I can’t see Herve sacking Cal, that would be madness, and Cal is the only top line Briton in the show. Lets see another Yamaha bike, and another Honda… both Espargaros deserve that :)

  • sunny27

    Pol-bradl-marquez is the new show…why still count on the old soon to retired..?? future boys,future..!!

  • dipthroat

    I can’t think of any more undeserving rider in motogp than Bradley Smith

  • Chaz Michael Michaels


    Karel Abraham doesn’t come to mind?

  • Faust

    @ Chaz

    How could karel Abraham cone to mind? His family is putting up the money for him to race. If it wasn’t for his dad paying the way, that bike wouldn’t even be on the grid, so its not like he took that seat from soneone more deserving. If I was a billionaire and wanted to go racing in gp, who would tell me I can’t? That’s a completely different situation to the tech 3 team signing a rider from moto2 who was constantly getting blown away last year and came in 9th in the points. If you watched the races last year, Pol was consistently on the podium and would have been champ if not for the domination of Marquez. See how that’s not the sane thing? Karel can do whatever he can afford to do on his dads dime.. If my dad was a billionaire, I would ask him to let me be a pro motorcycle racer too!

  • Faust

    PS I hate trying to type with an iPhone

  • Bryan

    @ L2C – thanks for bringing that up, wondered at such a comment myself. ‘Never’ sign Espargaro?