Though empty seats are limited for the 2020 MotoGP season, in recent weeks there has been some movement to fill those vacancies.
The moves have mostly been unsurprising, but then with so few seats available, the chances of something unexpected happening are very slim.
Just before the Sachsenring, we saw Danilo Petrucci keeping his seat alongside Andrea Dovizioso in the factory Ducati team for the 2020 season, a fully expected move since the Italian’s victory at Mugello back in early June.
That leaves Jack Miller in the Pramac Ducati team for another year, though that deal is not yet signed.
A deal is close, however. “We’re fighting over pennies now,” Miller said on Sunday night in Germany. Miller will have a Ducati Desmosedici GP20 at his disposal, the same as his teammate Pecco Bagnaia, but there were still a few financial details to be ironed out.
“It more or less should be done, I got some information today. So hopefully we can get it done before we get back at Brno and put all that stuff behind us and just focus on riding.”
It was perhaps an inevitable move for the young South African, but Brad Binder has finally secured a ride in the MotoGP Championship, signing today a contract with the Red Bull KTM Tech 3 team for the 2020 season.
The move makes Binder the fourth rider to move all the way from Red Bull Rookies Cup to the MotoGP class, a feat previously completed by Miguel Olivera, Johann Zarco, and Joan Mir.
Of course, this good news for Binder means bad news for Tech 3’s other rider, Hafizh Syahrin, who will most surely be without a KTM rider for next season, and very possibly no longer in the MotoGP Championship after this year’s dismal results.
Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal has made it quite clear publicly that he has been disappointed with Syahrin’s results this year, as the Malaysian rider sits with only three championship points, in a three-way tie for second-to-last place in the series.
The possible permutations in MotoGP rider line up for 2020 are limited, with almost everyone already under contract for next season. At the Sachsenring though, Danilo Petrucci was added to the ranks of confirmed riders, with Ducati extending his contract in the factory team for 2020.
A contract extension for Petrucci had been on the cards for some while, the Italian’s victory at Mugello making it an inevitability. Ducati is very pleased with Petrucci’s performance, and the way that he and Andrea Dovizioso have worked together.
The Silverstone circuit is to be resurfaced in June, ahead of the British F1 Grand Prix, and to be ready for the 2019 British round of MotoGP at the circuit in August.
The resurfacing was a condition for the Northamptonshire circuit to be able to host MotoGP. After last year’s debacle, when the race had to be canceled because the track was not clearing water fast enough to be able to race safely, the FIM suspended Silverstone’s license to host international motorcycle racing events.
KTM has exercised the option it held over Miguel Oliveira’s contract, extending it for the second year, according to German-language website Speedweek. The Portuguese rider will now race for the satellite Red Bull KTM Tech3 for the 2019 and 2020 seasons at least.
That KTM should decide to sign Oliveira up early is hardly surprising. The Portuguese rider has been quietly impressive since moving up to MotoGP. He rode well in the first half of the season opener at Qatar, before burning up his tires and dropping down to finish seventeenth.
But he learned quickly, and put on an outstanding display in Argentina, just losing out in the battle for ninth from Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia and brother Pol Espargaro on the factory KTM. In Austin, he finished shortly behind the other factory KTM of Johann Zarco, whom Oliveira has frequently outperformed this year.
As we expected, the GRT Yamaha squad is moving out of the World Supersport Championship, and into the World Superbike Championship for the 2019 season.
Riding for the GRT Yamaha squad is not who we expected however, though it will be two big names in the sport: former world champions Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese.
Melandri makes the defection from Ducati, where he was reportedly paying for his ride, to Yamaha. He hopes to best his fifth place in the 2018 championship standings. Meanwhile, Cortese comes into the World Superbike racing having just won the World Supersport Championship title.
Factory-backed in World Supersport last year, the GRT Yamaha team will keeps its factory status next year as well, which leaves Yamaha with four factory-backed YZF-R1 racing machines on the grid in 2019.
Our Paddock Pass Podcast colleague Neil Morrison is reporting on Crash.net that Tom Sykes has signed with the Shaun Muir Racing team for the 2019 World Superbike season, and that the team is set to switch machinery from Aprilia to BMW.
Markus Reiterberger will join Sykes on the factory-backed BMW team, as he has the correct passport to appease the German brand.
Of course, all of this came as a surprise to Eugene Laverty, who talked about his surprise at the news, which is set to be announced at next week’s EICMA show in Milan.
In what has to be the most strongly worded press release we have seen in this business, MV Agusta and Forward Racing made it crystal clear why there were terminating their relationship with rider Romano Fenati, who was set to join the Italian company’s Moto2 project next season.
“In all my years of watching sport, I have never seen behavior as dangerous as this,” said MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni. “A rider who can act like this can never represent the values of our company for our brand. For this reason, we do not want him to be the rider with which MV Agusta makes its return to the World Championship.”
Even those who don’t follow motorcycle racing are talking about Fenati’s actions from this past weekend’s San Marino GP, where the 22-year-old Italian grabbed the brake lever of Stefano Manzi, as the pair raced at over 130 mph.
The 2019 MotoGP grid is now as good as complete. Today, the Reale Avintia squad announced they have signed a two-year contract with Karel Abraham which will see him racing a Ducati for the team for the next two seasons.
The announcement had been widely expected. Xavier Simeon has not lived up to expectations and failed to adapt to MotoGP, and Avintia were looking for a replacement. Abraham had been left without a team after the Aspar / Angel Nieto Team passed their grid slots to the Petronas Yamaha team, which had already signed riders for the coming season. Abraham needed a team, and Avintia needed a rider who could bring money, to replace the money lost when Simeon departed.
Ever since MV Agusta announced that it was going to return to the Grand Prix paddock with a Moto2 team, the question has been who would ride the Italian squad’s Moto2 machine, dubbed the MV Agusta F2.
Today, we have that answer, as Romano Fenati has been named as one of two MV Agusta Reparto Corse riders.
The signing of Fenati is an interesting move by Forward Racing and MV Agusta, as the Italian rider has struggled this season in Moto2 (his first season in the intermediate class), and comes with some tumultuous baggage from his Moto3 days.
Still, the raw talent of Fenati is widely hailed, and with the right machinery and the right team environment, that talent can be honed and matured.
Cal Crutchlow has added an extra year onto his contract with HRC to race in the LCR Honda team for the 2020 season.
This means the Englishman will be remaining at the LCR Honda team for the next two years, bringing him into line with almost the whole of the rest of the MotoGP grid.
At the end of the 2020 season, Crutchlow will be involved in the next wave of contract madness, with all factory seats (with the possible exception of one Ducati seat), falling open at the same time.
Crutchlow’s announcement will not be the only one to take place today. Alvaro Bautista is scheduled to be in the Thursday press conference at Silverstone, where he is expected to announce he has signed for the Aruba.it Ducati team in WorldSBK.