Secrets are hard to keep in the MotoGP paddock. When it comes to contracts, usually someone around a rider or team has let something slip to a friendly journalist – more often than not, the manager of another rider who was hoping to get a particular seat, but lost out. It is not often that real bombshells drop in MotoGP. So the report by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that Repsol Honda were in talks to sign Jorge Lorenzo came as a huge shock. The assumptions that almost everyone in the paddock had been making – that Lorenzo would be riding a full factory Yamaha M1 in a Petronas-funded satellite team operated by the Sepang International circuit – turned out to have been nothing more than a useful smokescreen.
That this Silly Season – the (bi)annual round of rider contract negotiations – was going to be remarkable has been obvious for a very long time. Only very rarely have the contracts of nearly every rider on the grid ended at the same time, leading to a frenzy of speculation and rumor about who could and will be going where for the 2017 season. That this year is special was made obvious at Qatar, where both Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith announced they had already signed two-year deals for 2017 and 2018 before the flag had even dropped for the first race. Jorge Lorenzo has been the key figure in this year’s Silly Season, however. Of the four current MotoGP Aliens, he is the most likely to move, and to be offered big money to do so.
Brno was a busy time for teams, managers and riders. Apart from dealing with jet lag and the sweltering heat, silly season kicked off in force at the Czech round of MotoGP.
The summer break and the chaos which ensued from the situation around the Forward Racing team put everything on hold over the summer, with tentative talks starting at Indianapolis.
Those talks, and events outside the paddock, helped clarify the situation, and at Brno talks began in earnest. The empty spaces on the MotoGP grid are starting to be filled.
The Dutch TT at Assen looks like being a very busy few days for everyone looking for a ride next year. The end of June has been earmarked as a deadline for all sorts of negotiations, from rider contracts to bike projects. Decisions will be made and contracts – or at least letters of intent – will be signed. A lot of paperwork should get done by the time the trucks roll out of the paddock on Sunday, heading for Germany and the Sachsenring.
Though most of the prototype rides are already wrapped up, there are still a few seats open, and some interesting and major changes could be on the way. The focal point for the future, and the key to all of the moves for next year is Scott Redding. The young Briton has raised his game in 2013, elevating himself to both the favorite for the 2013 Moto2 title, and hot property for MotoGP next season.
Another one bites the dust as Aleix Espargaró will leave MotoGP after this weekend, and begin his next season’s preparations with Sito Pons’s Tenerife 40 Pons Racing Moto2 Team. The move leaves another seat open at Pramac Ducati, which will surely be filled by Randy de Puniet next year, as Hiroshi Aoyama is more than likely to take the empty Gresini Honda spot. De Puniet will join Loris Capirossi, who has made the switch from the Rizla Suzuki team, which will be in-turn fielding only one bike in 2011.