Bike Racing

MotoGP: Paddock Talk.

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MotoGP silly season has well and truly hit fever pitch after Le Mans, with rumours about who will sign for who changing every single day. All of our MotoGP reporters have put their heads together and we have come up with what we think will happen come 2019.

Ducati.

We’ll start with possibly the most hotly contested position in the MotoGP paddock right now, and that is the second seat alongside Andrea Dovizioso at Ducati’s factory effort. After Jack Miller’s comments this week, it seems that he has conceded that Danilo Petrucci is in pole position to take that ride, stating that he ‘will be on a GP19 wherever he ends up‘. To us, that says he is happy to do what Petrucci is currently doing, and take a current bike in the Pramac team alongside the already confirmed Moto2 graduate Francesco Bagnaia. However it is worth noting that the Ducati manager Gigi Dall’Igna has stated there is an option on both, but seemed to support Petrucci after Le Mans. Will we have at 2016-style shootout for the berth, with the winner getting the ride? The big question then is where does this leave Jorge Lorenzo? The smart money seems to be on him not actually securing a ride for next year, as the Suzuki interest in him seems to have cooled remarkably quickly. Is he too expensive, or will he suddenly find something that enables him to keep his ride? What could play to his advantage however, is the fact his manager has opened negotiations with the Borgo Panigale factory recently, but you have to feel he will have to take a significant pay cut to be retained. The other two customer teams seem to be at very different ends of their spectrum, with Avintia keeping both Tito Rabat and Xavier Simeon, and Aspar Ducati giving us zero clue as to who they will sign. It’s looking likely they will keep Alvaro Bautista, but Karel Abraham appears to be heading to the exit. There are whispers he will be replaced by Xavi Vierge.

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Honda.

There seems to be more than a strong suggestion that Moto2 is where we will find the next Repsol Honda rider, as they seem to be very keen on Joan Mir being the second rider alongside the already signed Marc Marquez. Mir himself however, has stated that nothing has yet been signed, but he is impressing everyone with how quickly he has adapted to the Kalex machine, and is making Alex Marquez seem a little ordinary right now. However, it does seem more likely that Honda will keep Dani Pedrosa, as he is essential for the development of the RC213V, and has been a fantastic servant to Honda. However, it would not come as a surprise at all if Mir has signed a Honda contract for 2020, giving him a chance to take the Moto2 title before graduating. Marquez the older wants his brother alongside him however, and his words carry a lot of clout at Honda right now, so we could yet see both brothers lining up under one banner in 2019. Nothing is signed, but it appears LCR will retain Cal Crutchlow and Taka Nakagami, with the same setup as this year, with Cal getting a full fat factory bike, and Taka getting something between customer and factory. It appears the Marc VDS situation is still far from resolved, and Bartholemy leaving has set them back further. However they seem extremely unlikely to be on a Honda come 2019. One thing that could tempt them to stay is Honda offering factory bikes to Alex Marquez/Mir if they promote one from Moto2, and keeping Morbidelli on the deal he has now. This one could go many ways, and could yet shape the market.

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Yamaha.

It seems like Yamaha may have dropped the ball in securing both of their current riders, while simultaneously losing Johann Zarco to Red Bull KTM. The Yamaha is not where they would like it to be right now, with Zarco consistently out performing the factory boys on a 2016 chassis, and they will also lose their satellite team Tech 3 to KTM. Their apparent belief that you do not need a Magneti Marelli engineer to get the best out of the control ECU does not appear to be reaping benefits, and this season is already close to being a write off. Despite this Maverick Vinales finds himself second in the championship through sheer determination to finish and displaying impressive late race pace. Will Yamaha’s decision to allow Tech 3 to leave backfire? Will they get themselves another satellite team (Marc VDS perhaps?) Will Vinales have his toys thrown out of the pram and look to leave before 2020? Valentino Rossi has said that the bike itself is ‘good’, but the electronics are holding it back, once they sort these issues they will be THE team to be on once again.

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Suzuki.

Suzuki could go in many directions right now. We know Alex Rins has a contract in his back pocket, so the pressure is off for him. It seemed that for a long time that Jorge Lorenzo would be on the second bike, but now it appears that Andrea Iannone has done enough to impress the Hammamatsu factory in the five races this season to earn himself at least one more year on the sky blue machine. There were many whispers of Monster Energy funding the Lorenzo deal, but it appears Suzuki have made up their mind. Marc VDS seemed to be in the frame to take on customer Suzuki bikes, but the Bartholemy sacking has thrown a spanner in those works too. So now it appears we will still only have two Suzuki’s on the grid for next season, but they will definitely look to expand come 2020. The other rider in the frame however is apparently Joan Mir, but he still has seven days (from the time of writing) to exercise a clause to get a Honda contract, but once this clause ends he will be free to talk to other teams, and Suzuki seem to be flirting with getting another fast young Spaniard on the bike. Davide Brivio is once again keeping his cards close to his chest in the market, so this could drag on for a while yet.

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KTM.

KTM have secured their factory riders for 2019 already, with Zarco signing and Pol Espargaro re-signing for the Red Bull backed team, and in securing the services of Tech 3 for next season, have already promoted someone from their Moto2 program in Miguel Olivera. Therefore, there are logically three riders who could realistically take the final Tech 3 berth, and they are Bradley Smith, as his development work has really impressed KTM, Mika Kallio, who for the same reasons has also impressed KTM, and has bested Smith in every session they both have ridden in this season, and current Tech 3 rider Hafizh Syahrin. ‘El Pescao’ Syahrin has been extremely solid this season, vindicating Herve Poncharal’s decision to promote him to the premier class despite not setting the Moto2 world alight, at extremely short notice replacing the ill Jonas Folger. Syahrin brings a whole new market of rider for KTM in Malaysia, which is a market of huge potential for sales of road bikes. But you cannot say he hasn’t earned his ride so far. One left field choice however could be Vierge, he rode for Tech 3 in Moto2 and Poncharal is a huge fan of his, but there isn’t much to suggest that is the way he will be headed.

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Aprilia.

In theory, Aprilia should be simple. They have already secured the services of Aleix Esparagaro next season to continue with the team, and have stated their intention to keep Scott Redding, despite the fact that the results have been iffy for both riders. Redding however needs a good result very soon, or the situation could start to get the better of him. His body language while in the gravel at Jerez was one of extreme disappointment, as he was finally on for that good result he had been craving. If he cannot sort the problem with spin that has been plaguing him the entire season, he could well find himself jobless next season. Two riders who have been linked with his job are Iannone and Petrucci, but it would be seen as a step down for both riders. It seems Redding’s job is safe for now at least, as they learned their lessons from how they treated Sam Lowes last season. They angered Aleix, which isn’t something they want to do again, as he also likes Redding and is actively seeking to help him be competitive on the Gresini run Noale factory bike. If Redding does find himself out however, he may be able to take refuge in the Marc VDS camp, whatever bike they are on, as Marc Van Der Straten is a huge fan of him, and Redding himself has described Mr VDS as ‘like a father to me’.

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With so many bikes to still be mated to riders, this silly season could drag on for a while yet. Do you think we are accurate? And who would you like to see where? Let us know on our social media pages!

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