After Rossi Moves, Who Goes Where? More Silly Season Speculation

Valentino Rossi's imminent return to Yamaha - to be announced on Friday morning, Yamaha and Ducati having been forced to move the schedule forward once news of the switch leaked - will accelerate the final movements in MotoGP's silly season, with the still open grid slots on prototype machines likely to be filled in very short order once the Rossi announcement has been made. Rossi's return to Yamaha will be heralded much as his departure from the factory for fresh pastures at Ducati was, only this time the roles will be reversed. First, Ducati will issue a release thanking Valentino Rossi for his time with the factory, and shortly after - minutes, rather than hours, - Yamaha will issue a press release welcoming Rossi back to the fold. The difference, perhaps, is that this time a love letter such as the one Rossi wrote to Yamaha after he left in the middle of 2010 is unlikely to be forthcoming.

With Rossi at Yamaha, that leaves five prototype seats still open: The factory Ducati left vacant by Rossi's switch to Yamaha; the as-yet unfilled second Monster Tech 3 Yamaha seat (the first seat is for Bradley Smith, who will be moving up from Moto2 as provided for in the contract he signed with Herve Poncharal in the middle of last season); the San Carlo Gresini Honda bike currently being ridden by Alvaro Bautista; and the Ducati junior team seats, in a yet-to-be-decided structure with one or more yet-to-be-selected teams. So who will be filling those seats? And where does that leave the riders left standing once the music stops?

The biggest question is who will be brave enough to take on Rossi's seat at the factory Ducati team. Rossi's failure either to be competitive or to make the bike competitive - though going on past history, the responsibility for that lies more with Ducati than with the riders - means it requires more than just the usual dose of the hubris all riders must possess to compete at the very top level of the sport to take on the challenge. The two names being bandied about are Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, but it appears that it is Dovizioso that Ducati have elected to take the place of Rossi. Sources close to the negotiations have told that Dovizioso has already signed the contract, despite the Italian previously having been wary of the Italian factory. A year ago, after it became clear there would be no room at Honda for Dovizioso, we asked the Italian if he would consider a switch to Ducati given the problems that Valentino Rossi was having with the bike at the time. Dovizioso pointed out then that it had been clear for a long time that the Ducati was a hard bike to ride, ever since Marco Melandri's utter failure to get to grips with the bike. 

That criticism was apparently not well received at Ducati, hence the Italian factory's initial preference for Dovizioso's current Monster Tech 3 Yamaha Cal Crutchlow. But talks appear to have accelerated between Dovizioso and Ducati at the same time as the ardour between Crutchlow and Ducati cooled. The Briton has been left out in the cold by Dovizioso's defection, which may sour the otherwise good relations between the two in the Tech 3 team. Right now, it appears that Crutchlow's best hope is to remain at Tech 3 for next year, accepting the offer he had from Herve Poncharal earlier in the year. If it is indeed still on the table - reports after Laguna Seca had Tech 3 showing an interest in Randy de Puniet, the Frenchman proving to be highly competitive on the Aspar Aprilia CRT team, though dealing with a very stiff challenge from his teammate Aleix Espargaro. But Crutchlow is probably higher on Poncharal's list than De Puniet: the media profile of the Tech 3 team has rocketed this year, which is down in no small part to the outstanding performance of both Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso. Keeping Crutchlow would be better for Poncharal's sponsors, though if a rider such as Pol Espargaro could be tempted to make the step up, Tech 3 could be persuaded to take him instead.

The other desirable satellite ride is a bit of mystery. Alvaro Bautista has done very well on the San Carlo Gresini Honda, but not well enough to overcome the handicap of not being Italian. Snack producer San Carlo really needs an Italian rider to help sell their product in their home market, and though Bautista is likeable and popular, he does not have the appeal to the Italian market. Andrea Dovizioso had been penciled in to take Bautista's place for next season, until the Tech 3 man received an offer he could not refuse from Ducati. That leaves Gresini to search for a rider both capable of success and appealing to the Italian market, and sadly, there are very few currently on the market. Andrea Iannone would be the prime candidate, but he looks set to go to a satellite Ducati team.

Just how such a Ducati structure is put together remains to be seen. Currently, it looks like there will be two one-rider satellite teams, with Andrea Iannone or Danilo Petrucci being slotted into a team to be run by Pramac, and Scott Redding to race inside the Marc VDS team on the other satellite team. Unlike this year, the bikes will be much closer to factory spec, however, with the idea being that Ducati will run the bikes as a junior team, instead of treating the operation as a money-making lease scheme. Having four riders on the same bike should help accelerate development, and with engineering assistance from Audi, updates should also come faster, for all four Ducati men. The final decision on the junior team structure - including who will run the teams, and who the riders will be - is due to come next week, with the final sign-off for the project just awaiting final approval from senior Ducati management.

At last, Silly Season is starting to wind down. A big step will be taken tomorrow, with the announcement of Rossi's switch to Yamaha, while other steps will follow in short order. With those moves made, the focus will return once again to the racing, though for many fans, their thoughts will be on 2013 already. The real questions, however, are about 2014, about when the rev limit and spec ECU will be introduced in MotoGP, and about what the reaction of the factories will be. That is another story, however.

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Me too... I can't even imagine why anyone would give up an M1 ride, albeit a staelite spec M1, for a ducati that no one can seem to get along with... Two bad seasons on a bad bike is a ticket out of MotoGP

Unless you're Rossi. But maybe his failure at Ducati will show the other teams that it's not a rider failure and it won't be as much of a death sentence in future.

It's worth a gamble, I think. If he stays at Yamaha he'll probably never move higher up the pecking order than he is now and I don't imagine there's much chance of another factory seat at Honda. So he can stay where he is, being the best rider apart from the title contenders, hoping to get a win on a strange day, before slowly slipping back down the grid - or he can take a chance at Ducati. If it works out, he's a hero; if it doesn't then, well, it probably won't do his reputation too much harm considering who's already had trouble there and he can still go on to have a long and successful career in WSBK.

He's doing great and i suspect that both Honda and Yamaha would love to have a fast Brit in the garage. For him to bet on Ducati producing a championship winning bike during his tenure is a long shot. I'd rather hang onto a proven satellite M1 then go to Ducati for 2 years and straight to WSBK.

Has the right passport for the sponsor. Has served his apprenticeship in a CRT and learnt all the circuits and has shown that he is a talent too in that hopeless excuse for a CRT!

Cool for Dovi. I think that for at least a year or maybe two, riding the Duc will be the most criticism-free job in the paddock. If anyone says anything to Dovi, he just points at VR and says, "He couldn't get it to work in two years. Give me at least half that long."

Oh yeah, and I'm sure Duc will give him a Euro or two for his troubles.

I wouldn't mind. He has Honda and Yamaha experience and is proven. Ducati will want to listen to him, and Hayden, like there mothercaking literally is no tomorrow.

I haven't read anywhere the harsh critisism that yamaha surely deserves. Why would you hire a gun to potentially take points off your number one? why aren't you using the #2 factory seat to develop the next young gun? why take back the guy that thru his dummy out of the pram last time?
Of course I know the answer to all these questions - sponsorship money. yamaha must be very desperate for cash which also says alot about how much trouble motogp is in at the moment. no wonder casey jumped - he knows the parlous state things are in...

gms5, that is a load of bullshit, IMO. Why would Yamaha want Rossi, the most accomplished rider of the last decade, nine-times champion, bona fide alien? Not to mention a huge favorite with fans? Try to figure it out.

Think about it from a image & branding perspective.

Yamaha had to munch on some serious humble pie in 2003 when they signed Rossi.

Rossi had come from raising the middle digit at HRC over the whole "Rider more important than the Bike" chest-off. On the other hand the M1 was an under achiever & Yamaha risked confirming Rossi's (& Burgess') stance by winning after hiring the GOAT & the Guru.

What happened next we all know, culminating in the "Love Letter" Rossi wrote as he dumped his loyal partner for a high maintainance number in a little red dress.

Now the tables are turned, Rossi munches large on the humble pie & begs his old girlfriend to take him back... "please baby... please".

So now all that Rossi has to do is for him to win a race again on the M1 and the circle is complete. Yamaha will have shown without a doubt that it is the factory with the best bike that wins, not the factory with the best rider.

Sure Lorenzo is a shoe-in for the 2013 title, but that is almost incidental. If Rossi does not improve on his 2012 results in 2013 then Yamaha will have lost. If Rossi does well, Yamaha will have proven that the THEIR bike is more important than the rider, & that Yamaha technology is supreme.

That kiddies is why factories race... image & branding.

Dovi should follow in Melandri's footsteps and go to WSBK. He could be as competitive Melandri and possibly heir apparent to Max Biaggi at Aprilia.

Crutchlow should go to Ducati. His career in MotoGP is a make or break stage and the only way for him to make it in any different way than he's been doing is to try Ducati. He would be in no better position if he were on Lorenzo's bike. Maybe the Yamaha doesn't suit him. The Duc just might. If it doesn't work he should return to WSBK unless MotoGP formula changes to even the top advantage.

Bautista should try CRT or maybe even Moto2. I don't believe that Moto2 should always be a feeder class. It should have it's experts. I think it would suit him and he also return if the formula changes. I don't see him in WSBK unless Checa wants to talk him into it, Spaniard to Spaniard.

Depuniet should be given a shot at Tech3. He would be a good match for the French team and it's surprising it hasn't happened yet. If it doesn't work, I see him running his own CRT team the following year. They could also throw together a CRT effort and stick Smith on that (teamed with Colin?!).

The Ducati junior team should be Redding and a relatively unknown rider. Or Loris Baz!

The Gresini team could use crazy Joe. Lets see how he does. We'd all like to see him renew the spirit of Simoncelli. I don't think he'd feel the pressure to so it could be special or a worth while risk at worst.

Dovi will go down in flames on that bike. He is a precise and high corner speed kind of rider. Being on the fence at Laguna at turn 2 it was amazing to watch Hayden and Rossi so badly miss their marks; the bike would not turn.

This is a mistake.

Dovi is late on brakes and fast in corner entry ... and that is where Duce sucks.

Well. Lets wait for Vale to officially sign Yamaha contract. When Rossi is playing... better to wait.

clx, you wrote of Dovi..."He has Honda and Yamaha experience and is proven." and Vale doesn't have that in spades??? Rossi is a multiple race winner on the Honda & Yamaha and a multiple MotoGP champion on both the Honda & Yamaha. If that kind of a rider can't improve the performance of the ducati Dovi doesn't have a chance. He would have been better off either staying at Tech 3 & be happy with an occasional podium here and there or he should have switched over to World Superbikes to pursue success there like Marco Melandri is doing.

It does make a lot of sense Miller.

On the other hand he may not have a seat at Tech3 or having realised that podium is the best he can achieve (and next year the gap towards factory Y maybe bigger) he did the opposite of Rossi. No risks.
Get the money, a bike that will take away all the pressure on results and the only risks he has .... is that Audi picks the magic stick and the bike becomes a winning one (much easier if the control tyre goes away).

I believe it may be a strategy, albeit not the most exciting, for Dovi, less for Cal.

Lesson not learned?
One would think that the last two years would have taught you that the notion that if Rossi can't do it on a bike, no one can, is patently false.

With Stoner gone there is no reason Rossi won't be a regular race winner and podium finisher. The gap to 4th place in MGP is the problem. The occasional race breaks out for 3 or 4 corners when Lorenzo or Stoner got close to each other. Beyond that the racing at the front is a parade. Now 5th thru 10th is another matter.

Dovi's factory Honda ride and now Spies show that just being good is not enough. The gap is too great. Rossi is the only possibilty to close it. Dovi on the factory team is just a history lesson. No true rookie, even on a factory bike will ever win the title.

The bike needs to be at a certain level to be competitive, but after that it's the rider.

Otherwise there would be a four way fight between Lorenzo, Stoner, Pedrosa and Spies for the win every race.

You're right, it's both - you need that top-flight rider on a competitive bike. On any given day, one can compensate a bit for the other. But one never completely compensates for the other. You couldn't put, say, Elias on the Repsol bike and expect titles any more than you could expect titles by putting Rossi on a ... Ducati ...

p.s. The way I look at it is to look at the race results and see what teammates are doing at any given moment. The Tech III bikes are the same, so you've gotta say that Dovi's riding better than Cal at this point. Look at how often the factory Hondas finish next to each other - that tells me the bikes are being ridden very close to their ultimate level of performance. Same with the Ducs. Then look at the difference between the finishes of the factory Yamahas, and that's a pretty good indication that there's a riding difference there.

Ultimately, to win titles, you need a VERY competitive machine and a VERY competent rider. Romantic notions aside, there's just no way for a skilled rider to carry an incompetent machine to the top, nor an unskilled rider to take a top-level machine to the title.

"Romantic notions aside, there's just no way for a skilled rider to carry an incompetent machine to the top...."

Have you forgotten how many races Stoner won in 2009 on the Ducati. For your logic to work we must assume that the Ducati was a VERY competitive bike or assume that Rossi was an "unskilled rider" on the same bike in 2010.

Proves the point exactly - the 2009 Duc was closer to the front, but Stoner still had to ride over the bike's level of capability and threw it onto the ground just enough to lose the title. It's not a big jump; intangibles, a slide that otherwise looks good on a highlight reel turning into a crash. Little things. But significant over a season.

How do you know that 2010 ducati was as competitive as 2009? From 2007 onwards Ducati has been going down. Yes, Stoner is better driver on Ducati then Rossi, but at this moment Ducati is not capable to win. Not even with Stoner on board. Yamaha is as fast on the straights as Ducati. In 2007 nothing could touch Duce on straights. So yes, Honda and Yamaha have advanced a lot. Ducati is just going in circles.

True. As is the statement that 2010 ducati was as competitive as 2009. (statement which was corrected as I can see).


Correction? If you're referring to my post, it's never been corrected. I was never really sure what you were referring to.

It's nonsensical to say that if Rider XXX can win on the 2009, then he should be able to win on the 2010. The machines change too much, as does the competition. Saying that Rossi should have been able to win on the 2011 Ducati because Stoner won on the 2007 Ducati is like saying that Jenson Button should be able to win in F1 in 2012 in a McLaren because Dennis Hulme won a Can-Am title in a McLaren in the 1960s. (OK, I exaggerate, but you get the point).

I will say this: Anyone who says the 2007 Ducati wasn't competitive wasn't watching the first race of the season. I wondered if Ducati had missed the memo about the switch to 80cc engines.

"I will say this: Anyone who says the 2007 Ducati wasn't competitive wasn't watching the first race of the season. I wondered if Ducati had missed the memo about the switch to 80cc engines."

The closest Ducati to Stoner in Qatar was Barros in 9th place, 26 seconds back. There were two Yamahas, two Suzukis and three Hondas between the two Ducatis, that hardly sounds like the bike was competitive. Rossi finished 23 seconds ahead of the Barros, despite having a 14kmh top speed deficit to him.

This year at Qatar, Vinales had a 10kmh top speed deficit to the KTMs, yet he finished 18 seconds ahead of the nearest one.

All of this year and last, Ducati has been the fastest pretty much the whole season, yet you wouldn't call the bike competitive, would you?

The point being, top speed means nothing unless you're riding the same bike, and just because you have top speed, does not mean your bike is competitive.

I mention Qatar not only because of the Duc blowing past everyone on the straight, but because the bike/rider/tire package was good enough to be in a position on the final corner to blow past on the straight. The current Duc/tire/rider package, although still fastest in a straight line, isn't.

It's really an interesting question, this whole idea of the bike/rider/team/tire package.

Would Stoner have been champion in 2007 on Michelins, and if not, would we be calling him a genius, or would I be arguing that the GP07 was also one very competitive motorcycle overall? And then, would Honda have poached Stoner for 2011?

Fun stuff ...

"Ultimately, to win titles, you need a VERY competitive machine and a VERY competent rider. Romantic notions aside, there's just no way for a skilled rider to carry an incompetent machine to the top, nor an unskilled rider to take a top-level machine to the title."

This has been proven wrong many times throughout history. Stoner in '07 is a perfect example. Spies in '09 is another.

It would seem that what allowed Stoner to win in '07 was he had tires that he could use the way he wanted, or perhaps more accurately, they were more predictable and suited to the bike.

There is no rider in Grand Prix racing that is unskilled, they just might not be as skilled as some of the others. Nicky isn't as skilled as some of the guys he was competing against in '06, KRJR wasn't as skilled as Rossi when he took the title in '00, yet they both won the title.

"It would seem that what allowed Stoner to win in '07 was he had tires that he could use the way he wanted, or perhaps more accurately, they were more predictable and suited to the bike."

So was it Stoner, the tires or the bike?


I'll leave Livio Suppo's comment from 2005, in explaining why Ducati switched to Bridgestone, to answer my own question:

"We looked at Bridgestone and thought, maybe, in some races, they could have a big advantage. In order to beat a rider like Valentino or a manufacturer like Honda, a good way to win some races was to switch tyre supplier. At the beginning we had the possibility to win some races and then, working with a company that is totally focussed on our needs, maybe we could build a package stronger than the others."

100 MotoGP Races: A Championship Celebration, published by Bridgestone, is an interesting read, and an education as to the importance of tire/bike relationships and development.

I have a strong feeling that Dovi's bike is not the same as Cal's.
For one thing Dovi has purchased his own brakes, and for another I have seen Dovi's bike out-drag Cal's on the straights. If that is true, Yamaha will know all about it and factor it into any decisions.

Tell that to Spies, Checa, Dovi... They had a bike ... but?

Of course you need a bike competitive enough. If not then Stoner would be racing on scooter. As you saw, suspension was little of and .... he was out.

In my opinion it is 33% bike, 33% team, 33% rider. Any part fails, even a little and you are fighting for 7th place.

That must be why they instigated the spec tire rule with random distribution, because tires account for 1% or less of the total outcome of the results.

I can't seem to find the sarcasm font.......

We cant count politics in this equation. If we do then: Rider, bike, team .... none of that matters really.

If that happens... well MotoGP ends there. For me at least.


You may be right but it'll be a shame if Karel doesn't return. He's having an awful season but his 2011 performance showed real promise. On a satellite Duc he managed to end the season 6 points behind Cal on the Tech3 machine.

Dovi to Ducati there goes another career if that happens Tech 3 are the biggest losers here when they signed up Smith too early. As for Randy on a Tech 3 bike that would be awesome but the main question is can Herve afford him.

in that you need a bike that suits you, the team, etc to fall into place. That makes sense, and the people who seem to know often say that riders in the same team can have very different set-up.
Dovi will be a development rider - he seems to be good at that. With Nicky's loyalty and Dovi's quiet not much bad news/truth will escape. Cal could be dangerous in that regard (but in a nice way). Perhaps he failed their first test. If so, shame - it would be good entertainment.
Nicky will be the team 'personality' but relatively, Ducati are going to have a couple of quiet years to get a totally new bike developed. Unless they get those special tyres......
Maybe VR hasn't turned the Ducati into a winner. But, seemingly, he and the others before him have all been telling them 'it's the bike/engine, stupid' and if the Furusawa story is true then it really has sunk home, just about 18 months too late. (They should have known as soon as the spec tyres were introduced and why they couldn't just S.W.O.T. it to see what was needed beats me - it's not 'rocket science'). If all that has happened doesn't elicit a ground-up re-design then God help Ducati MGP. Or Michelin/Pirelli.
Personally I would like the tyre solution, but I wonder if the level of competition nowadays is such that even Saturday night specials wouldn't solve their fundamental problems.
I look forward to the Jerry/VR story. Should be a good read.
Those stories would warrant nice hard-bound editions with some large format Scott Jones pics and some techie diagrams.
I hope Nicky does a tell-all too, once he's free and clear.

The winner in all of this must finally be Hayden. Without a contract 2 months ago, he now has the chance to be ten number 1 rider. To be fair he had Rossi, Pedrosa, Stoner, and Rossi as teammates. Dovi took his ride as Repsol. Now, he's has the chance to go head to head with him. Should at least be interesting.

I think Redding will be a very good Moto GP rider, he will be fast, fearless, has great racecraft, and is not a 'crasher'.

Oh, it's a Ducati.

Certainly fast, fearless and great racecraft.

Okay, fearless and great racecraft (if he gets to use it).

Options alongside Hayden ? Petrux would be my pick. He's aquitted himself very well on a bike that can't match a Moto2 top rung flyer on any Sunday. He's been around the GP paddock. Ducati can have him for 4 figures. He's young. He's Italian.
In short he's impressed me. Iannone and Redding would do well to step up into the junior team a la Yamaha credo, passed mind you.
The sticky issue is Dovi and Cal. They are both comparatively young and very fast. Dovi deserves a factory ride and has proved this year to be very adaptable.
V4 to transverse 4,possibly L4 next year.
The thing is Dovi had opportunity. He's not going to get slower in the interim,but the youngsters need Dorna to step up and give them a reason to believe.
Discourse. I would give Petrux the nod and a screamer sublime D16 for the accumulated 600km/hr (12X50) deficit he had to deal with this year in his blooded season.

Perhaps the equation is 49% team (you are nowhere without the right resources and structure - human and financial); 20% bike; 10% rider; 5% tyres; 5% engine; 5% chassis; 5% crew; 0,5% electronics, 0,5% other stuff.

I suggest this because the margin of difference between the front 10 appears to be +/- 1% wherever they race. A run-away win today (2-3 secs) is not much more than 1% of the lap time. Divide that by the number of laps and the average difference per lap is tiny, but that has to be balanced by the fact that lap times can vary a lot during a race depending on tyres/fuel/fitness/contract status/mortgage payment etc. Tyres may only be around 1% if you measure lap time difference but, like the team, I have given them a weighting due to overall importance/influence. Tyres, engine, chassis, and crew, are all equally important (ish).
This also neatly adds up to roughly 80% for the team/bike/rider and I always think the 80/20 rule has a lot of applications.
The last 0,5% is the most important because its the diference between winners and losers. It also contains the tiny variables that differentiates the creme de la creme from the creme de la lait.
Because the rider is human and (randomly) variable he/she becomes the major influence. Reliable/talented ones are therefore very valuable.
Perhaps both Honda and Rossi were right, depending upon how you look at the numbers.
If there is anyone out there from a MGP/WSB team who knows what they are talking about it would be good to hear their view.

Oh, I feel for my favorite factory. They keep making all the wrong decisions in Motogp. Which is amazing because in World Superbike they are the sh#$. The spec tires are the same for everyone. Honda had their problems at first, and they adapted. Yamaha was better, but they had to do some adaptation. Ducati seem to never have adapted a damn thing, in fact getting worse as others developed their bikes further.

Hope Audi helps them be able to get on the right track.

I'd say Héctor has been doing a pretty decent job on the GPZero, basically destroying Abraham on a similar bike and often fighting it out with the factory Ducs, but haven't read any news about him. Isn't he being considered for a seat at the new Duc junior team at all? If he's out of MotoGP I reckon he'll end up back with the Aspar team, this time in Moto2. David, do you have any news on him?

Really? When. Only in situations when factory bikes have problems. I rally dont see reason for Barbera in Factory Ducati team. I would say, give Cal a chance. Dovi will be on the same level as Nicky. Cal could be total crap or ... Long shot I know. But classic style riders will not get nothing new out of Duce. No way. The best of the bunch in that class (Rossi) showed us what can be done. We need somebody .. semi-insane.

Got injured at the worst possible time - did indeed vastly outperform Abraham and finished ahead of Bautista on the Honda several times also - not to mention seeing his performance compared to Elias who is filling in for him now - Hector has 3 years satellite bike experience in MotoGP on a Ducati and is still relatively young - would put him on one of the " junior" bikes at Ducati or he should move to WSBK.

"but not well enough to overcome the handicap of not being Italian."

This line just made me spray coffee all over my monitor

How quickly he became a non-person in MotoGP after the high hopes we Americans had for him. He has had a most curious year and I hope he tells us the inside story if there is one.

below the 'read it again' icon.
You click on the 'use current data' drop-down, and voila!

I am interested to see of aprilia will bring a few upgrades to their engine enabling it to churn out more power and also upgrade other chassis parts on their ART CRT.

If you read the press releases from Aspar, they keep repeatedly mentioning that the engine is down on power. Due to reliability requirements aprilia have tuned down down the engine and that lack of power really hurts them in trying to challenge te satellite bikes.

Given that Honda are ready to come up wIth a production racer themselves in 2014, will aprilia try to get a head start?

I guess that will also be part of the silly season intrigue!

With the Honda production racer due in 2014, I wonder if there will continue to be a viable market for the CRT bikes. Any thoughts on this? I would hope that rules developments such as rev limit and spec ECU, plus further chassis and electronics progress, might see the CRT idea come to fruition. But I'm not convinced it will happen.