Silly Season Update - Ducati Confirmed, Suzuki Announcement Imminent, And Will Aprilia Be Back Sooner?

The Danish physicist and father of quantum physics Niels Bohr is reputed to have said "Prediction is hard, especially about the future." Just a few days after our comprehensive silly season update was posted, at the World Ducati Weekend event, Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone and Cal Crutchlow all confirmed they would be staying at Ducati for next season, throwing our predictions into disarray. None of the Ducati riders were leaving for Suzuki - or in Cal Crutchlow's case, a satellite Honda - meaning that the Japanese factory was forced to make a few adjustments to their plans. And not only Suzuki: since the Ducati announcement, more of the pieces of the 2015 MotoGP puzzle have started to fall into place. Time to revisit what we know so far, and what we expect in the next few days.

Andrea Dovizioso's signing was the domino that set off a chain reaction of other moves. Dovizioso extended his contract for two more years, keeping him with Ducati for 2015 and 2016. Dovizioso had been Suzuki's top target, but with the Italian no longer available, Suzuki is reported to have decided to pursue another direction. Instead, according to the eminently reliable Spanish magazine Solomoto, Suzuki is set to announce they have reached agreement with Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales to race with them when the Japanese factory returns to MotoGP in 2015. Espargaro had previously been linked to replacing Dovizioso at Ducati if the Italian had left, but with Dovizioso staying with Ducati, the elder of the Espargaro brothers was Suzuki's prime target. Espargaro has shown himself to be highly competitive on the Open class Forward Yamaha this season, and has been angling for a full factory ride since the beginning of the year.

The signing of Maverick Viñales had been rumored for some while, but it now looks set to happen. The young Spaniard is reckoned to be among the first of the post-Marquez generation of riders who are being tipped to challenge the reigning world champion, Marquez currently unbeaten in the first half of the season. Suzuki have so much faith in Viñales that they are expected to sign him to a three-year deal. His early departure from Moto2 - he is still in his first season in the intermediate class - will leave a seat vacant in the Pons team, a place which could be taken by Jack Miller, if the Australian youngster doesn't make the rumored jump straight to MotoGP from Moto3.

More confirmation has also come that Suzuki will not be the only factory making a return in 2016. As reported previously, Aprilia looks set to come to MotoGP in 2015 as a full factory team, taking the place of the PBM squad. According to German website Speedweek, Aprilia will race with an updated version of the RSV4 currently being fielded by IODA Racing, which will include pneumatic valves and a seamless gearbox. In the meantime, Aprilia Corse chief Romano Albesiano will work on an all-new prototype machine for 2016, based around the spec electronics and new-for-2016 Michelin tires. Riders at Aprilia are rumored to be Alvaro Bautista, who will have to hand over his factory RC213V to Scott Redding in 2015, and Eugene Laverty, who is currently riding for Suzuki in World Superbikes, but has been linked to both Aprilia and Pramac Ducati in MotoGP.

If the new factory line ups are confirmed - and once Jorge Lorenzo finally gets his way at Yamaha, with a two-year deal with an option to leave at the end of 2015 - then MotoGP will have five factories competing again. The factory line up will have a worryingly homogenous look, however: of the ten factory seats available, six will probably be held by Spanish riders, along with two Italians and a couple of riders from the British Isles. Dorna has been trying to reduce the number of Spaniards in the premier class, though with little success. The Spanish CEV championship is still churning out top riders, though fortunately, nowadays such top riders are often not Spanish. All eyes are on French sensation Fabio Quartararo, who is currently leading the CEV Moto3 title chase.

Though there are ten official factory seats, there will be twelve, or possibly even thirteen factory riders. Pol Espargaro is already riding with the Tech 3 team on a factory Yamaha contract, and as part of the deal to keep Andrea Iannone at Ducati - something which is rumored to have required a lot of effort, after Dovizioso and Crutchlow decided to remain at the factory - the Italian has been offered a full factory ride in a separate team. If they could, Ducati would run a three-man factory squad, but the rules state that factories are only allowed two riders in the factory team, and two riders in satellite teams. The rules also state that factories must supply both members of a satellite team with equal equipment, if both riders are entered under factory option rules. The set up at Pramac where Iannone runs under the factory option rules and Yonny Hernandez rides a Desmosedici GP13 under the Open class rules looks set to continue in 2015, though whether Hernandez remains is as yet unknown. Apart from Pol Espargaro and Andrea Iannone, the only other certainty for a satellite ride is Scott Redding. Redding looks set to take over the Honda RC213V vacated by Alvaro Bautista, as dictated by his contract. 

Who the other satellite riders will be is still uncertain. Rumors persist that Jack Miller will make the leap from Moto3 straight to MotoGP with LCR, though it is also unclear whether he will race the factory RC213V, or will ride a Honda production racer RCV1000R in his first season. Who will take the second seat at Tech 3 Yamaha is less certain, after Jonas Folger denied he would make the move to MotoGP for 2015.

The waiting now is for the official Suzuki announcement, expected this week, and news from Aprilia, which could take longer. The satellite rides will take longer to fill, though the chances are that at least one more rider will make the move up from Moto2. Both Stefan Bradl and Bradley Smith are likely to be looking for a job, though with Forward Yamaha losing both Aleix Espargaro and Colin Edwards at the end of the season, their names are both being strongly linked to the Open class Yamahas. Those deals will likely take much longer to finalize, however, and will not be done before the summer break ends.

Current confirmed contracts and likely factory riders:

Team Rider Contract through (final year)
Repsol Honda    
  Dani Pedrosa 2016
  Marc Marquez 2016
Movistar Yamaha    
  Valentino Rossi 2016
  Jorge Lorenzo 2016 (option to leave after 2015)
Factory Ducati    
  Andrea Dovizioso 2016
  Cal Crutchlow 2015
Pramac / Factory Ducati    
  Andrea Iannone 2015
Pramac Ducati    
Suzuki Aleix Espargaro ?
  Maverick Viñales 2017
  Alvaro Bautista?  
  Eugene Laverty?  
Monster Tech 3 Yamaha    
  Pol Espargaro 2015
Go&Fun Gresini Honda    
  Scott Redding 2015
Drive M7 Aspar    
  Nicky Hayden 2015

Names in italics have not been officially confirmed.

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Re Ducati -

Avintia is to be running 2 Open 2014 Ducatis. Ducati Corse obviously continuing w two Marlboro liveried Factory bikes. Here is where it is getting interesting, and I have a Q re a specific rule David and fab readers in a sec here. I hear that Ducati has made a proposal to Marlboro for AI29's bike to be a full factory bike (as my understanding he has now, exactly the same as the boys in red) but with Marlboro livery and increased technical support.

Is there any possibility that Pramac would not be running IA29's bike necessarily, but some single bike addition entity? Or some other change getting another Factory Ducati on the grid for 2015?

Aaron Rowles, for instance, writes at that 'with current IRTA rules saying that a team can only submit 4 machines in a 'class,' the current 4 bikes on the grid will all have to be Factory entries, leaving Avintia to run the Open machines.'

Really? Pramac back to 2 Factory bikes and Avintia taking over the Opens?

Thanks for confirming the Aprilia plans. There is always more (job security for you David).

Keep up the great footwork over there.

Each factory is allowed 4 Factory Option entries, 2 entries in a factory team, and 2 satellite entries. They can enter as many bikes as they like in the Open class.

Iannone's team will officially be a satellite team, but it will be one run by Ducati Corse with full factory backing. Nothing in the rules to prevent that. I do not know whether Pramac will run a satellite bike or an Open bike, as they have done this year. I suspect an Open bike, it's a lot cheaper.

Avintia will run GP14s in the Open class in 2015, as Hernandez has done this year (running last year's bike under the Open rules).

How exactly, on God's green earth, is it that if DORNA is said to be looking to cut Spanish fat is Bautista not looking for a ride? I can't bear to hear about Showa equipment being the limiting factor again!
The past few seasons Bautista seems to spend more time in the sand than did RDP before he switched to Bridgestones.

And nothing against Scott Redding, but give the Honda to the other Former (2006) MOTOGP World Champion on the grid. Egads.


That former world champion is sadly over the hill. Redding is outperforming him quite consistently on the same bike.

As for Bautista; how often do riders pin their poor performances on the tyres, when everyone is using the same tyre? Bautista has different suspension and brakes - and he sometimes performs well. Other times he over rides the bike and crashes. Maybe he shouldn't have a semi-factory bike, but I think he's more competitive than many in the field.

I think it's easy to under-estimate the disadvantage Bautista is at due to the Showa/Nissan kit. One, smaller resource base, so getting the necessary changes made is more difficult (ala Honda vs Ducati). Two, feedback from a single rider... no way can they commit the resources necessary to really develop the hardware, because what if Bautista moves on? The next guy will want a totally different set-up.

When there's many riders using the same stuff, the feedback to the manufacturer is such that they can make changes based on a bell curve and with that the chances of hitting the sweet spot are vastly increased, and on top of that the development costs are parlayed out between the various users (teams).

You need to take a holistic view for riders like Bautista and Bradl. They are in a very unique position.

Hayden might be over the hill, but if you don't think he can score 50pts through 9 rounds on a satellite Honda, you should have your head examined.

... in 2007 (the year after he won the title) Hayden got 7 points more than 50 in the 1st 9 rounds on a full factory Honda. There's little doubt that 8 years later he could replicate that on satellite machinery... ?

... he's on Showa suspension right?

No, seriously. Ohlins have every(?) other bike on the grid to develop their kit with, and Showa have Alvaro. And it isn't just development - set up data on the day is a massive win for ohlins.

I believe (no proof) that Bautista is given a bit of a free pass by HRC in exchange for being crippled with Showa kit, as a "plan b" for Honda. Showa are owned by Honda I believe?

I suspect Honda are relatively happy to pay him to ride around on that bike collecting data in case the day comes where ohlins don't work on Honda's bike. Or there's a major change like the tyres, for example - which shakes things up and maybe makes ohlins less competitive?

Bradl has far less of an excuse in my opinion as he's on Ohlins.

I think Alvaro is a good rider, he's certainly not short of a word but he lacks that last little bit that pushes him up to the top guys consistently regardless of the equipment.

As for Hayden I like the guy, he's racing because he loves racing. Will he win again? 99.9% sure that won't happen. he's probably got the same chance of getting a podium. Unless his wrist is completely shot he's got a few more years left him yet.

Nicky had this to say about WSBK - Never. Going. To. Happen.

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I think that the silly season's two biggest questions are if Avintia will run Ducatis and if Aprilia will actually enter as a factory. While the first seems probable but the second does not seem to be so. If Aprilia wants to run advanced versions of the present ART as factory bikes for next season, I really do not see why they should come in one year early. The ART is nowhere in contention for anything other than making up numbers on the grid and the rule changes taking effect in 2016 will make the present motorcycle redundant. It makes sense if Aprilia can debut their new prototype next year in order to use one year for development but just to run the old bike doesn't seem to be reason enough.

Ducati can run a three member factory team like Honda did with Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso. In which case the points will be scored by the best and the worst finishing bikes. I don't know if that rule is still applicable for next year though. Maybe Cal Crutchlow will be pushed onto a factory spec Pramac run bike instead of Iannone. If Avintia is to run two customer Ducatis Alvaro Bautista could join Hector Barbera there, since Avintia is a Spanish team. If Jack Miller is going to leap frog Moto2 and come straight to MotoGP then maybe he will take the RCV 1000R in the LCR team if they can run a second bike and Bradl could continue with LCR since Lucio Cecchinello seems to like him. In Aspar, who could be the Spanish rider for the second seat? Maybe Bautista is the preferred candidate there? Then who at Avintia? This is all about the bottom feeders now, isn't it?

I think it's quite easy to understand. He's a lovely guy and a great ambassador for the sport (although he hardly gets on TV nowadays). However, Redding has beaten him nearly all year, and it's difficult to say his career isn't on an upward trajectory.
Nicky is not performing so well on the same bike, and he's older, is injured, etc.
Plus Redding seems to have support to keep his ride paid for, whereas Nicky seemed to struggle to get the necessary support after leaving Ducati.
If you ignore the distant past and think about this year and next it's not too difficult to decide.
It is a shame, but when there are only 24 seats, or whatever it will be, some very good riders are going to be left out.
I hope his wrist turns out to be OK, that he can then swop to WSB on a good factory package, and take another title. No-one has done it the other way around, so perhaps....Biaggi has shown it's possible.
He must be one of the most marketable people, and his career after riding bikes has to be pretty good. He's not in such a bad place.

As sad as it is - if Nicky is aiming to win a world title, it's time to take a leaf from Ben Spies' book and admit that he's not in his mid 20s any more, and is carrying injury.

Marc is going to be hard enough to beat for a kit with no sense of self preservation and no busted body parts.

However, if Nicky is riding in MotoGP because it is fucking awesome fun for him and he couldn't imagine doing anything else, then fair play and good on him.

Just don't expect a top of the line ride with the same resources Marc is getting thrown at him, because he's just simply not at that level.

I mean, neither is Rossi right now, and Rossi has been extremely lucky with the (relative, yes he had the shoulder and leg) lack of injury in his career.

With someone as consistent as Marc has proven to be, you can't afford to be a little off the pace or a little inconsistent. I don't believe anyone currently on the grid has what it takes, save for maybe one of the Espargaro brothers or Scott Redding, but Marc beat them before, and is on the best bike on the grid.

It's going to take a new Marc v2.0 (a la Marc being a Rossi 2.0 as Rossi himself has stated) to beat him. Suzuki signing Maverick as soon as they could was a wise move. Ditto for someone maybe taking a punt on Jack Miller. Or Tito Rabat. Or Marc's little brother Alex.

If teams want to be beating Marc, Moto2 and Moto3 is where they need to be looking - and there's a healthy supply of new talent.

Nicky's experience is more useful as a development rider at this point. (I know some people think it is unreliable) has carried a story that Nicky Hayden has confirmed that he will be with Team Aspar running on the production racer Honda. He is quoted as saying that he is comfortable where he is and that he is looking forward to riding the upgraded production racer from Honda. So I guess one more seat confirmed. Will be interesting to see who Aspar put on their second bike with Aoyama almost certain to be left out of the team.

Looks like the Japanese flag is at half mast for Randy DePuniet's chances at Suzuki. I guess he'll just have to console himself in the bosom of Lauren. Yep sure does suck to be Randy.

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If he loses his day job, he's still got his night job.

I'll take his night job and I'm willing to put in overtime anytime !!!

I want to see Loris Baz on a Tech3 Yamaha, now !

And I don't want Maverick to be stuck for three years with Suzuki !

I'd like to see Baz on any competitive MotoGP ride for sure! He's only 21 and seems to be getting better overall with his race craft. Definitely has the fire in his belly! :)

Doesn't RDP have an option to ride for Suzuki in 2015? Why is this not discussed in this piece? Here he is today talking about it:

Seems like he's got the option to take a Suzuki ride or turn them down. Given how far off the mark the confident punditry about Dovi and Cal turned out to be, I'm not sure we should be ruling out Randy just yet.

He says that a contract is ready for him, 'as a test rider, OR something else'.

So sounds like he's been offered a contract to carry on being a test rider, but he's hoping for more?

Always going to be a stretch for Randy, regardless of how many test miles he's racked up to get the race seat at Suzuki. Interesting conundrum. If the bike was pushing Satelite Lap times (unlikely yes but bear with me) would Suzuki consider him ? The answer's probably NO.

They'd use the argument that Pol and Maverick could be even faster so why the heck would we sign the test rider ? As some kind of reward ? Please.....He's destined for SBK and truth be told, might even struggle to land a competitive ride there. The talent pool ain't that bad to begin with.

I dont get Maverick's 3 year Suzuki deal. Buyout clauses obviously exist for a reason but you wont get noticed, battling Satellite Ducati's. Perhaps (and a big one at that) in year 3, they'll move onto the Tech 3, LCR & Gresini fight but by this time, Pol, Alex Marquez and Jack would've tied up the Coveted factory Honda and Yamaha rides. 2 Years at most Maverick.

... was relatively quick on a satellite Honda in 2008.

Before Moto 2 existed, and before the current crop of new riders were honed in that championship.

He isn't what suzuki need, and giving Randy a full time ride on their bike means they'd be passing up someone like Tito, Jack, Maverick, Alex Marquez or a number of other extremely fast up and coming riders with a good decade or two of career left in them.

It's not that Randy is a crap rider, though he has been off the pace last he raced. But there's just so much very fast new talent, giving the ride to him would mean that someone else will take the quick guys from Moto2/Moto3. And suzuki are going to need every bit of help they can get.

randy "dnf" depuniet is what me & my friends call him. he crashes way too much. somewhere there is a video of his crew chief saying that they quit counting how many times he's crashed.

The new Ducati boss has pulled a sly move, as with the regulations move earlier in the year, and put the Japanese factories' noses out of joint. Again. Excellent.

I also wonder to what degree Aprilia's involvement is to do with trying to prove a point to the wizard-bearded one? I can't imagine that split was painless...

It seems to be a given in the rumours that Aleix Espargaro is moving on from Forward, but surely that would be a very decent seat to stay on? Aleix is a tricky one because he's undoubtedly been brilliant for the last three seasons...but overall he's competed in 151 Grand Prix and scored a grand total of ONE podium finish ever which hampers his factory chances. Colin's unfortunately not giving the second seat much justice, but it's a good bike.

If Dorna want more non-Spaniards in the top class they need to either strengthen some series other than the CEV or persuade every top 14-year old racer from around the world to move to Spain. BSB, IDM and CIV are the strongest domestic series at the minute besides CEV but mostly lend themselves to WSB graduation (although Franco Morbidelli is an interesting exception coming from Euro stock 600 to Moto2 successfully).