MotoGP Silly Season So Far - 2017 Grid Nearly Complete, and It's Still June

MotoGP Silly Season is nearly at an end. With the confirmation that both Jack Miller and Cal Crutchlow will be staying in their seats for 2017, the list of possibly vacant grid slots grew much shorter. Those that remain empty are growing ever closer to being filled, leaving only three seats open, and one seat still completely free. Time to take a look at the current state of play.

With the announcement that Aleix Espargaro would be joining Aprilia for two years, the last of the factory seats was filled. The factory rides filled up quickly in 2016, starting with Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith at Qatar, and culminating eight races later at Assen with the signing of Espargaro. (The timing of the Aleix Espargaro/Aprilia announcement was peculiar to say the least. Making a major announcement that a rider had been signed to a factory rider – a signing everyone already knew about – on the Sunday night after one of the most remarkable MotoGP races in recent memory was guaranteed to achieve the absolute minimum of media coverage.)

Satellite seats

Satellite teams, too, have filled up relatively quickly. Jonas Folger was the first rider to sign, being announced at Tech 3 at Le Mans. At Mugello, Pramac Ducati team boss Francesco Guidetti confirmed that they expected to continue with Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci. And at Assen, the contracts of both Jack Miller and Cal Crutchlow were confirmed for 2017.

Even the seats which are not yet confirmed have some strong candidates. The second Tech 3 seat will be filled by Johann Zarco, with an announcement likely to come at the Sachsenring. Zarco had been given a contract with Suzuki, with the option of riding for the factory next year, but when it became clear there would not be a satellite Suzuki, and that the Japanese factory preferred Alex Rins over him, the Frenchman signed with Tech 3.

The second seat at Marc VDS is likely to stay as it is, team boss Michael Bartholémy prepared to give Tito Rabat another year to show some progress. There are signs of small steps forward for the former Moto2 champion, Rabat now no longer circulating at the back, out of touch with the rest, and the team is confident that he will soon start to show more of his potential.

Seats still open

There are four seats left completely unclaimed, but even there, names can be penciled in. The Aspar Ducati team have found some new financial backing, and as a consequence are looking for riders who can bring results rather than money. Given Eugene Laverty's strong results this year, the Irishman has an offer to stay. Laverty's decision will be contingent on the level of equipment available. He is holding out for a GP16, rather than a GP15, for 2017, not wanting to be two years behind the factory riders. He also has some strong options in the World Superbike paddock, and came close to taking the second seat at Kawasaki alongside Jonathan Rea.

Alvaro Bautista has also been linked to the Aspar team, and given the Spaniard's solid results at Aprilia, should be in the frame for the ride. Like Laverty, Bautista is keen on having a competitive ride, and is hoping to be on a GP16, rather than a GP15.

At Avintia, Hector Barbera is almost certain to continue, the Spaniard having a longstanding relationship with the team, and having shown this season that he is still competitive. Barbera is currently seventh in the championship standings, and the best Ducati rider, ahead of both factory riders.

The only real question mark left

Who will partner Barbera is still open to question. Loris Baz is still in contention, having also shown he is fast on a Ducati. The arrival of Johann Zarco into the premier class does make the argument for Baz less compelling purely on the basis of his passport, however. The alternative would be Yonny Hernandez, with Dorna keen to keep a South American rider in the championship. But Baz is still ahead of Hernandez in the championship standings, despite having missed races due to injury. Hernandez did his chances a lot of good at Assen, by leading the MotoGP race in the wet, but crashing out of the lead once again gave pause for thought.

The Sachsenring is likely to see a last frantic round of negotiations, wrapping up most of the remaining open seats. We could see a very early end to Silly Season this year, to match its early beginning.

Below are riders signed so far, and the seats still open:

Factory Teams  
Movistar Yamaha  
Valentino Rossi 2017-2018
Maverick Viñales 2017-2018
Repsol Honda  
Dani Pedrosa 2017-2018
Marc Márquez 2017-2018
Ecstar Suzuki  
Andrea Iannone 2017-2018
Alex Rins 2017-2018
Gresini Aprilia  
Sam Lowes 2017-2018
Aleix Espargaro 2017-2018
KTM Factory  
Bradley Smith 2017-2018
Pol Espargaro 2017-2018
Factory Ducati  
Jorge Lorenzo 2017-2018
Andrea Dovizioso 2017-2018
Satellite Teams with signed riders  
Pramac Ducati  
Scott Redding 2017
Danilo Petrucci 2017
LCR Honda  
Cal Crutchlow 2017
Monster Tech 3 Yamaha  
Jonas Folger 2017-2018
Johann Zarco?  
Marc VDS Honda  
Jack Miller 2017
Tito Rabat?  
Seats still to be confirmed  
Aspar Ducati  
Alvaro Bautista?  
Eugene Laverty?  
Avintia Ducati  
Hector Barbera?  
Yonny Hernandez???  

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No seat for Bradl? That's a shame. Yes he somewhat underperformed on the 'factory' Honda but he's been solid on the Aprilia. More than Bautista I'd say. And he's still a Moto 2 champion, unlike the guy that's going to replace him...

See you all in mid-2018 for some more top seat speculation?

Maybe we'll see some top Moto2 contenders heading to WSB instead, boost things further over there now that it's back on the up.

Make that two. As stated on the 'Espargaro to Aprilia' thread, there's only two seats available - one at Aspar and one at Avintia.

Speedweek reported three days ago that Bautista had reached an agreement with Aspar, and that Bradl (no mention of him in the article) was not interested in riding for either team - he's said to be off to Ducati in WSBK.

Suppo is quoted as saying that retaining both Miller and Rabat at VDS was highly likely, which leaves Baz, Hernandez and Laverty.

Baz looks set to stay at Avintia, so it looks like a straight fight between Laverty and Hernandez for the last place available.

Laverty has done well at Aspar, but the under-achieving South American, Hernandez, is said to be Dorna's preferred choice.

Sorry to see the young German's MotoGP career fizzle out this way, but I anticipate that his talent will allow him to make his mark in World Superbikes. Perhaps the long awaited Fireblade update will actually arrive and we'll get to see him and Hayden battling the likes of Rea, Sykes, and Davies. I'd pay to see that.

He's a great rider, just seemed like he never fully was given the proper treatment (for a Moto2 champion). I met him at Laguna Seca and chatted for about 10 mins, nice kid, I wish him the best of luck in WSBK

Speaking of the Fireblade (which if it takes any longer gestating is going to be electric powered) I was hoping for Van der Mark to get a seat, at Marc VDS I suppose.

The sudden evaporation of Dorna's plan for satellite bikes from every factory available at a set cost much lower than our current B teams are paying leaves little information to be had. There was excitement about a team stepping in as Suzuki's satellite squad, my hope being Sito Pons. I could do with two fewer Ducs as well. The Honda satellites don't appear particularly pleased with their packages now, and they must be quite expensive.

Questions: what else has been going on besides Suzuki shrugging and saying they can't afford to provide a satellite bike? The dictated price from Dorna, is it close to what Ducati is charging for a GP15 now? What is going on from Yamaha and Honda re responses to Dorna's plan for a price restriction given that it must be MUCH less than Tech3 or LCR are paying? It would be a shame for the performance gap to get bigger for the satellites because of a price cap.

Any news, or has it just been kicked down the road for now?

Hayden wasn't considered fast enough for MotoGP but is managing to out-pace VdM in WSBK - that has to put a major crimp in the value of VdM to any MotoGP team. He is better to stay where he is, in a competitive WSBK team, than end up running about the back of MGP on some uncompetitive machinery.

You probably haven't been watching, but Van der Mark has been trouncing Hayden at almost every weekend so far. He's had some problems with setup and bad luck in the last two races.

Short memories again.

I wouldn't exactly say trouncing. They are right next to each other in the championship only seperated by only about 15 points if memory serves. 

Oh an VdM has yet to win a race.


I'm not sure if this was the original poster of the comments key point but I think these results will have dimished VdM's potential stock to other teams. Despite a season longer on the bike their performance is relatively similar over all. I suspect many thought VdM would indeed be trouncing Hayden but that has not happened. 

While 2017 looks to be settled in terms of teams and riders, it seems that 2018 will be a very different story.

It's been reported that the Dorna subsidies of 2.8 million/per bike and lease price-cap of 2.2 million/per bike will come into effect next year, and that teams will be renewing their 5-year MotoGP contracts with Dorna in 2017 also.

As part of the new contracts, Dorna are said to have requested that each factory team supply one independent team with two bikes in 2018 bringing the total number of bikes on the grid to 24 (6 factories and 6 independent teams).

The primary reason behind this move is to help the independent teams who have little prospect of winning now, and even less in the future, and ties-in well with Poncharal's outpouring of a few weeks back. It's been proposed that each independent team become an official, junior team to a parent factory team (as I suggested on the Poncharal thread) - which will raise their profile and help them secure sponsorship to compete. It may even herald the return of the 'Rookie Rule', but it's unlikely to be run as a seperate championship within a championship with just the odd parc ferme appearance after qualifying, and again after the race - sadly with no rider interviews allowed for rather obvious reasons.

It's either: "So Vale, another great win today". Or it's: "So Hector, another unlucky 13th today, but you're first of the no-hoper's".

Whatever, it's thought that the factories and independents will line-up in 2018 as follows:

Yamaha with Tech3; Honda with Marc VDS; Ducati with Pramac; Suzuki with Avintia; KTM with Aspar; Aprilia with LCR (two bikes).

Footnote: Pramac are said to have also been engaged in talks with Suzuki. That's strange because both of their riders (Petrucci & Redding) are currently contracted to Ducati Corse. Perhaps over-achieving Avintia will finally get the nod from Gigi? I hope so.

Who will win a race first?

Suzuki or Ducati? 

KTM or Aprilia?

or will we see another victory by a Satellite rider before any of these things happen?

My guesses would put Ducati ahead of Suzuki - because the bike already has the potential to win races (if not the chamionship), but needs more consistently fast riders (whereas they currently have a fast rider and a consistent rider, but not both).  The Ducati is also in a good position to win a wet race - as they've always been strong in the wet.  Suzuki, on the other hand, will have Ducati's hand-me-down fast rider and proficient crasher next to a promising rookie, and the bike doesn't seem to excel in the wet - which is the best chance for an upset to the Yamahonda lockout.

Between KTM and Aprilia, I'd have to guess Aprilia just because of their experience.  I think we're more likely to see another satellite win than either a KTM or Aprilia win in 2017.

But all said, what would I know.  I heard there were 1000:1 odds for Jack winning at Assen, and I still wouldn't have taken them.

any news on who will be filling the seats of Lowes, Rins, Folger and Zarco?