Money Talks, Riders Walk: Rolfo Replaces Pasini In MotoGP, Elias Replaces Corti In Moto2

As the 2012 season nears its end, the money is running out for some of weaker teams in the motorcycle racing paddock. The most egregious example of this is of course the Effenbert Liberty shambles, the Czech team managing to miss World Superbike rounds and drop racers despite having both a title sponsor and paying riders. But in the few days since the last round of MotoGP at Aragon, the same malaise has come to the MotoGP paddock as well.

Two riders are to be replaced for the next round on, and for both men, the reason they are being dropped has nothing to do with their performance, a fact made uncomfortably clear by the choice of replacement riders. In MotoGP, Roby Rolfo is to replace Mattia Pasini aboard the Speedmaster Aprilia CRT bike, and in Moto2, Toni Elias is to take the place of Claudio Corti in the Italtrans team. Both Pasini and Corti are being dropped for financial reasons: their replacements bring more money to the team than the men whose place they are taking. 

The choice to bring in Elias at Italtrans is the least mystifying. Elias was the first ever Moto2 champion, winning the title back in 2010. But after an abortive year in MotoGP, struggling several seconds off the pace on the LCR Honda, Elias returned to Moto2 with the Aspar team, where he continued to struggle with the Suter chassis. Elias has gone backwards since winning the Moto2 title, yet he is to replace Claudio Corti, who is currently 10th in the championship with 74 points and a podium to his name. Though Corti is out of the Italtrans Moto2 team, he has found a ride with the Pedercini Kawasaki squad in the World Superbike finale this weekend at Magny-Cours.

The Speedmaster replacement is utterly puzzling. Mattia Pasini, who only got the Speedmaster CRT ride after paying more than Ant West, the rider originally contracted to ride for the team, is to make way for Roberto Rolfo, the Italian veteran who spent the first part of this season struggling aboard the Technomag CIP Suter in Moto2. Rolfo's career has been in reverse for much longer than Elias', the Italian having gone backwards since leaving the 250cc class. The only reason to be given the Speedmaster ride is because he brings much more money to the team than Pasini. The team has been struggling for cash for some time now: there were rumors that the team would pull out altogether ahead of Misano. It appears that the only way they can continue is by taking money from Rolfo.

In an interview with the Italian website InfoMotoGP, Pasini expresses his fury at the situation. "I can only hope that some people don't sleep well tonight," he told InfoMotoGP. Pasini reeled off a long list of problems with the team, claiming that this was the reason they would not be offered another start in MotoGP next season. Pasini also claimed that Speedmaster's Moto2 rider Andrea Iannone had been on the verge of leaving the team to go to Italtrans, because he did not believe he could be competitive if the team continued to run up debts. The case was now in the hands of his lawyers, Pasini told InfoMotoGP, and he hoped to obtain justice through the courts.

The situation with Pasini, Corti and Effenbert is symptomatic of two of the biggest problems in motorcycle racing at the moment: the lack of sponsorship and the problems with some teams not managing budgets properly. Though much of the debate currently raging in the paddock is over technical regulations and the future direction of the sport, the fundamental financial weakness remains. The hope is that the recent announcement by Bridgepoint that World Superbikes and MotoGP are to be brought under a single umbrella means that raising sponsorship and income will be the main priority of the organizers.

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If this trend continues where bringing money is more important than being able to ride a bike quickly, I will give this series five years before we are watching a monotonous progression of so so riders that have more money than talent,it will be crt through the whole paddock, most of the crt riders would be back in domestic series if they didn't have money; while good talented riders are left by the wayside just because a lack of money. There will be less chances for genuine "aliens" to emerge and that is such a shame.

For all those who are pining for a true prototype formula in MotoGP and slamming Dorna for dumbing down the sport, please take note.

There is very little sponsorship money out there. A true prototype formula with unrestrained R&D is just not sustainable.

I work in marketing/advertising and can attest to the fact that getting a reasonable budget for anything these days is very difficult. I certainly wouldn't want to be responsible for raising, say, tens or hundreds of millions of dollars for a team. It's just not likely to happen.

Yamaha can't find a major sponsor. Suzuki, when they were in MotoGP, practically gave away its primary sponsorship to Rizla (for something like $3 million, as I recall). Kawasaki had no major sponsorship. Repsol and Marlboro (which can't even display its logo) are the only ones stumping up significant money, and that's not likely to last forever.

Something has got to give soon. Get used to the fact that the "pure prototype" era, which only really existed for about 10 years, anyway, is going away. World Superbikes, at a fraction of the cost of MotoGP, is also too expensive. They'll likely get scaled back, too, especially since WSBK and MotoGP are now under the same roof. I'm sure Moto2 is fairly expensive in its own right.

Also, don't forget that motorcycle racing, as popular as it may be in certain regions, is a niche sport. It's pretty far down the list of opportunities for most potential sponsors who have real money to spend.

If something doesn't change soon, you'll see a lot more of this and, eventually we'll have a lot more to worry about than Mattia Pasini and Claudio Corti.

I can't even keep track of who's riding for Effenbert. Is motorcycle racing in a malaise, or is it just my interest that's waning?

Wake up and smell the coffee, and its not only happening at this level its endemic throughout the sport (even down to club level).

There have always been people who got rides because of Ca$h one of the great tragedies from my era was poor Niall Mackenzie who got turfed by marlboro yamaha I believe and ran a stock TZ250 inthe 250 class and even got some points , 14th and 15th maybe?

Then came Kevin Magees head injury at Laguna Seca and they drafted in Niall to fill in, and I think in the whole history of the Suzuki 500 GP team he was probably the only number 2 rider who actually did decent ( maybe Schwantz Chandler did well later on I forget) befre pramac , Suzuki was the death knell for a lot of number 2 riders

My point is, in the next season the guy who finished FOURTH in the 500 championship after missing the first 3 rounds ( behind Rainey Schwantz and Doohan) gets replaced by Didier deRadigues who brought Lucky strike cash to the team, and if I recall it wasnt mega millions, perhaps 500,000 bucks :(

I always geta chuckle however when riders get naysayed because of buying a ride but who turn out to be genuinely fast. Norifumi Abe got that one off ride on the NSR500 at suzuka and I think he spent a lot of his and his dads cash to pay for it, but look what he did, probably one of the best 500 races at Suzuka actually

Typically, teams in any sport make their best attempt to find the best players they can afford. In baseball, the Yankees always seem to have a playoff-level team because they can afford to out spend the smaller market teams. In football, there are salary caps and revenue sharing to promote more parity and let them compete based on who they spend their money on. The best players command the most money because they win.

Apparently, in professional motorcycle racing, someone could have no skill at all, but come equipped with a billionaire uncle who wanted to see his nephew do well, and end up with a ride. Really? Has the sport digressed that much because they bring more money? Imagine if some slower sprinter replaced Usain Bolt because he brought more money with him. In horse racing, imagine if Billy Shoemaker was dropped because someone else had more cash. In basketball, imagine if Michael Jordan was benched because Rodman had more cash. Makes no sense whatsoever. Actually, screw it. The ATP should drop Federer and bring in the 100th ranked player who has a bigger wallet... I'd rather not watch a bunch of mediocre rich guys race bikes around the track. I want to see the best as we see in every other sport.