Moto2/Moto3 Silly Season Update: Vinales And Salom Join Pons, Miller To Ajo, And More

While the MotoGP seats - at least, the MotoGP seats on factory prototypes, or as we must now call them, factory option bikes - were filled quickly after the summer break, and the former CRT seats set to follow suit over the next two rounds, there has been little movement in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes so far. This is hardly surprising: negotiations for Moto2 and (especially) Moto3 seats tend to start at the end of the season rather than the middle, with some Moto2 seats dependent on who moves up to MotoGP. Yet after Silverstone and ahead of Misano, the first big moves started to be made.

The early news was the signing of Tito Rabat with the Marc VDS Racing team, taking the place of Scott Redding who departs for MotoGP. With both Rabat and Pol Espargaro leaving - the younger of the Espargaro brothers had been signed by Yamaha for the Tech 3 team in MotoGP earlier in the year - Sito Pons' Moto2 team, Tuenti HP 40 Pons was left with only Sito's son Axel Pons left on the payroll for 2014. At Silverstone, Pons penned a deal with current Moto3 championship leader Luis Salom for the next two seasons, and shortly afterwards, he also signed up Maverick Viñales, also for 2014 and 2015. The two Spaniards will contest Moto2 on board the Kalex Moto2 machines left behind by Rabat and Espargaro.

Having two such intense rivals, both of whom will be demanding the number one status inside the team, could cause some friction for Pons. However, as history shows, having two top riders in the same team pushing each other can pay off richly for the team, though it may be tougher on the riders. The pairings of Marc Marquez (and before him, Casey Stoner) with Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo with Valentino Rossi appear to be a case in point. Keeping the peace will be hard, though, especially with two riders who are known for being extremely hotheaded. Luis Salom has finally blossomed at the Red Bull Ajo team, where he is under the tutelage of the cool Fin Aki Ajo, who has made a knack of bringing on young talent.

Moving to Moto2 is not the only change for Maverick Viñales. Shortly after he announced his deal with Pons, he also announced he had split from his manager Ricard Jove. Jove was the man whom Viñales had clashed with at the end of 2012, flying home from Sepang without competing after a dispute with Jove, in his capacity of both personal manager and team manager of the Blusens Avintia team. Jove himself has also split from the Blusens Avintia team, as part of the fall out from the departure of Toni Elias for the World Superbike series.

Viñales and Salom may not be the only Moto3 men to make the move up. Despite his youth, Alex Rins is also considering a move, though any such move is conditional on first winning the Moto3 title. As the talented youngster currently trails Salom by 33 points, and Viñales by 7, he has his work cut out to achieve that goal.

Among the men who remain in Moto2, Takaaki Nakagami could be set to switch teams. Rumors surround a possible switch to the Japanese Idemitsu Honda squad run by Tady Okada, who have just ditched their current rider Yuki Takahashi. For Nakagami to join the team, Idemitsu would also have to change machines, dropping the Moriwaki in favor of the Kalex, the bike Nakagami has been so successful on in Moto2 this year. This could be part of a long term strategy to move up to MotoGP, as talks about moving the team up to MotoGP with Nakagami on board a Honda production racer got a long way before failing.

At Aspar, Nico Terol looks set to stay, while Jordi Torres has been confirmed for next year. Tom Luthi looks likely to remain with the Interwetten squad, while Domi Aegerter will be back with the Technomag CarXPert squad.

With Salom moving up to Moto2, the prime spot at the Red Bull Ajo team is open in Moto3. That place will be taken by Jack Miller, the young Australian having been deeply impressive on the FTR Honda with Racing Team Germany, but Miller, like all of the Honda riders, has made it clear it is impossible to compete on the underpowered NSF250R powerplant. The move to the Ajo team will see him on a factory-backed KTM, giving him the shot at the title he believes he deserves.

With Zulfahmi Khairuddin likely to stay at the team, that puts fellow Australian Arthur Sissis in a precarious position. Sissis has had a disappointing season in Moto3, and if his results do not improve, he is likely to lose his seat. The prime candidate to take his seat would be Red Bull Rookie leader Karel Hanika, the young Czech rider having been deeply impressive this year. However, the fear is that former Rookies have found it sometimes hard to adapt to Moto3, where much more emphasis is placed on working on bike set up, and so the route from the Rookies Cup to Moto3 is not as easy as it looks. Speaking at Brno, Hanika told that the only offers he had had at that point had involved him bringing money to a team, believed to be in the order of 300,000 euros.

Jack Miller would not be the only rider to ditch a Honda, but with KTM already supplying 14 bikes on the Moto3 grid, other teams are looking elsewhere. Gresini is said to be looking at a switch to a Kalex KTM, while Mahindra could expand to as many as 8 bikes. The Ambrogio Racing team of Brad Binder and Luca Amato will be switching to Mahindra from the upcoming Misano race, but according to, CIP Honda and Team Italia could also make the change to Mahindra. The Mahindra has already proven to be competitive, as the only bike capable of getting close to the front-running KTMs of the championship leaders, and it raises the profile of the Indian engineering giant, exactly as planned when the team first entered the series.

There are still plenty of seats open for next year in both GP support classes. The silly season in Moto2 and Moto3 is likely to continue until after the current season has finished, and possibly well into 2014. It will take some time to sort itself out.

Back to top


Hope he can get on a KTM or Mahindra and get his mojo back.

It is surprising to read that the Mahindra Moto3 motorcycle is becoming the most sought after ahead of Honda and just behind KTM. The situation is interesting because of Mahindra's history as a two wheeler maker. In India, Mahindra persisted in making the World War II Jeeps for years. In fact, it was only in the early 1970s that Mahindra actually started making right hand drive Jeeps since in India it is drive on the left side of the road. Perhaps in the late eighties Mahindra started to experiment with the old Jeep chassis and mated it to the Peugeot XD3P engine and as a process of evolution in the mid 1990s it made a metal topped variation of the Jeep and called it the Bolero since they had a spat with Jeep which disallowed them from using the Jeep brand.

Mahindra's truly own platform which is a monocoque came into being only a couple of years with a front wheel drive architecture. They also bought the Korean Ssang Yong brand. Somewhere is the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century Mahindra bought out Indian two wheeler manufacturer Kinetic Motors who had a collaboration with San Yang Motors of Taiwan. Mahindra sells three scooters two of which are totally San Yang and one which is an old Kinetic with a new San Yang engine. They sell at an average about 12,000 scooters a month. Mahindra then launched a 110cc motorcycle called the Stallio which used a reverse engineered Honda engine and got Engines Engineering which they had bought and were owning at that time, to do the design. The product bombed spectacularly in the market. They then pulled the product out of the market and spent more than a year reworking the mechanicals of the motorcycle in their newly opened R&D centre and then relaunched it as the Pantero which again sank without a trace.

However, they plonked the same engine in another iteration called the Centuro and that has been received in a luke warm way. They have plans to launch a 300cc single cylindered motorcycle called the Mojo which apparently is an old Malaguti vehicle for whom Engines Engineering styled a body. Mahindra does not have the confidence to launch the Mojo because it will go straight up against the Honda CBR 250 R, KTM 390 Duke, Kawasaki Ninja 300 (and if rumours are to be believed Kawasaki wants to relaunch the old model Ninja 250 R at a lower price point) and Yamaha R 25 (in the making) and the Suzuki Inazuma (again rumours say that it will come to India at the end of the year). Meanwhile its commuter machines face the might of Hero Motocorp (formerly Hero Honda) the largest selling motorcycle company in the world, Bajaj Auto which owns nearly 48% of KTM and TVS Motors that once had a collaboration with Suzuki and now with BMW. Mahindra's record with collaborators is poor considering it ditched Ford first, then Renault, Navistar (for trucks) and San Yang for two wheelers.

Most people believe that Mahindra is playing a losing game in the two wheeler market with nary a hope of it getting to a point where it can sell in decent numbers. So I really do not understand what Mahindra hopes to gain in GP racing using a Suter motorcycle. I don't really know how many engineers from Mahindra are involved in the Moto3 project, but I think they do not have any great expertise in building great motorcycles. What fascinates me is why Suter is willing to get their motorcycle branded as Mahindra. Maybe Mahindra are bank rolling Suter's projects just like Hero Motocorp is doing with Erik Buell Racing.

Mahindra has money because they were one of the business houses of India along with Tata, Bajaj and Ashok Leyland who made truck loads of money since the Indian economy till 1991 was very regulated and did not give new players to enter the market. All that is fine, but I still do not know what Mahindra hopes to gain out of this Moto3 expenditure given the fact that they have a very poor image among Indian customers that they are not really a great technology oriented firm. In fact, any new Mahindra product is viewed with suspicion and most people wait for someone to become guinea pigs with the initial batch of vehicles and then go for the product after all niggles are ironed out. That makes me wonder as to why Suter is not going ahead and supplying bikes to Moto3 teams and build its own brand strongly.

Mojo is not a competitor to Ninja , R25 and the likes of them. You would totally get that if you see how the Mojo looks like. Its not meant foe hooning or corner carving. Its designed as a extended fork/ suspension cruiser. The only comparison could be in price but NOTHING SIMILAR IN TERMS OF DYNAMICS OF THE VEHICLE.

Mahindra can write off the expenses in racing as Marketing expenses, it does not cost them much. Also, this exposure is helpful as it gives visibility to Mahindra in foreign markets seeing as Mahindra is trying to build a base in countries like Gautemala and other latin american countries.

I'm fairly sure India drive on the left their traffic system was introduced by and based on the British rules. Though your possibly ethnic Indian name makes me wonder if I was the only one doing so when I lived their a few years ago.

The reason Mahindra Jeeps were left hand drive (therefore intended to drive on the right) is because they were built under licence from USA manufacturer Jeep and they, of course, do drive on the right.

Interesting bit on history though, thanks.