To the surprise of absolutely nobody, in the press conference at Phillip Island, Jack Miller announced that he would be riding for the Marc VDS Estrella Galicia 0,0 team in 2016. It had long been known that Miller would end up at the team, but there was still the question of a few loose ends to tie up. With those tidied up, Miller's home GP was the obvious place to announce his future plans.
The Australian will move to Marc VDS along with his crew chief, Cristian Gabarrini, and the rest of his pit crew. As Miller is contracted to and paid for by HRC, it was a simple matter for them to move the mechanics and engineers from LCR to Marc VDS. Miller will have a standard satellite Honda RC213V next year, the same spec as that of his current teammate, Cal Crutchlow, and new teammate Tito Rabat.
There were one or two obstacles to Miller's move to Marc VDS, not least the broken pre-contract the Australian signed with the team to race in Moto2. Miller was supposed to join Marc VDS in 2014, but Aki Ajo - also Miller's personal manager - persuaded him to stay in Moto3 with the Red Bull KTM team. The legal dispute over that contract is still ongoing, but will be much easier to put to an end now that Miller is with Marc VDS.
The other obstacle to Miller's move was financial. Though Miller rides for HRC, Honda still wanted the team who took him to cover at least some of the costs. That was a problem for Marc VDS, as they had taken a financial hit moving up to MotoGP in 2015 with Scott Redding. As a new team in MotoGP, they were not eligible for financial support with transport costs or free tires. That imposed an extra financial burden - believed to be around €1.6 million a year - on the team. If Miller was to join Marc VDS, then they needed to be sure that both grid slots would be eligible for financial support, and they had to be sure that they could afford to pay Honda's asking price. After a period of negotiation, agreement has been reached on these issues.
With Miller confirmed alongside Tito Rabat, the 2016 MotoGP grid is nearing completion. The Repsol Honda, Movistar Yamaha, Ducati Factory, Gresini Aprilia and Suzuki ECSTAR teams all remain unchanged, as does the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha line up. Cal Crutchlow remains as the single rider at LCR, Lucio Cecchinello's dreams shattered by the legal problems of a former sponsor. Scott Redding replaces Yonny Hernandez at Pramac Ducati, the Colombian moving to Aspar, where he will line up alongside Eugene Laverty. If, that is, Aspar has the funds to run a second bike. With the Avintia Ducatis of Loris Baz and Hector Barbera, there will be a total of eight Ducatis on the grid next year.
The grid is likely to be a good deal smaller than in 2015. So far, it looks like there will be 21 riders instead of 25, with three teams likely to withdraw. Forward Racing have already been told they do not have grid slots in MotoGP, so they will continue in Moto2, and, if the reports are correct, race MV Agustas in World Superbikes. AB Racing also looks likely to make the switch to WSBK, though Karel Abraham is trying to remain in MotoGP. The Ioda Racing team is trying to hang on for one more year on a minimum budget, waiting for 2017 when the funding for teams increases radically. That looks like a tough task, however.
Below is the 2016 grid as it stands at the moment, complete with the length of the contract for each rider. Underneath that is the press release from Marc VDS.
|93||Marc Marquez||Honda RC213V||2016|
|26||Dani Pedrosa||Honda RC213V||2016|
|46||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha YZR-M1||2016|
|99||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha YZR-M1||2016|
|4||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati GP16||2016|
|29||Andrea Iannone||Ducati GP16||2016|
|19||Alvaro Bautista||Aprilia RS-GP||2016|
|6||Stefan Bradl||Aprilia RS-GP||2018|
|41||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki GSX-RR||2016|
|25||Maverick Viñales||Suzuki GSX-RR||2017|
|35||Cal Crutchlow||Honda RC213V||2017|
|Marc VDS Racing|
|53||Tito Rabat||Honda RC213V||2017|
|43||Jack Miller||Honda RC213V||2017|
|Monster Tech 3 Yamaha|
|44||Pol Espargaro||Yamaha YZR-M1||2016|
|38||Bradley Smith||Yamaha YZR-M1||2016|
|68||Yonny Hernandez||Ducati GP14.2||2016|
|50||Eugene Laverty||Ducati GP14.2||2016|
|45||Scott Redding||Ducati GP15+||2017|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||Ducati GP15+||2016|
|8||Hector Barbera||Ducati GP14.2||2016|
|76||Loris Baz||Ducati GP14.2||2016|
Below is the press release from Marc VDS announcing the deal with Miller:
Jack Miller joins the Marc VDS Racing Team for 2016
Phillip Island, Australia – 15 October 2015: Having reached an agreement with Honda Racing Corporation, the Marc VDS Racing Team can confirm that they will run two bikes in the MotoGP class in 2016.
Tito Rabat will step up from Moto2 to campaign a factory Honda RC213V in Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS colours, as previously announced. Riding alongside the former Moto2 World Champion will be 20-year-old Australian, Jack Miller, who will race in the traditional livery of the Marc VDS Racing Team.
Miller’s current crew, headed by experienced Chief Engineer Cristian Gabarrini, will join the Australian in the Marc VDS Racing Team for the 2016 season.
Like many Australians before him Miller, who hails from Townsville in North Queensland, started his racing career on dirt bikes. Having racked up six Australian titles on the dirt he then switched his attention to road racing, with similar success.
The success continued following a move to Europe, where Miller won the 2011 IDM 125cc Championship aged just 16 and was rewarded with a ride in the Moto3 World Championship the following season.
Miller joins the team for his second season in MotoGP, having jumped into the premier class in 2015 straight from Moto3, following a titanic season long battle that saw the Australian lose out on the World Championship title by just two points to eventual winner, Álex Márquez.
“I am very enthusiastic on this possibility with Honda and the Marc VDS Racing Team. I know Marc VDS is a good, strong and experienced team, and they can build a good structure for me to fight for good positions next year. As we both have already one year of experience from the top class, I feel that we can gain from the experiences we have to achieve good results together with Honda.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“It’s good to be able to finally welcome Jack to the Marc VDS Racing Team. We wanted Jack in 2013 because we could see he had the talent to succeed and that hasn’t changed. This was always going to be a difficult transition season for him, having jumped straight onto the MotoGP bike from Moto3, but he’s done a solid job so far. Next year Jack will benefit from having the Marc VDS Racing Team behind him and, together with a competitive bike, I’m confident that this is exactly what he needs to realise his full potential.”
Marc van der Straten: President, Marc VDS Racing Team
“We are happy to welcome Jack to the Marc VDS family, even if he is 12 months late arriving! He comes to the team with a year of experience in MotoGP and I expect to see him well inside the top ten on a regular basis next season. For the team it is good to have two riders in the premier MotoGP class; they can learn from each other but, equally importantly, they can push each other every weekend. Both Jack and Tito are ultra-competitive and I expect we’ll see some exciting battles between the two of them next season!”