Who's Going Where In MotoGP In 2009? Silly Season Roundup
|MotoGP State of the Silly Season 2008|
|Valentino Rossi||Contract through 2010||Rossi will be staying until he decides to retire from the sport|
|Jorge Lorenzo||Contract through 2009||Lorenzo is Yamaha's future, and like Rossi, will be staying until he decides he's had enough.|
|Tech 3 Yamaha|
|Colin Edwards||1 year contract through 2009||Edwards is signed for '09, but is unlikely to stay for too much longer. Much depends on what happens in the AMA.|
|James Toseland||Took up option to stay through 2009||Toseland started brilliantly, but has stagnated a little. Will need to show a return to form if he is to stay after 2009.|
|Dani Pedrosa||In 1st year of 2 year contract, signed for 2009.|
Pedrosa and his manager Alberto Puig have firm grip on the Repsol Honda garage. Pedrosa has been drafted in by Honda to win back the MotoGP title, and Puig has taken advantage to ensure that he controls events inside the team. Pedrosa and Puig are rumored to be demanding a wall separating the two sides of the Repsol Honda pits, and will have a very strong say in who will replace Nicky Hayden in 2009. Unfortunately, Pedrosa doesn't really want anyone as a team mate, so any such quest will be very difficult.
The news from Misano that Pedrosa will be running on Bridgestones from the Indianapolis race onwards will potentially make things even more complicated. The question is whether both Repsol Hondas will be on Bridgestones, or just Dani Pedrosa, with the garage split in the same way as the Fiat Yamaha garage.
|Andrea Dovizioso / Nicky Hayden||Unsigned|
Nicky Hayden's talks with Honda about renewing his contract seem to be over. Hayden is almost certain to sign for Ducati, with an announcement to be made very soon, probably after Indy, according to Phil Baker, his manager. Hayden told the BBC he is "excited" about the announcement, which is not the kind of statement one makes when extending a contract.
Andrea Dovizioso is the man most likely to replace Hayden at Repsol Honda, much to the chagrin of Pedrosa. Dovizioso has shown both loyalty and the ability to wring the last ounce of performance from an inferior bike, both qualities much admired by HRC.
|Casey Stoner||Contract through 2010, option extended last year||Casey Stoner, like Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, can stay at Ducati as long as he likes. He has already brought the factory one title, and looks likely to repeat that feat, if not this year, then sometime in the very near future.|
|Nicky Hayden/Sete Gibernau||Unsigned||Hayden is rumored to have a contract with Ducati tucked safely away in his back pocket, and is expected to make an announcement shortly after Indianapolis. But with Gibernau engaged in an intensive program of testing on the GP9, and setting fast lap times, Ducati, who desparately need a second rider capable of making the bike go fast, may plump for the safe option, rather than gamble on Hayden, who has yet to turn a wheel on the Ducati.|
|John Hopkins||Contract through 2009||Hopkins is safe at Kawasaki for next year, but you have to wonder just how happy he is about that. The bike has been a disaster this year, after showing so much promise in 2007, and that must worry the American. Kawasaki have promised improvement for next year, and they could make some horsepower gains if they can get the fabulous sounding screamer engine to work. But nothing has been heard of it since being rolled out in April for testing. That's not good.|
|Marco Melandri||No details yet||After a disastrous year aboard the Ducati, Melandri had to get out. Released from his 2 year contract a year early, Melandri looked elsewhere, nearly went back to Gresini Honda, who would have welcomed him with open arms, but decided he needed to be on a factory bike, to ensure that he had some input into the bike. Kawasaki was the only manufacturer left with a seat open, and so Melandri ended up there. The question remains, however, why Melandri thinks that a bike that has shown very little potential up until Brno should be any better than the Ducati he struggled on.|
|Loris Capirossi||Contract through 2009|
Suzuki announced that they have renewed Capirossi's contract after the Misano round. The deal is just for one year, which makes sense, as the Italian veteran's age and long list of injuries has got to make you wonder just how much longer MotoGP's longest-serving son can continue. Retirement beckons, but whether that's in '10, or '11, or via the friendly side route of World Superbikes remains to be seen.
|Chris Vermeulen||Contract through 2009|
Chris Vermeulen's position at Suzuki was looking decidedly shaky, at least until two podiums in a row put some firm ground under his feet. But with one of those podiums coming in the wet and the other at Laguna Seca, his best track by a long way, a prolongation with Suzuki was not entirely certain. Vermeulen reportedly fell short of a performance clause at Laguna Seca which would have brought him an automatic extension, and since Laguna, he has been engaged in haggling between himself, the team and Suzuki, about the size of his wage packet.
The deal was finally done after Misano, and announced after the Misano MotoGP round, together with Capirossi's deal being announced. Like Capirossi's deal, Vermeulen's was just for one year. Vermeulen was praised for his development and progress, and this will have to continue if Vermeulen is to remain in MotoGP for another year.
At the beginning of the year, Ben Spies looked almost certain to make the jump into MotoGP, but as the season has progressed, that possibility has looked less and less likely. Spies reportedly wants $2 million a year to ride, which is a hefty wage demand for a rookie, and a sum he can certainly forget about in his first year of MotoGP. Spies' wage demands point out both the extreme wealth of the AMA series, despite the paucity of competition, and the relative lack of money in MotoGP and other international series.
With Spies getting no joy at Suzuki, and American Honda terrified by the prospect of Nicky Hayden being, in effect, forced out of the Repsol Honda team, Honda may still want an American aboard a Honda. However, rumors that American Honda would pick up Spies' wage tab have been officially denied, so the cash would have to come from elsewhere. Or Spies will have to take a pay cut.
If MotoGP is a washout, Spies will be welcomed with open arms in World Superbikes.
|Alex de Angelis|
The seats at Gresini Honda are being hotly contested. Alex de Angelis is still being courted, as he is both fast and Italian, helping in finding sponsors, but doubts remain about his propensity to head into the gravel at every opportunity. Reports from Italy are emerging that de Angelis has been signed, after Melandri and Elias declined. Shinya Nakano is having a slightly better than expected season in MotoGP, but it may not be good enough. The Japanese rider could be heading back to Japan to replace the aging Tady Okada as Honda's test rider.
Gresini was reportedly also close to signing Chris Vermeulen, but Vermeulen chose to stay with Suzuki at the end, as Gresini could not guarantee the level of factory support the team would get from HRC. Vermeulen wanted the same spec Honda RC212V as Dani Pedrosa, but the Spaniard, his manager and his sponsor Repsol have too tight a grip over the factory Honda garage to allow that to happen.
Despite earlier reports, Marco Simoncelli will be staying in the 250 class.
|Mika Kallio||Unsigned||Although Alvaro Bautista may have been the 250 world champion in waiting before the start of the season, he has long been overtaken by two other young chargers. The Italian Marco Simoncelli, currently leading the championship, and the Fin Mika Kallio have both been made offers by Livio Suppo of Ducati to ride for the satellite Alice Ducati team, which is being transformed into the Junior Ducati team, a feat that Ducati have learned from Ferrari. Simoncelli will be staying in the 250 class, for another year, and so has been ruled out of contention. Kallio is willing, as his star is starting to wane inside the KTM team, as KTM become ever more impatient to win a world title.|
|Niccolo Canepa / Toni Elias||Unsigned|
It is absolutely certain that Niccolo Canepa will be racing a Ducati next year. The only question is, which one, and in which series? Canepa is looking a strong candidate for the Alice Ducati MotoGP team, after setting some impressive times in testing. But the former FIM Superstock 1000 champion has also had a couple of very good outings on the 1098R for the Xerox Ducati World Superbike squad. A decision will be made based on Canepa's form, and his maturity. There is a small chance that Canepa will be sent to the 250 class to learn the circuits first, but as that would put him on an Aprilia, owned by the other big Italian motorcycle conglomerate, that presents a number of difficult hurdles.
After two podiums in a row, Toni Elias is back in the frame with Alice Ducati. The team manager Paolo Campinotti is said to have asked Elias to stay, but no news has yet emerged of a definite deal being done.
|Unknown / Randy de Puniet||Unsigned||The most cash-stricken team in the paddock are likely to be back next year, and are close to renewing with Randy de Puniet. De Puniet keeps showing he is capable of being very fast, but then keeps ruining it by crashing. The Flying Frenchman may be back for 2009, but until he can stay on the bike, his future will continue to be uncertain.|
Being on a 250cc Honda may guarantee that you won't become world champion in the class, but so far, it does seem to guarantee that you will get a ride in MotoGP. Being forced to wring the last drop of performance from a clearly underpowered bike teaches a rider a lot about maintaining speed wherever possible, and makes a great showcase for riders prepared to try and outride the bike. It got Andrea Dovizioso his ride in the MotoGP class, and it looks like doing the same to the man who took his seat, Yuki Takahashi. Takahashi is having a good year in 250s, despite being on the underpowered Honda, and with Dovi likely to move on to Repsol, there should be a seat vacant.
That does beg the question of who gets the Honda RC212V from the Team Scot / JiR divorce which was announced earlier this year. Team Scot are clearly the more effective part of the partnership, but Luca Montiron of JiR formally holds the start licence. In the end, the decision will be made by HRC. If they stump up another bike, then both teams get to stay. Otherwise, it will be up to HRC to decide who to bless with a bike, and who to leave out in the cold.
|Alex de Angelis / Ben Spies||Unsigned||See above as to why there might not be a JiR team in MotoGP next year, depending on what HRC decides. But team owner Luca Montiron is insisting he has a sponsor and a bike, and will have a top rider to put on the bike. Alex de Angelis and Ben Spies are being named, though at the moment, Spies is being linked to any empty seat which comes up. Montiron even claimed that he was talking to Nicky Hayden about riding the bike, an unlikely state of affairs considering the current relations between Hayden and HRC, and considering Hayden's keenness to stay on board a factory bike.|
First a Suzuki, then a Ducati, then maybe a Yamaha. Jorge Aspar Martinez has been round almost every manufacturer in his quest to field a team in MotoGP, but after being turned down by almost everyone, he has finally reached an - as yet unofficial - agreement with Kawasaki.
As for the rider, whoever it is, it is likely to be a Spaniard, as Aspar will have a Spanish title sponsor, and will need a rider for the sponsor to use in their home market. Alvaro Bautista looked like being the most likely candidate to join the team, but the Spaniard announced at Misano that he will be staying in 250s for one more season, to attempt to win the championship. This clears the way for either Toni Elias or Sete Gibernau. Elias allegedly has offers of a ride in World Superbikes, reports which he has categorically denied, but the popular Spaniard wants to stay in MotoGP. In fact, Spanish TV reported at Misano that Elias was very close to a deal with Kawasaki to ride the third bike, and Aspar has confirmed that they are in talks with Elias.
|Onde 2000 Ducati|
|Sete Gibernau||Reportedly signed|
After test riding for Ducati, Sete Gibernau looked certain to take Melandri's place until the end of the year, with maybe another year with the factory team to follow. But since the Hayden-Ducati deal has almost been finalized, Gibernau had reportedly been offered a ride on the satellite Alice team. The problem Gibernau had was one of money, a problem which is now supposedly solved, by the intervention of the Onde 2000 team. Onde 2000 currently run 2 bikes in the 125 class, but the owner of the construction company running the team is reported to have stumped up the cash to run Sete Gibernau on a 5th bike. No official announcement has been made yet, but this is being reported by multiple sources.
Riders in bold have signed and confirmed contracts.
Updated September 4th, 2008