In MotoGP at current, every manufacturer who has a satellite team has 2020 machines and riders on Factory contract, yet this seemingly obvious move has only become the reality in the past 2 years.
Ducati were the first to see the potential in this move, offering Pramac riders a contract with the factory and not the team with current machinery instead of last years bikes. This gave Ducati the option to place riders where they like in order to stave off interest from rival factories, and offering riders a fast track route to a top seat. This was a good compromise if there was not yet room on the red machine, as you would have current machinery at your disposal, and the riders on the Factory bikes would know they had to perform, as there was someone on an equivalent bike looking to take their seat.
It wasn’t always this way in MotoGP, and Yamaha proved the need for current machinery the most, when Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal broke off a 20 year association with the Iwata concern to join forces with KTM in 2019, the lure of being given truly equal spec machinery to the Factory squad proving too much. Yamaha then reacted by providing a 2019 bike to Franco Morbidelli in the newly-formed Petronas squad, while leaving the rookie Fabio Quartararo on a 2018 spec machine. Now, both riders are on a 2020 bike alongside the Factory squad, and both have won at least one each race so far.
We look back to 2018. Danilo Petrucci had gained a Ducati GP18 while in the Pramac squad, an unprecedented move as usually the customer/satellite teams got the previous years equipment, or in Avintia’s case, two-year old machinery. Petrucci was given the tools he needed to prove himself worthy of a move to the Factory seat, and he performed extremely well to become the man who would replace the outgoing Jorge Lorenzo. He would then take one further step in 2019, cementing his name into the history books as a MotoGP winner after his Mugello triumph. All the while in 2018, Jack Miller was sat on the other side of the Pramac garage on a GP17, and knowing the precedent had now been set, he negotiated a GP19 for the 2019 season while remaining at Pramac on a Ducati contract, with the knowledge that being promoted from within was a realistic goal. The goal was then achieved early in the delayed 2020 season, with Miller getting the red bike he had so craved for 2021.
Jack Miller aboard a Ducati GP17 at Sepang 2018, not current machinery at the time.
To further hit home the point, it seems Miller’s team mate this season under the Pramac awning will also join him in stepping up, with Francesco Bagnaia the hot favourite to take the coveted second seat over Johann Zarco. Zarco should end up at Pramac on a 2021 (though still 2020 spec machine after the development freeze due to Covid-19) spec bike, after campaigning a GP19 this season, with some stand out moments so far including pole and a podium at Brno.
Looking at the state of affairs in MotoGP at current, it seems incredible that factories were reluctant to provide current spec machinery to anyone other than their own squad, with exactly half the 8 race wins being taken by ‘junior’ teams pre-Catalunya. Yamaha and KTM are the only factories to boast a win for both their full-fat and supported squads so far. They should all be thanking Ducati, and their attitude of providing good machines to riders who deserve them, whether they are riding in the Factory colours or not.
Featured image- www.motogp.com