Silly Season & MotoGP Rookie Rule Repeal

June 21, 2012
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

Another piece of the MotoGP Silly Season puzzle appears to have fallen into place, with an expected repeal of the MotoGP Rookie Rule for 2013. Eliminating the rule, which restricts MotoGP rookies from campaigning on a factory squad, now opens the way for Moto 2 star Marc Marquez to move directly to the Repsol Honda team next year.

Marc Marquez is expected to jump up to MotoGP  and can head straight to the Repsol Honda seat if the Rookie Rule is repealed.
Marc Marquez is expected to jump up to MotoGP straight to Repsol Honda, provided the Rookie Rule is repealed.

The 2013 rider shuffle was already expected to be contentious entering the 2012 season, with all the major stars in the final years of their contracts. Then at the French Grand Prix reigning MotoGP champion Casey Stoner announced his decision to retire at the end of the season, opening up a coveted seat on the factory Repsol team. Touted as a MotoGP heir apparent, Marquez’s move up to the premier class with his long-time Repsol sponsors was expected, but complicated by the Rookie Rule.

Plans to eliminate the rule emerged earlier this week, with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta confirming that the MSMA (Motorcycle Sports Manufacturers Association) first suggested the move. A statement released on the MotoGP website June 19th, explains that “after further rallying by the MSMA and numerous talks between Dorna and the satellite teams, a joint proposal has been put forward to the Grand Prix Commission to scrap the Rookie Rule for next year.”

While agreed in principle the ruling still requires “final approval by the Grand Prix Commission” – which is comprised of Dorna, FIM, MSMA and International Road Racing Teams Association (IRTA).

The rule change hasn’t gone unnoticed by Yamaha Factory rider Ben Spies. The American was the first affected by the Rookie Rule. After his 2009 World Superbike title-winning season with Yamaha, Spies burned a year campaigning the Tech 3 satellite in 2010 before graduating up to the factory seat in 2011. Spies vented his opinion via Twitter (@BenSpies11), mentioning fellow Texan Colin Edwards in his Tweet:

“Heard the rookie rule is being changed back again……@texastornado5 sometimes I guess we need a diff passport?” Spies followed that Tweet with another, saying: “Not hating on Marquez at all. The kid is fast. I’m just stating facts that no matter where ur from in shouldn’t hinder or help u.” 

Edwards responded by Tweeting: “@BenSpies11 Complete joke!!!! No wonder Casey has lost his passion when u see all cards stacked against ya….ridiculous!!”

The rule change and Marquez’s probable call-up to the Repsol squad come on the heels of the other recent big news in the Silly season shuffle – Jorge Lorenzo inking a two-year extension with Yamaha. There was speculation that Lorenzo might accept an offer to fill Stoner’s HRC seat in 2013, but now it appears both those two factory spots are sorted out.

The remaining factory seat at Yamaha and Honda will have several candidates. Dani Pedrosa could anchor an all-Spanish Repsol Honda squad, if he retains his long-time position at HRC. The second Factory Yamaha has Spies fighting for his job against the Tech 3 duo of Andrea Dovizioso (a former Repsol rider) and Cal Crutchlow. The English rider, in particular, has impressed in the opening rounds, outperforming all but Lorenzo in the Yamaha camp.

Crutchlow claims to be gunning for the Factory Yamaha seat, but is also on the record stating he’s not afraid of pursuing a factory ride with Ducati. After Catalunya the former World Supersport Champion admitted to our MotoGP Insider that much hinges on the decisions of Valentino Rossi and the then un-signed Lorenzo. “It is not at the back of my mind but nothing will happen for two months. Until the best two in the world behind Casey know what they are doing, like Jorge and Valentino, then I can’t make a decision.”

So the next major move in the Silly Season shuffle will come from Rossi. The Doctor’s first season and a half with Ducati have proven disastrous, leading to various rumors regarding his future. Linked to both the Yamaha and Honda factory seats, some speculate that Rossi may attempt to secure his own sponsorship and charter a one-man effort with one of the Japanese manufacturers. For his part, Rossi claims to be waiting until at least Laguna Seca, where Ducati will reveal a new engine spec, before making any decisions about 2013 and beyond.