Courtesy of Sharon Cox
Who wins when riders switch Brands/Teams in MotoGP and Moto2? Professional along with personal decisions form basis of riders changing bike seats as has been the past with 6x Grand Prix World Champion Marc Marquez gaining his first podium on board Respol KTM 125cc in 2008 to current move of Red Bull KTM Factory rider Pol Espargaro shift to Respol Honda in 2021.
For sure, no-one predicted Marquez rise to fame claiming 6x GP Championships: 2013, ‘014, ‘016, ‘017, ‘018 and ‘019, nor that Espargaro who has worked tirelessly shaping the improved bike performance with KTM over past 4 years would take a pass and focus on new set-up with Honda’s leading rider Marquez.
One thing for certain, riders, racers and drivers have always remained open for contractual agreements with Brands to race while at same time Motorsport Factory Brands have taken every opportunity to gain leverage against competition by attaining riders capable of achieving best possible results on the track.
How does this all play out in real-time? Does money lure prospect riders to make move from Brand and Team set-up that took each on board to race and further their career? Or, does the actual pull of seeking improved match between rider potential and Brand/bike capabilities push riders out with the consequence of enabling other riders in?
If game of push-pull breaks status-quo the likes of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso departure has created vacant space for ?!! All of which emphasizes a concertina affect that exists – case in point of Moto2 rider Jorge Martin signing with Pramac Ducati MotoGP- consequence of seat left vacant by Jack Miller who shifts up to Ducati Factory next year.
Rider-Brand-Team changes aside, how secure are Brands established programmes such as Red Bull Rookies whose premise rests on nurturing young talented riders through-out tier system of Red Bull Rookies Cup, to Moto3, Moto2 and the latter MotoGP? KTM made commitment way back in 2007 providing bikes from 125cc 2-stroke through to RC 250R from 2012> which in turn has formed basis of supported rider development through the ranks.
Successful partnerships exist with ex Red Bull Rookies/KTM riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira taking Moto2 and first MotoGP podiums for the Austrian Brand. Equally, the programme’s protégé Johann Zarco made the leap to MotoGP in 2017, then left KTM mid-season in ‘019 along with Spanish rider Joan Mir whose elevation after Red Bull Rookies to MotoGP in ‘018 has been with Team Suzuki Ecstar.
All of which begs the question: why provide financial support, technical knowledge, once-in-life-time opportunities to selection of young, talented riders to learn, experience, train and race under world-class structure when rider’s have the option further down career path to race for whoever they like when results come in?
To answer, riders and Brands work hand-in-hand: neither can do without the other and MotoGP organizers can not do anything without both. The whole premise around racing is the unknown, factoring in what-could-happen, rather than pigeon-hole riders and Brands within restrictive boundaries which stifle competition. As stated by Pol Espargaro when asked about the prospect of leaving KTM for Honda: ‘”I’ll tell you next year because right now I have no idea…next year is next year”‘.
Photo Header: Marc Marquez Respol KTM 125 2008.