MotoGP organizers are re-opening discussion for the series’ rookie rule which prevents new riders from entering the series with factory teams.
Introduced following the 2009 MotoGP season, the rule was designed to give satellite teams the chance to field young up-and-coming talents they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to sign. The theory was the rule would protect the satellite teams and spread out the talent pool.
The rule came into effect the same time Ben Spies made the jump to MotoGP after winning the 2009 World Superbike Championship, leading some to call it the “Ben Spies Rule”. Instead of joining a factory team right away, Spies spent the 2010 season with the Tech3 Yamaha squad before joining the factory Yamaha team the following season.
Other riders affected by the rule include 2009 250cc Champion Hiroshi Aoyama, 2011 Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl and the late Marco Simoncelli. The lone exception was Alvaro Bautista who was allowed to join the factory Rizla Suzuki team. That exception was made in part to convince Suzuki to remain in the series, and because there were no satellite Suzuki teams.
So why re-visit the rule now?
The easy answer is the rising star that is Marc Marquez. The young Spaniard currently leads the Moto2 championship after finishing second last season. Marquez could have won the 2011 Moto2 title had he not missed the last two rounds. Marquez also won the 2010 125cc Grand Prix championship, and has totaled 19 wins and another six podiums in 38 races in the junior classes over the last three years.
Marquez is ready to move up to the premiere class in 2013 and he carries sponsorship from oil company Repsol, which also happens to be the title sponsor for Honda‘s factory team. Repsol would obviously love to have Marquez join the Honda factory team next year but the rookie rule blocks that opportunity. Honda certainly wouldn’t want the “Next Big Thing” to jump to a different manufacturer or a CRT entry, and the Gresini Honda and LCR Honda satellite teams already have sponsorship deals with Repsol’s competitors in the oil industry.
But Marquez isn’t the only reason for opening the rule, insists Dorna Chief Executive Officer Carmelo Ezpeleta. The MotoGP promoter says circumstances have changed that make the reason for the rookie rule to become less important.
The new Claiming Rule Team category has changed the playing field and may eventually replace satellite teams altogether. Gresini Honda, for one, is fielding two entries this year with Bautista riding a Honda RC213V prototype and Michel Pirro riding a Honda-powered FTR bike as a CRT entry.
Ezpeleta also says the satellite teams are in favor of dropping the rookie rule as it would help them retain their existing riders, while factory teams are also likely to prefer having immediate access to new, young talent like Marquez.
At this point, Dorna, the Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association and the International Road-Racing Teams Association all seem in favor of scrapping the rookie rule, but there will likely be some negotiations between the various parties before the rule is amended.
[Source: MotoGP, photos by GEPA Pictures]