With only two (possibly three) satellite teams left to announce rider choices for the next Moto GP season, the rider market looks pretty well set for 2010. However, next season about this time should feature a serious display of brinkmanship, arguments, and over-the-top rhetoric, as the four riders generally agreed to be the best in the biz at the moment — Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, and Dani Pedrosa — will all be at the end of their current contracts, and the latter three are all at least moderately dissatisfied with their lot at the moment.
Also at the end of a contract will be the Honda/Repsol sponsorship deal. Repsol (a Spanish oil conglomerate) has just re-signed for one season (a change in itself; it’s always been a two-year deal in the past) so the pressure is on Honda to produce a killer bike and top results in 2010 or risk losing their long-time premium sponsor.
This season’s final big piece of the rider puzzle came October 1, when Yamaha and Ben Spies jointly announced that the Texan will be joining Herve Poncharal’s Tech 3 satellite Yamaha team, displacing James Toseland. The teams at the moment look like this:
Fiat Yamaha: Valentino Rossi (Italy) and Jorge Lorenzo (Spain)
Tech 3 Yamaha: Colin Edwards (US) and Ben Spies (US)
Marlboro Ducati: Casey Stoner (Australia) and Nicky Hayden (US)
FIN Pramac Ducati: Mika Kallio (Finland)
SPA Aspar Ducati: Hector Barbera (Spain)
Repsol Honda: Dani Pedrosa (Spain) and Andrea Dovizioso (Italy)
San Carlo Gresini Honda: Marco Melandri (Italy) and Marco Simoncelli (San Marino)
LCR Honda: Randy de Puniet (France)
Rizla Suzuki: Loris Capirossi (Italy) and Alvaro Bautista (Spain)
Spies, Barbera, Simoncelli, and Bautista are all new to the series, although none are what you’d call "rookies," with various national and international titles to their joint credit.
Team Scot Honda has yet to announce a rider, Pramac Ducati is expected to have a second rider beside Kallio, and a third potential Ducati satellite team, FB Corse, is still trying to get itself organized. Best case, that would be a 18-rider field, still on the thin side for the world’s premier racing series.
World Superbike, at the moment, is a mess. The Ducati team has confirmed that Nori Haga and Michel Fabrizio will be back, but everything else is up in the air, including what teams will be involved. Sponsors are leaving, at least one top new team (Stiggy Honda) looks likely to fold its superbike entry, and riders are scrambling to find seats.
James Toseland will switch back to WSBK to take the Yamaha seat vacated by Spies. Good for Yamaha whichever way you look at it.