The biggest player remaining in the MotoGP and World Superbike Silly Season isn't a rider - it's Aprilia Racing boss Gigi Dall'Igna.
Smoke-filled reports continue to indicate there's a growing fire behind the rumor suggesting Dall'Igna will leave Aprilia for THE iconic Italian motorcycle marque - Ducati - to run Ducati's race team, largely as a replacement for the fired Filippo Preziosi.
Dall'Igna is leaning toward Ducati, reports suggest, because he is afraid Aprilia won't spend enough money to develop its MotoGP machine. The manufacturer is caught in a commitment purgatory in Grand Prix racing. It has invested into and dominated the production-based Claiming Rules Team concept and is willing to build something approaching a "customer" machine for 2014, with pneumatic valves and seamless shifting. But Aprilia apparently isn't willing to dive headfirst into full works status to compete against heavyweights Honda, Yamaha and Ducati.
The ramifications of Dall'Igna's decision loom large in the MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks.
American Nick Hayden may be getting rope burns in the tug-of-love between Aprilia and Ducati over Dall'Igna.
2006 World Champion Hayden was believed to be all but signed, sealed and delivered to ride the upgraded "customer" Aprilia next season in MotoGP for Aspar after 11 consecutive seasons as a factory Grand Prix rider. Hayden reportedly was excited about working on the Aprilia project with Dall'Igna, a longtime friend of Aspar boss Jorge "Aspar" Martinez.
But then Ducati threw an open checkbook and the ability to hire new engineers and fire existing engineers at Dall'Igna, who reportedly declined the first offer from Ducati because owner Audi didn't give him the right to clean house on Borgo Panigale.
"I want to improve my team on and achieve success," Martinez said to Italian media. "From the economic point of view, we could remain like this season, but when Gigi leaves Aprilia, then I will no longer cooperate with ART because I've known Dall'Igna since 1995, and he would go, although he guaranteed the development of the (Aprilia) RSV4."
So if Dall'Igna heads to Ducati, Martinez has suggested that he again will take a very strong look at the production Honda bike he was considering earlier this year. Martinez also said his long friendship with Dall'Igna could cause Aspar to evaluate the competitiveness of a Ducati customer bike, too.
Hayden probably wants no part of a Ducati after a nightmarish five seasons with the factory team. But he would be interested in a production Honda, the manufacturer with which he won the world title in 2006. And Honda and HRC reportedly are in the mix to try to provide the machinery and money needed to bring Hayden back into the Honda family.
The biggest pawn in this game of wits, euros and machines is time. It's not May or June; it's October. Budgets must be completed. Sponsors must be signed. Technical packages must be secured. Now.
Dall'Igna also is casting a large shadow on a major team in World Superbike.
Alstare Ducati are rumored to be on the brink of ending its deal with Ducati a year early due to the at times disastrous performance of the Panigale this season in WSBK. Alstare owner Francois Batta, whose outfit was long associated with Suzuki, hasn't been afraid to show his frustration with the Boys from Bologna in public this season. It's also known Batta is facing health issues.
But an Italian media outlet reported that Batta could stay with Ducati if Dall'Igna became the head of the marque's racing operation, such is the respect for Dall'Igna in the WSBK paddock.