I’m enjoying this silly season from a safe distance. It’s a difficult one for any journalist, what you know to be true at 11 o’clock may very well be complete cobblers by 12.30pm. All of us have been assured by various riders, but more usually their managers, that a deal is done, 100% certain, only to find out an hour after you’ve broadcast it you are a liar. I had just tweeted that Jorge Lorenzo to Honda would not happen because there isn’t a bike on the grid that suits him less. Now it looks like it’s a done deal. How did that happen?
I would assume a truck load of money, the sort of folding that Suzuki don’t have, coupled with the fact that Yamaha can’t guarantee anything about their satellite bikes yet. The implosion of the Marc VDS team just as it looked as if the deal was done for them to become the new satellite Yamaha team has really forced the issue. Who can afford to run two Yamahas? Maybe the Sepang International Circuit whose representatives have been dropping heavy hints. But if you were Jorge, would you trust a brand new team that hasn’t secured any grid slots yet? Probably not and all of a sudden Jorge saw Honda was the only option once he’d decided to leave Ducati. After all, most doors appear to have closed. Jorge and MM93 in the same team; what could possibly go wrong? I’m making a list, I may be some time.
In among all the shrieking and posturing of this silly season, many people have overlooked one small fact. What is the job of a team manager? I’ll tell you what it isn’t: it isn’t to sign someone who’s quite good, a nice bloke, or someone from the country you live in; it’s to find the next world champion. So what do you do this year? First, you accept the fact that Marc Marquez is likely to win as many championships as he wants before he gets bored. You need to find a young talent who hasn’t shown any weaknesses, preferably one the opposition have moaned about. As Jerry Burgess used to say, every time I hear a young rider described as ‘dangerous,’ my ears prick up. West Coast speedway folk with long memories may remember that the young Billy Hamill attracted that description. He went on to be world champion. There has to be intelligence, an ability to learn, and the desire to win, which usually means dealing with injury and coming back stronger. Right now, no-one fits that description better than Joan Mir who won the Moto3 title last year and took precisely one race to learn how to ride a Moto2 bike. If you watched the Moto2 race last weekend you saw him get on the podium for the second time this year in a ferocious fight with Miguel Oliveira, Pecco Bagnaia and Lorenzo Baldassarri, the top three in the championship. It is no coincidence that the first two are already signed up for MotoGP next year, for KTM and Ducati’s satellite teams, respectively. “Iron Balda,” like Pecco a product of the VR-46 Academy, has taken a little longer than the others to shine but is putting together a consistent year and is on the radar of various MotoGP teams. Like Maverick Vinales, Mir has no intention of hanging around in Moto2 for more than a season. He will have a comparatively pressure-free first year on Suzuki as Alex Rins takes on the mantle of team leader in his third year. My bet is on a very rapid Vinales-like ascent to MotoGP podium pace. Oliveira and Bagnaia will only be fractionally slower. Both have shown themselves able to win on machinery that shouldn’t have got them to the top box, and happily both happen to be exceptionally decent human beings. As Andrea Iannone has shown at both Ducati and Suzuki, you can only be a horse’s ass if you are winning.