With Suzuki leaving MotoGP at the end of this season, the premier class drops from 24 to 22 grid places. While Andrea Dovizioso, the oldest driver on the grid, has signaled he won’t be returning for 2023, it looks like at least one of the current rookies could also be forced out.
With Iker Lecuona, still just 22, now impressing in WorldSBK after being left without a MotoGP seat at the end of last season, podcast host Harry Benjamin asked Huewen and crash.net MotoGP editor Pete McLaren if MotoGP now has a problem finding space for young talent.
“Dorna has done all the formulas, or all the ladders, that lead us to MotoGP,” said former British champion and Grand Prix rider Huewen.
“But as all the talent starts to drift, it’s creating a bottleneck like we’ve never had before, which is going to make it difficult for the driver market. Where are you putting all the young talent?
“Dorna has another great product in World Superbike as well as MotoGP, but to try and bring another top class into the fray – or somewhere like MotoAmerica, for guys to slide to the side when there’s no place in MotoGP or World Superbikes – will not be commercially viable at this time.
“What all of this means is that it’s going to change people faster at the top of MotoGP. Rins might not have had a second chance at LCR if the market had been a bit further down the road. Like it happened to Iker Lecuona, to whom you keep telling us about Harry!
“Rightly, by the way, I think Iker Lecuona had some real stick shit to be honest. He was dropped a little too quickly for his talent, which was a shame, but I can see that happening more.
Keith Huewen: If Toprak doesn’t go to MotoGP? It should be illegal!
And what about WorldSBK champion Toprak Razgatlioglu, who is currently trying to break into MotoGP?
“Toprak is one of the great talents that almost everyone wants to see in MotoGP,” McLaren said. “His manager Kenan Sofuoglu has made it clear that only a factory team will do, so he remains in WorldSBK for 2023. But in terms of factory MotoGP racing there won’t be many opportunities either. for 2024, simply because most drivers will be on two-year deals.
“The only big chance will be to succeed Franco Morbidelli at Yamaha, whose contract expires at the end of next year. So it will probably be Yamaha or nothing, I think, for Toprak in MotoGP in 2024.”
Huewen added: “How shameful will it really be if Toprak doesn’t go to MotoGP? It should be illegal!
“I just can’t imagine not seeing Toprak in MotoGP at some point. We’ll all feel cheated if he doesn’t make it to MotoGP. I’ll do it anyway.
“I think he has a great personality. The way he handles on and off the track is brilliant.
“And missing out on that talent in the premier class would seem so wrong, in my opinion.”
Keith Huewen: ‘Rins will thrive’ at LCR Honda
About Rins’ new contract, Huewen said: “Lucio Cecchinello is a very, very good guy. An ex-rider. Superb rider at the time. Maybe Alex Rins needs someone like him around. We will see. Personalities matter in a team. That’s what’s going to bring out the best in him.
“Rins obviously has huge talent, but he’s made quite a few unforced errors in the past. He solves those problems and it’s all north of the brows.
“Lucio is a really good guy and I think they will work well together. So I think it’s a good move, for both of them.
“Has Nakagami underperformed in recent years? Rins is also going to prove it somehow, which for me is also the interesting part.
“But I think he will thrive in the LCR. I really do.”
For McLaren, the nature of the two-year deal, and in particular the latest specification of the machines, appear to have been crucial factors for Rins:
“It’s always a challenge to change bikes. You never really know how it will turn out. But he has no choice, he has to move, Suzuki is disappearing.
“MotoGP riders usually look for three main things in a new contract, apart from money: the last bike, at least a two-year contract and ideally a place in the factory team. the last part, but he has the other two and I think that’s probably why he signed on the dotted line for LCR.
“He had other options but it seems they didn’t involve having the latest bike and that was the real draw for him to switch to Honda.
“Now Rins has to take inspiration from Dovi, who lost his factory seat (Honda) in 2011, joined a satellite team (Tech3 Yamaha) the following year, did a great job, which allowed him to bounce back with a return to a factory team and the best years of his career at Ducati.
“Rins can also draw inspiration from the performances of Cal Crutchlow, who scored podiums and victories for LCR not too long ago.
“It’s going to be interesting, will Rins thrive in a different environment?” Now as a satellite rider and without all the factory engineers, having only ever ridden for Suzuki since joining MotoGP.
“It’s a big step for Rins and let’s see what he can do in November when he gets on this bike for the first time at Valencia testing.”
Questions from listeners include which manufacturer looks stronger heading into the second half of the season and whether Miguel Oliveira should choose RNF Aprilia or Tech3 KTM for 2022.
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