Unpredictable races and rider transfer news drives excitement
Joe Jones, Account & Event Marketing Coordinator
2018 is proving to be another dramatic season for MotoGP; a variety of winners, big drama and hot off the press transfer news has kept fans and pundits hyper engaged. After the initial run of races, Marc Marquez has once again come to be the dominant rider but the stories of Yamaha’s struggles, Lorenzo’s improvements on Ducati and the constant threat of the satellite riders reaching the podium steps have made every race unpredictable. Despite a DNF in Mugello, Marquez enters the mid-point of the season as the clear favourite with only Andrea Dovizioso realistically able to challenge him for the championship this year. Races remain close and hard to predict, drawing fans in, even though the title is won.
Perhaps the biggest story of 2018 is how early the rider market has opened, and subsequently closed. In years past, ‘silly season’ rumours of rider changes would only just be beginning but in 2018 the market is already closed for the top seats. Movistar Yamaha will remain unchanged with Rossi and Vinales in 2019 and 2020, both riders signed before the start of the season and before all their trials and tribulations of the 2018 campaign began. Despite winning in Mugello, Jorge Lorenzo will leave Ducati and be replaced by Danilo Petrucci, with Andrea Dovizioso staying with the Bologna based Ducati Corse team.
Lorenzo’s Ducati departure was followed up by a shock switch to Repsol Honda last week where he will join the current man to beat, Marc Marquez. This is the strongest Repsol Honda team in history and perhaps the strongest team since the Team Agostini and Roberts days of the 500cc’s in the early 80’s. Lorenzo and Marquez have secured every MotoGP title since Casey Stoner and have won the majority of races between them.
Suzuki will keep Alex Rins, however Joan Mir will step up alongside him after just one season of Moto2. Mir emerged as the next big thing in grand prix racing when he won the Moto3 title in his second year in the category – claiming 10 wins along the way, the best lightweight-class tally since Marc Marquez's 125cc title run seven years prior.
This forces the experienced Andrea Iannone to Aprilia to ride alongside Aleix Espargaro. KTM managed to grab one of the hottest properties in racing, Johann Zarco, at the end of 2017 but only announced the deal at the beginning of 2018. He will be joined by Pol Espargaro.
Dani Pedrosa, Bradley Smith and Scott Redding all look to be without rides in 2019 but both the MotoE and rumoured Petronas Yamaha team offer refuge. The Petronas Yamaha Team has potential, looking most likely to use the grid slots of Marc VDS after their dramatic start to 2018, or partner with the Angel Nieto/Aspar team. Dani Pedrosa remains a prime candidate for this position and the Petronas team is probably the biggest sponsorship opportunity on the horizon for 2019 and beyond, with a big budget and clear ambition to succeed in MotoGP.
The official sponsor list for MotoGP includes global heavyweights such as Tissot, Michelin, BMW, Singha beer and DHL; whilst the likes of Red Bull, Oakley, Motul, GoPro, Shell and Movistar hold grand prix title sponsorships.
MotoE is also knocking on the door for 2019, and could prove to be an exciting sponsorship platform with big riders are on the cusp of signing on to compete in the new electric racing series. Dorna have already done a great job of building interest via a number of high profile rider laps at MotoGP races, showcasing how the two series could work in tandem. And as it stands, Enel currently look to be the sponsor for the class with each satellite team and some Moto2/3 teams each planning to run a bike in the series.
Another point to mention is Red Bull’s reward to both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa’s continued success. The Spaniard completed 43 laps, behind the wheel of a 2012 Red Bull/Toro Rosso F1 car in a recent test at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. It was a promotional exercise for the forthcoming F1 and MotoGP races at the Austrian circuit, but is this something we are set to see in the future, a cross over between athletes on four and two wheels? Certainly if any brand could influence this dynamic, the Salzburg-based Power house that is Red Bull GmbH are the likely candidates.
Single race sponsorship is on the rise as stakeholders look for more flexible, localised partnerships, emulating the success that LCR Castrol Honda have realised in recent years; through team title sponsorship, and single race sponsorship with bespoke liveries. Currently the Aspar/Angel Nieto team are following in Castrol’s footsteps with great success. Whilst Monster Yamaha Tech 3 have leveraged Johann Zarco’s in-market profile to establish a one-off sponsorship for the French GP.
Overall, it’s an exciting time in the premier class of bike racing. Rider moves and the prospect of rider transitions into MotoE all look to try and turn the championship on its head; but will it be the formidable force of Marquez and the Repsol Honda Team to take home his fifth championship?
With MotoGP maintaining an exciting pace of change alongside a blossoming MotoE series, it’s an attractive sponsorship landscape in 2-wheel racing and sustainable motorsport.