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Analysis
MotoGP Catalan GP

Why Bezzecchi shunned a factory MotoGP bike for Valentino Rossi's dream team

Marco Bezzecchi has opened up on his decision to shun a factory-spec Ducati MotoGP bike for 2024 to remain with Valentino Rossi’s squad.

Marco Bezzecchi, VR46 Racing Team

The double grand prix winner has been a key piece in the 2024 rider market puzzle, with Bezzecchi linked to the Pramac seat vacated by LCR Honda-bound Johann Zarco.

Ducati made it clear from the start that Bezzecchi's only chance of riding a factory-spec GP24 next season would be to join Pramac, with VR46 Racing remaining with year-old machinery.

Over the Austrian GP weekend, it emerged that Rossi had been pushing Bezzecchi to stay with VR46, which ultimately came to pass as the Italian penned a one-year extension earlier this week.

Ahead of this weekend's Catalan GP, Bezzecchi has explained that the decision was not easy but holding onto the "human side" he currently has at VR46 was more important, regardless of the fact he will not have a factory bike in 2024.

"It was not an easy decision because, when you have the possibility to get a factory bike, it's always very interesting," Bezzecchi began.

"But, to be honest, from my point of view, the human side of the team was very important to me.

"I built up a relationship over many years with these guys that for me is something very, very important to perform in this way.

"I was not sure that I was able to build such a strong relationship with another team in not a lot of time, because now in MotoGP we have to perform very quickly.

"So, for me, it was a bit easier to decide to stay in this team. Also, to see Vale so interested in me, pushing me to stay, for me was very important because in the end Vale is Vale and he has believed in me since many years ago. Without him it was not possible to arrive in the world championship. So, I decided to stay."

Bezzecchi has considered the bigger picture before putting pen to paper on VR46 deal

Bezzecchi has considered the bigger picture before putting pen to paper on VR46 deal

Photo by: Media VR46

Bezzecchi added that is not worried about the level of support he will receive from Ducati in 2024, noting that "the support from them is fantastic, they try to help us always, try to give us the best advice and work with us to the last minute before the race to try to improve in the best way".

His decision to prioritise the human side was welcomed by reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia, who noted: "We spoke about it and my suggestion was to follow being in the same team, because I more or less need the same thing as Bez needs, which is the human side.

"When you feel well and feel fine with your team, also if you have a competitive bike but older you can fight for the top positions.

"We could clearly see that when Marco Simoncelli won [the 250cc title] in 2008, they removed the factory bike from him but he still won, because the human side for him was more important. And for me this was the good thing for him."

The human aspect of racing was a key pillar in Rossi's success in MotoGP over his 26-year career, while - until recently – the same was true for Marc Marquez through his six world titles.

Breaking this up for a new surrounding on what is billed to be a better situation is no guarantee of success. Nor is it the case that bringing your team with you to a new squad will work – Rossi found this out the hard way when he moved to Ducati from Yamaha in 2011.

Such is the competitive landscape of MotoGP right now that riding a one-year-old bike isn't much of a disadvantage. Currently, Bezzecchi sits third in the standings, six points behind Jorge Martin on a Pramac-run GP23.

Last year, Enea Bastianini took a one-year-old Ducati run by Gresini to four victories and remained a title challenger until the penultimate round of the campaign.

Bastianini demonstrated impressive pace on year-old machinery last season

Bastianini demonstrated impressive pace on year-old machinery last season

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

But Bezzecchi's decision also appears to have been a case of patience. While he will have a year-old bike for a third season in a row in MotoGP, he is only contracted to VR46 for 2024, despite a two-year deal having been discussed.

Bezzecchi – and seemingly VR46 - realised that most of the factory team seats will be up for grabs for 2025. A move to Pramac next year may not have been a guarantee of joining the factory Ducati team in 2025, not least if he struggled to adapt to his surroundings.

In that circumstance, a move to a factory bike for 2024 with Pramac may ultimately hold back Bezzecchi's career. Staying put ensures the continuation of an atmosphere clearly extracting the maximum from Bezzecchi which, should it keep producing results, Ducati will find difficult to justify not promoting him to the factory squad in 2025.

"Well, of course when I spoke with Vale and Uccio [Salucci] for the contract, we had the possibility to do a two-year contract," Bezzecchi noted.

"But I decided to do only one because next year many factory seats will be available. So, of course, the target of every MotoGP rider is to arrive in a factory team. So, my one and the one of the Academy for me is the same. So, in the end, it's one year."

Cynically, one could also look at a third factor in all of this. VR46's current Ducati deal expires at the end of next year and the team has been repeatedly linked to Yamaha as a satellite squad.

Keeping hold of Ducati's best asset behind Bagnaia at the moment could act as a neat bargaining chip for VR46 in contract negotiations with the Italian marque.

That hypothetical aside, Bezzecchi's decision shows immense maturity from a rider in only his second year of MotoGP and highlights how good an outfit has been crafted at VR46 to get the 24-year-old to make a sensible decision for his career.

It also potentially has big ramifications for another VR46 Academy member in 2020 runner-up Franco Morbidelli, who – although stating on Thursday in Barcelona that no decision has been made for his future – could now end up with a factory-spec Ducati in 2024.

Whether accidental or otherwise, VR46's push to keep Bezzecchi seems to be leading towards a potential rejuvenation for one of the Academy's brightest stars after a difficult year with Yamaha.

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