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GP Week : Issue 152
OPINION 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Dorna and MotoGP in general are not shy about making new rules. A pattern of accelerating regulations is even now awaiting a further boost, with proposed technical restrictions due in 2015. (Or 2014. Depends who you talk to.) There is one rule, however, that Dorna’s chief Carmelo Ezpeleta insists will not change. Introduced two years ago, it is that no MotoGP class rookie may ride for a factory team. Like so many other rules, it was rushed through in response to a particular situation. Sponsorship problems were bad for everybody, but particularly so for satellite teams ... and one satellite team in particular, the Tech 3 Yamaha squad. It was caught in a vicious circle: unable to get backing without a big-name rider, therefore unable to pay enough to attract a big-name rider. Catch 22. The new rule might as well have been called the Ben Spies rule: tailor-made to put the US and World Superbike champion, by now Yamaha property, in the Tech 3 team for his first year. So far so good. Ben moved to the factory team the following year, Tech 3 now had more clout and attracted better sponsorship for their next rookie, Cal Crutchlow. Now, circumstances have changed. This same rule stands in the way of hot Spaniard Marc Marquez. He looks like a shoo-in to win the Moto2 title this year, all other things remaining equal. And equally a shoo-in to move straight into the factory Honda team next year. All the ducks are in a row: he is already deeply involved with Honda’s sponsor Repsol. At the same time Repsol’s previous white hope Dani Pedrosa is nearing his sell-by date. For one reason or another (often as not because of his vulnerability to injury), his dominance in 125 and 250 rider just hasn’t come in the big class. Easy solution: drop him, move Marquez in. If only it wasn’t for the Ben Spies Rule. This poses serious questions. If Marquez has to go to a satellite team, will Repsol abandon Honda and go with him? Or will the troubled waters mean Yamaha or Ducati can move in, and steal this major talent away? The solution would be simple enough. Reverse the Ben Spies Rule with the Marquez Amendment. It was with just such a request that Honda approached Ezpeleta, reportedly with the backing of the other manufacturers. But this simply shifted the embarrassment. Could Ezpeleta allow himself to be so easily and visibly flexible, at a time when he is trying to force through radical changes? Could he heck. From behind closed doors come reports of Carmelo at his tub-thumping best. “I will not change the rule,” he told Honda. “Don’t ask me again.” But the rumbling continues, growing in intensity. After all, with other rules so easily made or revised, why not this one? Because it would make Dorna look too flaky. And that is intolerable. I have the feeling, however, that this one is not over yet. OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor Marquez – the case for reversal of The Ben Spies Rule ? RULES AND ROOKIES: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?