Rookie rule set to be axed in MotoGP?

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Honda could be on the brink of winning its fight to get the rookie rule abolished in MotoGP, paving the way for Spanish starlet Marc Marquez to move straight into its official factory team in 2013.

Introduced in 2010, the rookie rule forbids newcomers in MotoGP from being fast tracked into a factory team.

The rule was designed to help satellite teams attract sponsors by hiring big-name young riders on the way up.

Ben Spies and Marco Simoncelli had to join Tech 3 Yamaha and Gresini Honda respectively in 2010 because of the rule.

Honda has been lobbying Dorna to axe the rule, with support from Yamaha and Ducati, in the early part of 2012. The proposal was made prior to Casey Stoner’s shock decision to retire, strongly suggesting HRC wanted to pair Marquez with the Aussie at the expense at Dani Pedrosa.

Numerous sources claim that Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta is contemplating backtracking on his previous pledge to retain the rookie rule.

HRC boss Livio Suppo said: “This has nothing to do with Casey’s decision to retire but we totally understand that for Dorna the rookie rule is an interesting one. From a manufacturers point of view, and not only for Honda, the situation is totally the opposite.

"With this rule in place if you like a young rider then you must support him in a satellite team and this means a cost of the salary or the bike, which is on top of running the two factory bikes. This means an increase in costs in a situation where everybody is trying to reduce the costs.

"I think we should still think more about this and I hope it is re-considered. Not because of Marc but what happened in the past with Marco and Ben wouldn’t be possible to do in the current economic situation.

"It doesn’t matter if you have three factory riders in different colours, what matters is who is paying the bill.”

MCN understands Honda satellite team bosses Lucio Cecchinello and Fausto Gresini now support the scrapping of the rookie rule.

Both fear if they have to accommodate Marquez for what would be just one season, it would hurt their long-term future.

Cecchinello told MCN: “If Marquez is on the wing of Honda and Repsol and he has to go, say to Gresini next year and then the factory team in 2014, does Fausto have to cut all his sponsors and supporters after many years to take Marquez for one year and then do what in the future?

"This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. This needs to be considered in light of the rookie rule."

Perhaps not surprisingly, Yamaha has no objections to Honda’s campaign to get the rookie rule scrapped.

If HRC could promote Marquez from Moto2 into its factory squad, then its interest in pursuing Yamaha’s prized asset Jorge Lorenzo to replace Stoner might cool.

Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis told MCN: “A few years ago when there was more money a factory could place riders. But the situation has become more difficult financially.

"If you see an exceptional young talent, and talking about Marquez in particular, then if Honda or Yamaha want to pick him, we’d have to do that on our contract and place him in a satellite team.

"That means we have to contract and pay for three riders and therefore at this moment it is a handicap for the top factories. There is nothing wrong with the rookie rule because at that time it was the right decision to support those satellite teams.

"But the economic situation has changed significantly, so Honda proposed the change and we have no objection.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt