December 7, 2023

How VR46 is handling its MotoGP conflict of interest with Bezzecchi

Marco Bezzecchi’s MotoGP contract with VR46 expires at the end of this year. The owner of the Ducati team for which he competes, and with which he is negotiating a contract extension, is also the same corporation that represents him.

In his second season in MotoGP, the 24-year-old Italian has picked up the baton left by Enea Bastianini to become an unexpected guest in the title race on a year-old bike. Having won two grands prix (Argentina and France) and scored four podiums in total, Bezzecchi is third in the overall standings heading into round nine on the first weekend of August at Silverstone. He sits just one point shy of Jorge Martin (Pramac) and 36 behind championship leader Pecco Bagnaia.

That leap in quality has put him in the market spotlight with a view to 2024 while magnifying the complex management situation for VR46. In most negotiations, the rider’s representatives seek to close the best deal for their clients, both financially and in sporting terms. This generates a tug-of-war with the team executives, who are obviously also looking out for their own interests.

But what happens when the two sides are the same? The solution introduced by VR46 at the beginning of the year was to split the operational part of its structure into two distinct bodies: Team and Academy.

On paper, this formula makes sense, although it does not entirely solve a problem that is evident in the case of Bezzecchi and his short-term future. However, in the approach taken by the two divisions, it is clear that the first priority is the rider’s well-being in all its dimensions, above the preferences that the Mooney-backed team and the Academy may have.

Under normal conditions, the natural evolution for a rider who has made the step forward Bezzecchi has this year would lead his agents to seek a berth for him at Pramac. Paolo Campinoti’s team acts as a sort of second factory team for Ducati and receives more support than anyone else from the Borgo Panigale manufacturer. However, that possibility is not the priority according to Uccio Salucci, team boss at Mooney VR46.

Bezzecchi has become a regular challenger this year on his year-old VR46 Ducati, and could stay on next year

Bezzecchi has become a regular challenger this year on his year-old VR46 Ducati, and could stay on next year

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

For his part, Bezzecchi insists that he feels at home in his current environment and that he sees no reason to change. Rossi’s right-hand man naturally wants to keep Bezzecchi However, Salucci has another deal underway, in this case with Ducati, to try and grow its standing as a satellite team of the Bolognese constructor.

“We have asked Gigi [Dall’Igna, Ducati general manager] for an official bike for Marco in 2024, the same Marini had last year,” explains Salucci in conversation with Motorsport.com. “And we have also asked for a contract directly with the factory. Basically, the same conditions that [Jorge] Martin and [Johann] Zarco have.

“I hope that Ducati will give us the backing we deserve to be able to keep Bezzecchi. If we don’t get it, the normal thing would be for him to go to Pramac.”

Obviously, it is at this point that Bezzecchi and the Academy will have to have their say.

“For me, negotiating with Uccio is like negotiating with [Yamaha’s] Lin Jarvis. The good thing is that we are friends” Francesco Secchiaroli

Francesco Secchiaroli has been signed by VR46 for 2023 and deals with Bezzecchi and Marini. He works side by side with Gianluca Falcioni, the general manager of the company who manages the portfolios of Bagnaia and Franco Morbidelli. Asked about that possible conflict, Secchiaroli defends honesty as the articulating element of everything.

“We face it with a lot of professionalism, everyone’s roles are very well defined,” says Secchiaroli, who says he will sit down to negotiate with Salucci, just as he would with any other team manager. “We, as Academy, have our interests, and the team have theirs. Marco has two contracts: one with us and one with the team. Our goal as agents is to find him the best possible place for him to show his talent.

“I am only linked to the representation area. I am the opposing party to the team. For me, negotiating with Uccio is like negotiating with [Yamaha’s] Lin Jarvis. The good thing is that we are friends, and that allows us to say things to each other’s faces.”

After consulting the points of view of the Academy and Mooney, the third variable in the equation is Ducati, which must respond to all the requests it receives and fulfil its commitments. This means, in addition to taking over the official team (Bagnaia and Bastianini), also supplying Pramac, with whom it is linked until the end of 2024, as well as VR46 plus the Gresini team’s Alex Marquez and Fabio di Giannantonio.

Rossi's VR46 academy will conduct negotiations on Bezzecchi's behalf with VR46 team boss Salucci

Rossi’s VR46 academy will conduct negotiations on Bezzecchi’s behalf with VR46 team boss Salucci

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Asked about the aforementioned demands from Mooney regarding Bezzecchi, Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti fully understands that perspective even if that he’s not in a position to please his client, especially as far as equipment is concerned.

“From the outset, it has been pretty well demonstrated that Marco’s bike lacks nothing to win,” Ciabatti tells Motorsport.com. “Now, the difference in potential between our bikes is minimal, but the management of the new versions does get complicated.”

In this regard, it is worth noting that VR46 opted at the time to hire its own technicians, Matteo Flamini and David Munoz, responsible for the Bezzecchi and Marini groups respectively, while Pramac draws on more Ducati personnel.

“A bike that arrives at the end of the year as world champion, we already know how it works and requires much less development effort than a new one,” adds Ciabatti.

He is currently working on a formula that will keep all the parties involved happy. That is not easy if we take into account all the interests involved: the rider and the Academy, the team (Mooney), Pramac and Ducati.

Will Bagnaia and Bezzecchi battle each other on equal machinery next year?

Will Bagnaia and Bezzecchi battle each other on equal machinery next year?

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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