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MotoGP

Could Britain’s new Moto2 winner really join Yamaha in MotoGP?

by Simon Patterson
5 min read

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Until last weekend’s Dutch TT, most of the speculation about Moto2 frontrunners making the step up to MotoGP next year was limited to two candidates: hotly tipped wunderkind Pedro Acosta and his current championship rival Tony Arbolino.

But things changed at Assen with the addition of a new name to the list: British rider Jake Dixon, who then backed up the speculation with an excellent maiden win.

However, is there a genuine chance that we’ll see him joining the grid next year, and what’s suddenly prompted the explosion of speculation surrounding his name?

Rather incredibly, it seems that while there are obvious links tying him to Gresini Racing, it’s not the satellite Ducati ride that’s top of his target list but rather a bombshell move to the factory Yamaha team – alongside Fabio Quartararo and in place of current rider Franco Morbidelli.

There are, of course, reasons why that makes sense. He is – although some might have forgotten – a former Yamaha MotoGP rider courtesy of the two rounds of the 2021 championship where he rode the Petronas Yamaha bike in place of the injured Franco Morbidelli.

Dixon didn’t embarrass himself on those two appearances, either, finishing 19th at Silverstone and then improving at Aragon before crashing out on the second lap – while ahead of then-teammate Valentino Rossi.

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That perhaps isn’t a huge surprise given his experience of bigger capacity machinery. Coming to Moto2 not through the traditional route of prototype machinery but rather entering the class after fighting for the British Superbike title in 2017, it means that he is well familiar with more powerful bikes – and if anything has been rather hamstrung by the middleweight Moto2 machines during his time in the class.

That also means that the factory has not just experience of him but data on him, data which might well show some potential that Yamaha believes can be developed even further with a proper pre-season testing plan rather than being thrown straight into a race weekend mid-season.

There’s another wildcard factor at play too – one that might not make too much difference but could well be the thing that’s keeping his name in conversation within the Yamaha camp: his very close relationship with 2021 world champion Quartararo.

The two became very close during their time as team-mates in Petronas colours (albeit in different classes), and it’s notable that while Quartararo has been notably unconcerned about who his team-mate might be, he was much more positive when questioned by The Race at Assen about the prospect of having Dixon on the other side of the box next year.

“I have no idea,” he admitted. “I have no idea but I would be super happy.”

Of course, there is something else that also works in his favour: the fact that not many people are lining up to jump onto a Yamaha right now. It’s no secret that it’s not a bike that’s performing and while the factory is believed to be courting former Suzuki racer Alex Rins, he has actually managed to do something at Honda this year that no Yamaha rider has come close to doing and won a race.

Morbidelli sounds all but resigned to his fate of moving on after initially being linked to a contract extension, while none of the grid’s other free agents have been much named in connection with the brand since Jorge Martin rejected its advances in lieu of remaining on a satellite Ducati at Pramac Racing.

Should that be too incredible to believe for Dixon, there is of course also the open seat at Gresini. But it’s one that’s arguably in hotter contention than the factory Yamaha ride, and names like Arbolino and Morbidelli have already been linked to replacing Fabio Di Gianantonio.

However, it remains a very strong backup option for Dixon too for one key reason: his manager is Englishman Frankie Carchedi, who is also currently Di Giannantonio’s crew chief at Gresini. Previously a world championship winner with Joan Mir at Suzuki, he has an inside line at the team that you’ve got to think would play a decisive role in helping Dixon’s future.

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As for why his name is currently in the mix, it seems according to The Race’s sources in the paddock that at least part of the new interest in it has come from the change of owner at British broadcaster BT Sport.

Not contracted as such to ensure a British rider in the premier class, its deal with Dorna is nonetheless believed to say that the Spanish company will do everything in its power to assist in helping to ensure that there’s a home rider for the TV company to back.

It’s not something that has been pushed for particularly aggressively by the channel since the retirement of Cal Crutchlow at the end of 2020 – but there’s a new boss in town now.

The BT Sport name will no longer exist when the championship returns to action in five weeks, instead relaunching as TNT Sport as part of the takeover by Warner Bros Discovery, a brand that’s believed to be ready to give much more attention to motorcycle racing.

That, of course, wouldn’t happen without results to back up the interest in Dixon, which is why his Assen victory couldn’t have come at a better time.

It’s not the first time that we’ve seen a racer deliver strong performances going into the summer break and return to the track with a MotoGP deal done – it is, after all, pretty much exactly how Quartararo ended up with a Petronas Yamaha deal himself.

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