MotoGP organiser Dorna has announced that the CryptoData-owned RNF Aprilia team has not been selected for a place on the 2024 grid, as first reported by The Race last weekend.
The effective expulsion, for what Dorna, the FIM and the IRTA claim are "repeated infractions and breaches of the Participation Agreement" that amount to "affecting" MotoGP's public image, comes despite the entry having a contract agreement that runs until 2026.
Instead, the team's two grid spots and factory Aprilia support is set to go to NASCAR Cup squad Team Trackhouse as part of a wholly new satellite entity.
“The MotoGP Selection Committee comprising members of FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports, have decided not to select the CryptoData RNF MotoGP Team for the 2024 season,” said a brief statement from the three bodies involved.
“Repeated infractions and breaches of the Participation Agreement affecting the public image of MotoGP have obliged this decision.
“The Selection Committee will be reviewing applications for a new independent team, using Aprilia machinery, to join the MotoGP class grid for 2024.”
Those infractions and breaches of the agreement are believed to relate to debts that the team is rumoured to have run up in the paddock this season. Figures in the hundreds of thousands of Euros have been cited, and former team principal Razlan Razali has publicly acknowledged missed payments.
However, with Razali now removed from his position thanks to what the team’s majority shareholder CryptoData called "poor performance and financial decisions", it’s instead owners Ovidiu Toma and Bogdan Mărunţiş who have been left to fight the decision taken by Dorna - and who have steadfastly insisted this whole time that debts to suppliers are non-existent.
According to The Race’s sources close to the Romanian businessmen, it is believed that they will attempt to fight the MotoGP decision in court.
It is also believed that Dorna’s suggestion that a new independent-class team needs to be found to fill the entry is using creative licence, with Trackhouse already lined up to take over from RNF Racing.
An announcement officially confirming that is believed to be set to be issued next week, with Trackhouse boss Justin Marks, who has already made a significant mark on NASCAR in his short time there, believed to be very keen to take his outfit to the world stage in MotoGP.
Already lined up to join the series in some capacity in 2025, it seems that RNF’s current difficulties have fast-forwarded those plans. The new team should inherit much of RNF's current structure, including its factory Aprilia support and contracted riders Raul Fernandez and Miguel Oliveira.
It might even mean the riders' level of support is upped next year thanks to the fresh injection of cash. Both Trackhouse and Aprilia are believed to be keen to run brand new factory-spec RS-GP machines rather than the year-old bikes Fernandez and Oliveira currently use, something alluded to on Sunday by Fernandez when asked by The Race about such a possibility.
“Something good can be for the next year,” he said. “I cannot say anything because I don’t know what is happening, but what I’m listening to from the Aprilia part, I have to be calm because something good is happening.”
The Race’s sources believe that, thanks to the rather limited time before the start of next year, one of the team’s two riders will get a brand new bike initially, with a longer-term plan to up the manufacturing resources and produce four sets of works-spec bikes form 2025 onwards - a model that was previously used by Honda, Yamaha and Ducati as they stepped up their own satellite backing.
With the first test of 2024 looming on Tuesday at Valencia, the team’s current sole rider Fernandez will join the Aprilia test team to take part in it. As Oliveira is absent due to injuries sustained at the penultimate round in Qatar, the Spaniard will ride alongside test rider Lorenzo Savadori, with none of Fernandez's 2023 RNF staff working alongside him.
However, it looks like the team will once again regroup for the 2024 season, once staff contracts with RNF expire. The current structure, including mechanics, crew chiefs and team manager Wilco Zeelenberg, will instead become Aprilia employees who will then be contracted to the new team.
With Trackhouse also looking to base its European operations out of Aprilia’s own racing department in Noale, near Venice, it would further facilitate strong links between the two organisations.
That’s also a familiar structure to Aprilia, as it would mean it is again operating in the same manner as its factory team used to do with Gresini Racing - before becoming a proper factory team in 2022 while Gresini split off to be a Ducati satellite outfit.
So Trackhouse would essentially take over the pre-2022 role of Gresini, albeit as a fully-factory supported satellite effort rather than the factory team itself.