until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


MotoGP's newest winner looks to have a 2024 lifeline

by Valentin Khorounzhiy, Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP's newest race winner Fabio Di Giannantonio has received a boost in his hopes of staying on the grid for 2024 - with the momentum now seemingly in his favour for the securing about-to-be-vacated VR46 Ducati ride.

Di Giannantonio had looked on course to drop off the grid for much of the season, having not made the kind of step forward at the start of 2023 that would've made retaining him a no-brainer.

Yet after his gradual upturn in form coincided with the confirmation Marc Marquez would replace him at Gresini, Di Giannantonio delivered a maiden podium at Phillip Island and then an outstanding Qatar weekend that culminated in a first grand prix win.

It seemed even at the time of his win, however, that there would be no room for him on the 2024 premier-class grid. Di Giannantonio had vied for the Marquez-vacated Honda ride but Luca Marini emerged as the favoured candidate instead.

Marini is yet to be officially announced as a Honda signing, but his impending arrival is treated as an open secret in the paddock, and his answers in the press conference ahead of the Valencia season finale suggested confirmation was indeed just a formality, rather than there being some late twist in the tale.

"I think that news will come soon. So, there is not many things I can say at the moment. We will see in the next few days," he said when asked about his 2024 programme.

But when quizzed more generally about whether he felt ready for a factory ride, he was more open: "I am feeling great, I am improving every year a lot. And it has always been my dream to be in a factory team, develop a bike and bring the manufacturer to victory. So... in my opinion it's the right moment.

"There was this opportunity because after the Marc decision there was a big shock for everybody. But I think in general also maybe in the future, if not next year, in the future this is something that was going to happen. So... now there is a good opportunity for me and I will try to do my best and this is the maximum that I can say for now."

Marini's move is vacating a ride at the VR46 team belonging to his brother Valentino Rossi, but Rossi's right-hand man and team chief Uccio Salucci significantly downplayed the prospect of signing Di Giannantonio in Qatar (before his win) - suggesting the team would instead seek a Moto2 rider.

Though Tony Arbolino was one name broached publicly, 18-year-old Fermin Aldeguer - on a streak of three consecutive dominant Moto2 wins - was thought to be the frontrunner.

However, Aldeguer is in the middle of a three-year deal with Luca Boscoscuro's Speed Up squad in the intermediate class, and Boscoscuro is known to have been firm in his intention to either hang on to Aldeguer - given both his white-hot form and the fact it would be a very late undertaking to find a replacement - or get a substantial compensation. It is thought that he has demanded somewhere in the range of €400,000.

This, combined with Di Giannantonio's breakthrough win, looks to have been a massive boost to the Italian's chances of staying on the grid - and a move to VR46 would also mean the team reinforces its status as the key player in promoting and supporting Italian talent in MotoGP.

Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti told MotoGP.com said in Qatar that it would be "unacceptable" for Di Giannantonio to be off the grid - and strongly suggested he was hoping VR46 would take him in, albeit stressing "it is not in our hands, as you know" because VR46 and Gresini are not beholden to Ducati when it comes to their rider choices.

It is also thought that Ducati favours a different solution for Aldeguer - a Pramac ride for 2025 that would come with a contract directly to the factory.

"I was super proud about the words of Paolo. He's been so good with me," said Di Giannantonio on Thursday - before going on to strongly hint that his MotoGP prospects were indeed looking better now.

"Let's say that I came here with a helmet and a suit, to try to test on Tuesday. We are working on something cool. We have good chances to test on Tuesday, and we have also now a little more chance to be on the grid next year. So, we are trying."

Di Giannantonio also directly addressed VR46 as an option. "Let's say that [it] seems that that bike is the only bike available - once Luca decides to make the announcement!" he said, turning jovially towards a distinctly stony-faced Marini - who did allow himself a weak smile.

"Joking, obviously," Di Giannantonio continued. "No, well, let's say that for sure it's a great team, I never hid [my stance] that their work behind the scenes is amazing, what they do in the Academy together and all the guys, all the staff they have, they've always been super good.

"They've joined the MotoGP world from Moto3, then Moto2, they stepped to MotoGP and they've always been super good in every class. So it means that it's a really good team - and would be an amazing experience and challenge for me, and I think would be also an amazing opportunity to learn a lot of things."

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