until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


How the Rossi franchise will still loom over MotoGP in 2022

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Valentino Rossi finally stepping back this weekend from grand prix motorcycle racing after an incredible 26 seasons means that one part of The Doctor’s career comes to an end.

But, with the nine-time world champion’s various other projects still very much in full swing, it doesn’t mean an absence of the Rossi name from the MotoGP paddock – and in fact, it may mean bigger and better things for VR46 the brand.

Chief among them, of course, is the imminent expansion of Rossi’s partly-owned single-bike MotoGP effort into a fully-fledged two-bike effort for 2022 – a project that will spring into life next week at the only post-season test of the year at Jerez.

It’s still to be officially announced, but Marco Bezzecchi will join Rossi’s own brother Luca Marini at the new team, with plenty of official factory Ducati backing and an expanded structure as it buys out the other side of the Avintia Racing squad it’s currently partnered up with.

There are still plenty of details about the project to be confirmed, mind you, after a rather complicated sponsorship mess with new Saudi Arabian backers that has left the deal looking about as solid as smoke from a yellow flare so far.

It seems like Rossi’s deal with the Saudis, one that brought accusations of being implicit in the Middle Eastern regime’s sportswashing campaign, is still far from finalised even as the 2022 season starts to kick off.


There have been no communications for months on the state of the project, supposed title sponsor ARAMCO is denying everything, and the VR46 camp themselves seem to be locked in a holding pattern.

But here’s the thing. There’s no athlete in Italy (and not many anywhere in Europe) who can command an audience quite like Rossi. There will be a team in 2022, regardless of what name appears on the side of the bike, because when you have the clout that he does, finding sponsors to pay for it all is the easy part.

And it won’t just be a MotoGP team, with an expansion in Moto2 from two bikes to four. Two of those remain with the current squad, and long-time Moto3 rider Niccolo Antonelli will step up to join youngster Celestino Vietti just as the 20-year-old starts to find his feet and will be expected to put together a 2022 title challenge.

But, as proof of just how strong the Rossi name is, he’ll have a second middleweight class team next year as well, as he somehow manages to work with two rival factories and establish a much-needed Yamaha feeder team.

The new outfit is an expansion of the Yamaha VR46 Master Camp squad that’s run in the Spanish Moto2 championship, and it looks set to bring non-VR46 Academy riders into the fold, with Yamaha World Supersport rider Manuel Gonzalez and the team’s current Thai rider Keminth Kubo expected to get the nod.

Then, of course, there are all the up-and-coming names sprinkled through the Moto3 grid, too, with deals with Snipers Racing and Avintia’s own Moto3 team ensuring that the likes of Alberto Surra (pictured below), Matteo Bertelle and Elia Bartolini are creating the next generation of Rossi champion.


There also might not be too long to wait until there is a MotoGP world champion wearing a VR46 badge on their leathers, either. Two years in a row now the premier class has had one of his proteges finish as runner up, first with Franco Morbidelli in 2020 and then again in 2021 with Pecco Bagnaia.

The pair are the target for all the rest of Rossi’s lost boys, and an example of what learning at the right hand of a genuine racing god can produce. They’re the first products of the system to make it to the top, but they won’t be the last.

All in all, it might well be a case that the nine-time world champion is stepping back from the track himself, but he’s left behind a legacy that has the potential to win just as much as he himself achieved.

The championship count for the riders he’s been mentoring currently stands at two, with Morbidelli and Bagnaia’s intermediate-class titles – but you’d be a fool to bet that it’ll stay there for too long.

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