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MotoGP exclusive: Ducati on Bezzecchi plan, potential Zarco exit

by Simon Patterson, Valentin Khorounzhiy
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti says Marco Bezzecchi will likely have to move to Pramac to have a works-spec MotoGP bike next year, in a move that would come at the expense of Johann Zarco.

Ducati has reigning champion Pecco Bagnaia and Enea Bastianini in its factory line-up for this year and 2024, and is widely expected to keep hold of Jorge Martin within Pramac, with Yamaha unsuccessful in its attempts to lure away the Spaniard.

But Zarco, Martin’s Pramac team-mate and the fourth Ducati-contracted rider on the grid, has long looked the odd man out should Ducati seek to accommodate sophomore star Bezzecchi.


In conversation with The Race at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Ciabatti made it clear that this is indeed the case – and that the ball is in Bezzecchi’s court over whether he would prefer to stay with the VR46 team or is fully set on works-spec machinery.

Bezzecchi currently campaigns a year-old Ducati for VR46. Earlier this season, he spoke of wanting a factory upgrade – but of wanting it specifically at VR46, the two-time grand prix winner believing there was little sense to move him sideways from one satellite team to another within Ducati’s structure.

His tone changed somewhat coming out of the summer break, though, Bezzecchi indicating that his first priority was a works-spec Ducati whether it be at Pramac or VR46.


Uccio Salucci, VR46 owner Valentino Rossi’s right-hand man and the boss of the MotoGP outfit, told The Race earlier on Saturday that the outfit was in continuous talks with Ducati over the prospect of getting a factory-spec bike for Bezzecchi for 2024.

The team already had factory-spec machinery for Luca Marini last year before Ducati reverted to having just four factory-spec entries on the grid.

And for Ciabatti, changing that is a non-starter for 2024.

“I think we said clearly that, for what he has shown this year, Marco would deserve to be on a factory bike next year,” Ciabatti said.

“The fact is that Pramac has a bike contract, if they confirm they want two factory bikes they have the right. And we tend to respect contracts.

“At the moment – we cannot make a fifth bike, this is out of the question. So it’s going to be four ’24s and four ’23s next year.

“And as it looks at the moment it’s a little bit of a situation where we need to sit with them and see because it doesn’t look like we can give a full factory bike to VR46. Because of a contractual commitment we have with Pramac.

“So I understand on one side the team works perfectly well, and it’s really a family [-style] professional group, which is also very important, on the one hand, for the performances of the rider.


“On the other side, if we are stuck to what is a contractual commitment, we have to see whether Marco and maybe his crew chief [Matteo Flamigni] would move to Pramac next year, and maybe then VR46 will take [Franco] Morbidelli, which would be a natural move.

“Or if they [Bezzecchi and Flamigni] say they want to stay, then the best we can do probably is to give the latest updates of a [GP]23 for next year.”

Ciabatti cautioned that it was a “fast-changing world” and that many rumours were circulating – “but, as of today, this is the situation”.

And he acknowledged, when asked directly, that this likely meant Zarco – who he said is “doing really an excellent job” – bowing out of the line-up.

Ducati is not keen on having five riders on factory contracts in MotoGP, and its ideal scenario would be to have Zarco in World Superbike, as the long-term successor to Alvaro Bautista.

The 38-year-old Spaniard, currently on the way to a second successive WSBK title, has a contract that runs through 2024.

“It’s not a secret that we think he could be a perfect World Superbike rider for a factory Ducati team in the future,” said Ciabatti of Zarco, “once Alvaro will decide to stop, which probably will be end of next year when he will be turning 40.

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“So we think for his riding style, his size, his talent, he would be perfect.

“It doesn’t look like Johann is interested, to be again totally transparent and honest. Which I understand, if you think you have something more to give in this [MotoGP] championship… you want to try, obviously it’s a risky situation because on one side you might know that you have two-three-four-five years as a factory rider for one of the best teams, one of the best bikes, with the chance of becoming world champion… but sometimes you think you want to prove yourself here.

“So this is a very personal decision. As I said, it’s not a secret that we would like to see him on a Panigale V4 in World Superbike in the future but from what I hear this is something he would [not] contemplate at the moment.”

Ciabatti also suggested that there was an option for Zarco to end up at another Ducati satellite team, likely Gresini, that he likewise was not so interested in pursuing.


LCR Honda team boss Lucio Cecchinello, who is looking for a 2024 rider now that Alex Rins has headed off to Yamaha, acknowledged to French channel Canal+ on Friday that Zarco was now an option.

“I think he has an offer from Cecchinello,” Ciabatti said of Zarco. “I think everybody knows that.”

Zarco, who turned 33 last month, previously contested three races with LCR back in 2019 (pictured above), soon after his split with KTM.

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