until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP

What makes British GP so desperate for a home MotoGP rider

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Silverstone CEO Stuart Pringle has told The Race he believes MotoGP desperately needs a British rider in the premier class if the British Grand Prix is to thrive.

Attendances at Silverstone have, like viewing figures, stagnated as Britain’s MotoGP round struggles to garner mainstream media interest. The latest evidence of this is live, free-to-air coverage of this weekend’s race being dropped from ITV1’s schedule.

Speaking ahead of the Silverstone race, Pringle said he was well aware of the potential a home favourite can add to such an event considering the success Silverstone has enjoyed for more than a decade with Formula 1 – with the presence of first seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and more recently Lando Norris and George Russell helping drive attendances through the roof.

MotoGP has been without a full-time British rider since Cal Crutchlow retired at the end of 2020.

“It’s hugely important,” Pringle told The Race when asked about the significance of a home rider amid the current absence of one.

“Anyone in any sport will tell you that having a home hero is what you need, and we have first-hand experience at Silverstone about the positive impact that it can have on a four-wheeled gate at our Formula 1 events.

“Lewis Hamilton single-handedly put a lot of people on the gate, and we’ve got two young drivers coming through in George and Lando that are sustaining that.”

So where is Britain’s next MotoGP hope likely to come from?

While Sam Lowes’ chances of returning to the premier class – having raced with Aprilia in 2017 – seem to have ended as he makes a step across from Moto2 to World Superbikes for 2024, it seems that there’s still an opportunity for another British racer to earn a promotion for next season.

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Jake Dixon, who became a Moto2 winner in the final race before the summer break at Assen, has picked exactly the right time to deliver the success he needs as his name becomes linked with a number of vacant seats on the MotoGP grid.

Pringle pointed out there was nothing Silverstone can do to influence Dixon’s chances but said it hoped something came of it.

“We’ve been hanging on for ages for Jake or Sam to make it, and Jake it is [who seems most likely],” he said.

“These things don’t just happen in the year; there is a trajectory that people inspire to hit, and this has been in the offing for a little bit. That’s great, but there hasn’t really been anything we can do to influence it other than giving supportive thumbs up from the sidelines.

“But, with a win last time out, that’s great. It’s got to be what he needs. Hopefully he takes some confidence from it. Of course there’s a worry about that first year, because it’s like getting promoted from the Championship [to the Premier League in football]; there’s always a risk that it’s not something you can sustain.

“But hopefully he’ll have the support and people will take the medium-to-long-term view and allow him time to mature.

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“It would be amazing, really amazing. Back in history, any time there’s been British riders, the interest level in the country goes significantly higher.”

What exactly the future holds for Dixon remains unclear as the series’ five-week summer break has to a large extent taken paddock rumours behind closed doors, but it’s no secret that he is in talks with a number of teams and that series promoter Dorna is keen to push for a British rider to compete in MotoGP.

While it is not obliged to ensure there is a British rider in the premier class, Dorna is believed to have an agreement in its contract with British broadcaster TNT Sport (formerly BT Sport) to do all it can to make that happen.

That means there could be a chance for Dixon at the likes of LCR Honda, with current incumbent Alex Rins looking increasingly likely to depart for the factory Yamaha seat – one Dixon was also linked with – currently occupied by Franco Morbidelli.

Pringle added he thought there was something extra about Dixon that would make him the perfect frontman for MotoGP in the UK, should a deal come together in the coming weeks.

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“It would be inappropriate for me to draw comparisons with people who might have been in the premier class in recent years,” he admitted, “but he’s a lot more media-friendly.

“He’s got a little bit of star quality about him, doesn’t he? A little bit of rockstar quality. He’s a good looking boy, has a lovely wife. They look like a star sports couple, so fingers crossed.”

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