Dorna says there is manufacturer interest to replace Suzuki in MotoGP - but who?

Dorna is on the rebound for a manufacturer to replace Suzuki in MotoGP and says it has received interest... but which firm is he referring to?

Which manufacturer could replace Suzuki in MotoGP?


Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has made his first public comment about Suzuki’s bombshell that it will quit MotoGP at the end of the 2022 MotoGP season, causing a stir by suggesting he has had contact from manufacturers to replace it… but who could they be?

MotoGP has sat pretty with six manufacturers since 2017 when KTM made its debut, a year after both Suzuki and Aprilia returned to the top flight to join the long-serving Honda, Yamaha and Ducati.

Satisfying Dorna’s target of raising the professionalism in MotoGP and reducing its reliance on lower budget privateer teams in the wake of the grid-swelling but performance-dividing CRT/Open regulations, it had expected a status quo until 2026 after all six firms penned a new contract in 2021 that committed them to the series for another five years.

It is for this reason that Suzuki’s decision, just months after penning a binding contract - one that clearly states in the terms and conditions that it would incur a hefty financial penalty for reneging on it - seems so querysome. 

While Dorna’s response is one part lawyer, one part disgruntled ex intent on making its divorce a bitter one, you could detect a hint of shade being thrown by the assertion manufacturer(s) have already been in contact about taking over Suzuki’s grid slots.

So it seems Dorna is back on Two-Wheel Tinder and seeking a rebound replacement… but given there are no obvious alternatives publicly seducing Ezpeleta for a MotoGP relationship, which mystery suitors could he be referring to?

BMW

If Dorna could have its pick of the manufacturers to retain its ‘Super Six’ it would certainly be BMW.

The German giant is the only mainstream manufacturer with a 1000cc-plus sportsbike in its range not to have given MotoGP a go over the years. Despite numerous petitions by Dorna to lure BMW into the premier class, its involvement has been limited to a commercial deal to supply the safety and medical cars.

Partially motivated by Dorna’s attempts to take an eye-for-an-eye by getting BMW to replace Kawasaki after the Japanese firm scrapped its MotoGP programme in favour of focusing on WorldSBK, with the Spanish firm now in charge of both series’, the ‘drunk dials’ haven’t been quite so frequent in recent years.

In public, BMW says the notion of spending upwards of $35m on a MotoGP project to shift the S 1000 RR / M 1000 RR sportsbikes it races in a more cost-effective WorldSBK series doesn’t make economic sense. 

Reading between the lines and BMW’s failure to secure an elusive WorldSBK title doesn’t bode well for an expectant company that would prefer not to be shown up on a higher profile stage.

Indeed, while MotoGP revels in its exceptional strength in competitive depth, the flip side is finding a new entry willing to weather the expensive growing pains of development in a racing arena as KTM and Aprilia did for multiple seasons.

It ‘could’ follow the technique of putting the M 1000 RR on a course of steroids to bring it up to MotoGP specification - as Aprilia did with the RSV4-turned-RSGP - but the Italian machine was a more competitive prospect in WorldSBK trim.

However, one brewing factor that is more than capable of eliciting a firm ‘nein’ from BMW could be a headache that becomes a migraine for Dorna in the coming months and years. 

Indeed, Suzuki’s exit comes as the industry stands on the cusp of a major shift away from fossil fuels towards greener technology, a seismic change that is not only at odds with MotoGP’s high-speed, high-revving DNA but may also syphon away money from racing projects towards eco-investments…

GASGAS

It is very possible Ezpeleta is playing some semantic trickery with his claims of manufacturer interest.

Indeed, KTM has hinted it could be prepared to grow to a third team beyond its Red Bull KTM Factory and Tech 3 Racing operations branded as GASGAS. 

Fundamentally this would be a satellite effort using KTM RC16 machinery, but provided Dorna allows the Austrian firm to put the entry in GASGAS’ name, then ‘technically’ it would be classed as a separate manufacturer. 

While this triggers something of a loophole in the regulations, there is a lot of appeal for Dorna in allowing GASGAS as a sixth ‘factory’ representative. It would bolster the grid, it could be on the grid as early as 2023, GASGAS’ Moto3 and Moto2 operations partner Aspar has MotoGP experience and - perhaps most appealingly - it would race under a Spanish flag.

KTM appears prepared to invest in such an expansion, while it would calm the criticism of Pit Beirer after airing his grievances at Ducati being permitted to have four teams running its bikes in 2022.

It would also give KTM some seat space to place the likes of Pedro Acosta, Jaume Masia or even Jake Dixon without ditching one of its current juniors.

Triumph

Triumph may have eased away from traditional sportsbikes in its model range but the last couple of years have seen it mount a big comeback on the racing stage.

Beginning with its engine supply status for the Moto2 World Championship - a huge success for the firm having attracted universal acclaim from teams for the triple-cylinder unit’s performance and reliability - Triumph is also back in the WorldSSP Championship and will soon debut in MX too.

Having now fostered close ties to Dorna, could Triumph be its mystery suitor? For now it would seem relatively unlikely. The official word from the company suggests its association in Moto2 is more than enough for it to promote its wares, not least because the 765cc engine is ubiquitous in its model range.

MotoGP would represent a rather substantial leap for the company because - unlike BMW - it doesn’t have a top line sporting operation in place.

Then again, Triumph has a habit of surprising and the company is in very rude health in terms of finance and sales, while one could argue the case for a MotoGP bid being the perfect way to promote its incoming major model range expansion.

MV Agusta

To an extent, this could very well be the manufacturer Carmelo Ezpeleta is referring to (if he is at all).

The iconic Italian firm has a rich and successful heritage rooted in Grand Prix competition with Giacomo Agostini’s utter domination of the categories in the 1960s and 1970s enduring fresh in the memory eventoday.

Since then MV Agusta has weathered myriad different owners, financial challenges and quality control issues but under the steer of new CEO Timur Sardarov, a course towards full health is now being chartered.

You can’t fault its ambition - including a target of quadrupling sales in just five years - while it seems motorsport is right at the heart of what the new generation MV Agusta is aspiring to become again with talk of a return to both WorldSBK and MotoGP on the cards.

It already has a GP presence with a team and chassis competing - with modest success - in Moto2, but beyond the fact MV Agusta has a habit of promising more than it delivers, it would seem MotoGP is a vanity project to come after it has completed the overhaul of its manufacturing process, introducing much needed new models to the range - including the F4 sportsbike - and ensuring it turns a profit.

In short, MV Agusta returning to MotoGP will probably happen at some stage… but probably nearer to 2030.

CFMoto (and co…)

We’ve mentioned GASGAS already as a potential option for KTM to expand to a third team, but there is also the possibility that it could widen the scope by piling into an arrangement to get CFMoto onto the grid.

Arguably the most accomplished of the (many) fledgling Chinese brands emerging in the west, CFMoto is now breaking through in Europe with its model range and has even begun expanding its new SR sportsbike line, with a 450cc variant coming to join the 300SR soon.

While motorsport didn’t seem so high on its agenda for a time, it caused a surprise by entering Moto3 via a partnership with Prustel GP in a GASGAS/Husqvarna-themed rebranding of a KTM effort.

As such, CFMoto could prove a popular candidate as the branding partner of a KTM chassis in MotoGP. While the company is closely associated with KTM, it is otherwise independent and thus financially stable on its own to fund a full MotoGP effort.

Moreover, Dorna will surely not turn its nose up at having a manufacturer from a humongous Chinese market coming into MotoGP... and CFMotoGP is the ideal name, surely?

Alternatively, CFMoto isn’t necessarily the only Chinese firm with bold aspirations. QJ Motor - née Benelli - also made its GP debut in 2022, albeit as a title sponsor for a Moto3 team, while other giants like Loncin and Zongshen have previously dipped toes into GP waters in 125GP and 250GP respectively.