What's next for Valentino Rossi's VR46 MotoGP team?

From GT3 racing to MotoGP, via Le Mans, industrial relations and sporting pride, there are plenty of reasons to believe change is afoot at VR46.

Luca Marini, Marco Bezzecchi - VR46 Racing Ducati

Valentino Rossi’s VR46 MotoGP team could be heading to Yamaha in the near future. Nothing is certain, but there are signs, from MotoGP itself, to GT3 racing and even industrial relationships

Valentino Rossi is a legend of Yamaha thanks to his success, and the longevity of that success, with the Iwata factory in MotoGP. Four world titles were won by Rossi for Yamaha, in 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009. 


Yet, when it came to bringing his own team into the MotoGP class in 2022, Rossi went to Ducati. Despite the difficult personal history for Rossi with the Bologna brand in 2011 and 2012 when he scored only three podiums, the all-Italian setup of VR46, Ducati, Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini have had a strong first year together in MotoGP. 

Bezzecchi, for example, has scored a podium and a pole position in his rookie year, and Marini has gone from struggling to conserve a rear tyre for race distance to equalling his best finishing position of fourth twice since the summer break: in Austria, and then in Misano. 

However, despite the first-year success, VR46 will not be receiving any latest-spec machinery for 2023. Marini is currently on a 2022 Desmosedici, and Bezzecchi on a GP21. For next year, they will seemingly be both on GP22s, so neither on the latest GP23s which will be reserved only for Francesco Bagnaia and Enea Bastianini of the factory team; and Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco of the Pramac team.

This is not a disaster for either Marini or Bezzecchi, since Francesco Bagnaia is only two points away from the championship lead after the Grand Prix of Thailand, and Jack Miller is only 40 points back. Further, Enea Bastianini, on a GP21, is 39 points down, and has won four races this season. 

So, there are possibilities for Marini, Bezzecchi, and the VR46 team to have a strong 2023 even without the latest equipment from Bologna. But, in the same way that Jorge Martin feels snubbed by Ducati for being left out of the factory team for 2023 even though he will have essentially the same bike - with different paint - as Bastianini and Bagnaia, VR46 would have reason to feel mistreated by Ducati for not receiving the latest equipment, even for one of their riders. 

When Andrea Dovizioso left Ducati at the end of 2020, he had the chance to stay but with pay that he felt did not respect his abilities, and which he felt reflected a lack of trust in him from Ducati. 

In a similar way, by not providing 2023 Desmosedicis, VR46 could consider that Ducati has reduced its commitment to them. Once that feeling begins, it rarely fades. 


At the same time, Valentino Rossi himself is, sort of, on the move.

Rossi will remain with WRT for 2023, the team with which he began his GT World Challenge Europe career this year. But, WRT will leave Audi, and join BMW.

The main reason for WRT leaving Audi - for whom they have run factory GT3-spec R8s for over 10 years  - and joining BMW is because BMW is making an LMDh prototype and Audi is not. 

The move not only means that WRT will run BMW’s new LMDh in the IMSA sports car series, but also BMW’s GT3 cars. 

That means that Rossi himself will be racing GT3 for BMW next year, and not Audi. There are also motivations for Rossi to stay with WRT, such as an ambition he has already stated to race sports cars in the US. With BMW, he might just be able to race a prototype, too, if he’s fast enough. 

Of course, the important point here for VR46 is that Ducati is owned by Audi. With Rossi leaving Audi, it is of course possible to interpret that as a distancing of relations between the Italian team owner and the German parent company of the Italian factory. 


The third element to this mass speculation involves VR46’s latest Moto2 sponsor: Fantic

Fantic first appeared on the VR46 Moto2 Kalex bikes in the first race after this year’s summer break in Silverstone. It was also announced at the time that the team would be run by Fantic from 2023.

Fantic has a relationship with Yamaha. The Italian manufacturer acquired Motori Minarelli from the Japanese brand in 2020 as part of an expansion of what was already a pre-existing industrial partnership. Minarelli had become a part of the Yamaha Group in 2002, and the acquisition by Fantic also allowed for Yamaha to acquire a new partner for future engine development, with both internal combustion and electric possibilities. 

In return for the development collaboration with Yamaha, Fantic receives engines and chassis from Japan for its own dirt bike range which it then builds to its own specifications. They share base architecture, essentially, but the details of the Fantic XE and XX ranges, and the Yamaha YZs are different. 

What does this have to do with VR46? Well, apart from the possibility that the VR46 Rider Academy riders who are not affiliated with Yamaha could be supplied Fantic dirt bikes, there is also the possibility that Fantic is taking over the VR46 Moto2 team with a view to building its own Moto2 chassis. 

If this hypothetical reality were to be realised, Yamaha would theoretically have a chassis onto which it could place young riders out of Moto3 who it wanted to sign, or who had come up through the bLU cRU system in the World Superbike paddock like current Yamaha VR46 Mastercamp Moto2 rider Manuel Gonzalez. 

You could wonder why Yamaha does not want to build a chassis itself, but you just have to take a look at KTM. The Austrians won races in Moto2, but their priority was always MotoGP, and to beat Kalex you cannot have distractions. 

Yamaha could theoretically assist Fantic with finances and other resources on a Moto2 chassis project without necessarily detracting from their own MotoGP project. All while being able to nurture, develop and promote talent to be ready for MotoGP.

From VR46’s side, it means they can be associated with a Moto2 team and have a place to put their up-and-coming riders (although currently speaking there are not so many up-and-coming VR46 riders) while letting the VR46 team itself focus on the MotoGP class. 

So, we have discussed Ducati support for the VR46 team; Valentino Rossi leaving Audi; and Fantic joining Moto2. What does it tell us? Absolutely nothing for certain, but that there are certainly possibilities for the VR46 MotoGP team to switch to Yamaha, for the VR46 organisation’s relationship with Yamaha to grow and strengthen, and for Fantic to become a necessary component of Yamaha’s Grand Prix project.

Top 10 Adventure Motorcycles [sub-1000cc] | Best Adventure Motorcycles from Ducati, Yamaha, and more

Top 10 Adventure Motorcycles [sub-1000cc] | Best Adventure Motorcycles from Ducati, Yamaha, and more