Britain could finally have another MotoGP rider next year

Could Jake Dixon usurp Tony Arbolino and partner Alex Marquez at Gresini Racing to be the first British rider in MotoGP since 2020?

Jake Dixon, Tony Arbolino, 2023 Moto2 Argentinian Grand Prix podium. - Gold and Goose

Jake Dixon could be in line to move up to MotoGP next season, and potentially with a winning motorcycle.

If you want to win in MotoGP, one of the best things to do is negotiate your way onto a Ducati Desmosedici GP.

That seems to be on the cards for Jake Dixon, who would be the first full-time MotoGP rider from Britain since Cal Crutchlow retired at the end of 2020 should he secure a seat for next year. reports that Gresini Racing, which announced this week that it will retain Alex Marquez for 2024 following his MotoGP Sprint win at Silverstone, could be Dixon’s best chance of securing a MotoGP ride for next season.

Of course, doing so would also put Dixon on a bike and in a team which is affirmatively capable of achieving race wins and podiums.

However, the specific side of the garage that Dixon would be slotting into would be that currently occupied by Fabio Di Giannantonio, the only current Ducati rider to not have a podium in MotoGP, and one of the three riders of the Bologna marque to have not won (alongside Luca Marini and Johann Zarco).

There are many rivals for Dixon in his quest for the second Gresini ride, the most obvious being Tony Arbolino - a two-time winner this season (to Dixon’s single win), and who sits second in the World Championship to prospective KTM MotoGP messiah Pedro Acosta. 

The credentials of Arbolino are arguably greater than those of Dixon. Mathematically, Arbolino has the edge, with four more wins and one more podium than Dixon in the intermediate class, in which the Italian has competed for two less seasons than his British rival. Additionally, Arbolino has one more win, and two more podiums, than Dixon in the 2023 season specifically.

Dixon’s Grand Prix career has been one of almost constant improvement. It started terribly in 2019, thanks at least in part to the unfavoured KTM chassis he rode for what was then the Angel Nieto Team. A move to Petronas Sprinta Racing’s Kalex frame for 2020 and 2021 saw Dixon’s speed improve, although the consistency was still lacking. Further improvements in speed, as well as consistency, came in 2022, when the #96 returned to the team of Jorge Martinez ‘Aspar’ and his rebranded GasGas Aspar team.

The culmination of this progression has been a 2023 season which is less than halfway done but in which Dixon has achieved four podiums and a maiden Grand Prix victory. 

When comparing Dixon to the likes of Fabio Quartararo, who achieved only one win in Moto2, or Takaaki Nakagami, who won only twice in the intermediate category, it is possible to see the sporting justification for the interest in Dixon, who also made two MotoGP starts for the Petronas SRT team (now RNF Aprilia) in 2021.

On the other hand, the alternative candidate - Arbolino - simply has a stronger, more competitive record than Dixon, illustrated by his 50-point advantage over the #96 in the current points standings. 

Additionally, Arbolino is also Italian, like the Gresini team. That’s not to say that Gresini has it out for the Brits, or the non-Italians in general, but there is a reason why the VR46 Rider Academy works almost exclusively with Italian riders, and why Michael Laverty’s Vision Track Racing Team works almost exclusively with British riders. And it’s not just about ‘looking out for your own’, it’s also about language barriers and cultural divides. Greater synergy between rider and team is likely to allow both to work with greater optimisation. 

That does not mean that Dixon cannot win, or fit in, with Gresini simply because he is not Italian. For example, he currently rides for a Spanish team in Aspar, with a Spanish teammate who had won three titles at European and World level with Aspar, but Dixon is far out-performing Izan Guevara this year. Also, Arbolino is riding for a Belgian-owned team with many nationalities in its staff; and his title rival, the Spanish Acosta, rides for a Finnish-run team backed by an Austrian manufacturer and an Austrian energy drink.

Nationality is not everything, but it does count for something. It also counts for Dixon, who, as a British rider, is almost unique in the Grand Prix paddock.

Next year, with Sam Lowes on his way to WorldSBK, there are likely to be no more than four British riders in Grand Prix racing, with Dixon; the two riders chosen by Vision Track; and Rory Skinner, should he keep his seat at American Racing.

As mentioned above, there has not been a British rider in the MotoGP class on a full-time basis since Cal Crutchlow retired at the end of 2020. But, TNT Sports, formerly BT Sport, is one of the biggest MotoGP television broadcasters, and that gives them political power in MotoGP. If they want a British rider in MotoGP, which they would do if they thought it would bring in more viewers, then they can try to push for that to happen. 

Ducati Monster SP (2023) track review - Silverstone GP circuit on the Monster SP

Ducati Monster SP (2023) track review - Silverstone GP circuit on the Monster SP