VR46, Leopard Racing in contention to replace Avintia for 2021 MotoGP?

Moto2 leaders VR46 Sky Italia Racing and Moto3 winners Leopard Racing could take over from Avintia Racing for the 2021 MotoGP season, according to reports

Johann Zarco - Avintia Ducati

With the 2021 MotoGP World Championship rider market now seemingly reaching its conclusion as Ducati pieces its jigsaw puzzle together and Yamaha prime Valentino Rossi for his Petronas SRT move, it seems the fabled silly season could now turn its attention to which teams will be present next year instead.

Though it is in the midst of its best-ever season in MotoGP, reports in Misano over the weekend revealed Avintia Racing is considering exiting the premier class at the end of the year to focus on other divisions.

Should the outfit decide to step back from MotoGP, its place is up for grabs for another team to assume running of its entry, much like Petronas SRT did with Aspar in 2019.

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Leading that pitch is reportedly Sky Racing Italia VR46 team - Valentino Rossi’s affiliated Moto2/3 outfit - and Leopard Racing, a title winner in Moto3.

Of the two candidates, the Luxembourg-flagged Leopard Racing, owned by Flavio Becca and financed by the Leopard energy drink firm, is considered the more likely candidate. Though the team’s fortunes have fluctuated on track - peaking in 2015 with Danny Kent’s Moto3 World Championship - its influence spreads widely, including cycling, and is well-backed.

As for VR46, it might be a little too short notice for the outfit to come into MotoGP, not least because many believe this is what will become Rossi’s focus once he hangs up his leathers. After all, many are still hoping the stars align for him to link forces with Suzuki - the one Japanese firm he hasn’t raced with - to attempt success from a satellite team manager role.

Over the weekend it was confirmed Enea Bastianini would step up MotoGP in 2021, most likely placed at Avintia Racing to succeed Johann Zarco. On the other side of the garage, Tito Rabat is in the middle of a two-year contract with the team itself, but it is unclear whether he wants to continue amid a disappointment run of form this season thus far.

If Rabat does walk, the way would be paved instead for current Moto2 leader - and Sky Racing rider - Luca Marini to be promoted, having seemingly lost out to Bastianini in a head-to-head for the Ducati contract.

Why would Avintia leave after its best MotoGP season?

Comfortably the smallest team on the current MotoGP grid, not least since the exit of Marc VDS and Aspar in recent years, Avintia Racing has nonetheless been enjoying elevated status in 2020, the signing of Johann Zarco upgrading it from privateer to second string Ducati satellite status.

Though it is still using year-old Ducati GP19 machinery, the closer ties have brought some remarkable results courtesy of the Frenchman, not least his pole position and podium in Brno, the first the team has ever achieved.

However, having relied on pay riders in the past, it is known Avintia struggled to stay afloat during the COVID-19 stretch to the extent it could take time out to focus on Moto3 and MotoE, or possibly enter Moto2 as well.

Avintia originally stepped up to MotoGP with the introduction of the CRT rules but has stuck around long beyond that, albeit generally rooted to the back of the grid until this year.