Why Valentino Rossi's VR46 could take on the Suzuki MotoGP satellite project

New champions Suzuki hints that it will bolster its MotoGP with a satellite team and Valentino Rossi's VR46 effort could be in pole position to run it...

Alex Rins, Valentino Rossi, Yamaha, Suzuki

Suzuki has reiterated it remains the plan to introduce a satellite offshoot of its now MotoGP World Championship winning team, confirming it is still ‘looking into’ it ahead of the new cycle of team contracts from 2022.

The Japanese firm has gone solo with its premier class effort since the start of the MotoGP era in 2002, eschewing the trend of having satellite team support unlike the majority of its rivals to either bring on new riding talent or bolster its data acquisition.

However, that doesn’t mean Suzuki bosses haven’t been considering it with Suzuki Ecstar project leader Shinichi Sahara insisting a plan is always being looked into.

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"All the other manufacturers in the paddock have satellite teams, so I think our time will come. It’s hard to know [the exact benefits of a satellite team], because so far I’ve only ever worked with two bikes on the grid.. 

"Of course, it’s something we’re looking into for the future, but there are many different steps which need to be taken in order to get there.

For now Suzuki will continue with its own factory effort in 2021, but the latest Dorna contract cycle means it has a chance now to add two more to the grid, much like Aprilia is also set to do.

Why Suzuki hasn’t had a satellite team… but why it now should

Having romped to the 2020 MotoGP title with Joan Mir, Suzuki has demonstrated it doesn’t necessarily need an extra two bikes on the grid to be quick. Indeed, it even came remarkably close to winning the 2020 manufacturers’ tite with just two bikes, compared to eventual winner Ducati’s armada of six.

Indeed, one can certainly see Suzuki benefits from channeling its attention on a small but very focused core team to extract the maximum from two bikes, rather than potentially become  distracted by developing new ideas across four different riders with different requirements.

It’s also worth pointing out here that Suzuki arguably boasts the best test rider of them all in Sylvain Guintoli, while the addition of Mir and Alex Rins shows it is not afraid to put its faith in fresh blood that can adapt to its bike, rather than the other way around.

However, the definition of a MotoGP satellite team has now changed and regardless of its recent successes, Suzuki cannot ignore it. Once a chance to place tomorrow’s talent on the grid, it’s now no surprise to see offshoots like Petronas SRT Yamaha, Pramac Ducati, Tech 3 KTM or LCR Honda jostling for victories and podiums with their de facto factory machinery.

Suzuki may not have needed the benefit that comes with two extra bikes in 2020, but it risks being swallowed up by rivals for the next five years if it doesn’t consider emphasising its title win by doubling up its title-winning efforts.

Which team could run the Suzuki MotoGP satellite effort?

If there is a prospect of two more GSX-RRs on the table then there are going to be some big names potentially in the frame to take them on.

The one that stands out most is going to be Valentino Rossi’s pet project, the VR46 Sky Italia outfit, which dips its toe into the MotoGP waters for 2021 by backing Luca Marini at Avintia Ducati in a move widely considered to be a prelude towards a full scale switch from Moto2 in 2022.

This could coincide with Rossi - who is on a one year deal with Petronas SRT Yamaha right now - hanging up his helmet and taking a more hands on management approach with the outfit.

While Rossi’s heart is and will remain with Yamaha no doubt, while the Italian revealed talks have taken place provisionally on VR46 aligning with the Iwata firm, with the big budget Petronas SRT outfit already doing the business for Yamaha in that role, it remains to be seen whether the firm has the resource to stretch to six bikes.

Indeed, while Ducati has six bikes on the grid, it only supplies four on-spec models, while Avintia buys one of its machines anyway, and VR46 is unlikely to want mere hand-me-downs.

As such, provided Rossi is willing to sever ties to Yamaha, the stars seem to align for a VR46 Suzuki effort, one that would no doubt excite top brass management to have ‘the Doctor’ on its books. Having won titles with Honda and Yamaha, it would also be a poignant attempt to succeed with the third of the big Japanese makes, while it doesn’t hurt the factory team will get backing from Rossi’s own personal sponsor Monster in 2021...

Alternatively, if Yamaha has had enough of Petronas SRT stealing its thunder, then it could choose to get into bed with VR46 and allow the Malaysian-funded team to shop elsewhere for 2022. If that’s the case it’s another strong option on the table for Suzuki should they pursue that route.

Finally, Gresini Racing has confirmed it will revert to an independent outfit for 2022 but is widely expected to become Aprilia’s official satellite entry once the Italian firm takes its factory effort in house.

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