With no word on whether or not Franco Morbidelli will be fit enough for the Styria GP in a month’s time (8th August), social media is rumbling with debate on who should stand–in for Morbidelli, should he not be passed fit. The big-haired Italian underwent knee surgery after a ‘training accident’ and missed the Dutch TT. Yank WSBK star Garrett Gerloff was asked to stand-in for Morbidelli and he did a reasonable job. He may well be invited back to have another go. But he may not. Is he the right man for the job, or is there someone else that would be better for it? This is what I think…
There’s a very good reason Garrett Gerloff won’t be asked to stand-in for Morbidelli on the Petronas Yamaha SRT MotoGP bike. It’s because he’ll be racing his Pata Yamaha R1M in the World Superbike Championship in the Czech Republic that weekend. But if he wasn’t, should he be invited back for another go?
Assen was his second go on an M1 (although it was the first time he actually got to race it). Whilst he certainly didn’t embarrass himself, he was a little bit off the pace. That’s completely understandable; a MotoGP bike is a different animal to a Superbike, and he’d never been to Assen before. And with the MotoGP grid as competitive as it is, gone are the days of WSBK riders turning up and running at the front.
But he’s had his turn now. So I think it’s only right that someone else gets a go on the M1.
Gerloff’s Yamaha teammate in World Superbikes Toprak Razgatlıoğlu is, arguably, faster. In fact, there isn’t much argument to be had. He is faster. He obviously won’t be racing Franco’s bike at Styria (for the same reason as GG), but why wasn’t he called upon to race it at Assen. Well there is one big fat sugar and caffeine flavoured problem. Toprak Razgatlıoğlu is a ‘Red Bull Athlete’ and the Petronas Yamaha SRT MotoGP team is a Monster Energy supported team. And I doubt a blast on a MotoGP bike would have been worth Toprak’s Red Bull contract.
Should he have been a Monster supported rider, rather than Red Bull, I imagine he would have had the call, rather than Gerloff. There were rumours that he was offered the ride, and that he only declined it because he wanted to concentrate on his WSBK season. But I think it’s likely that there’s more sponsor related politics involved than that.
This one might sound a bit odd, but let me tell you why I think Jake would be a good option to stand-in for Morbidelli. He already rides for the Petronas team, albeit on a Moto2 bike. He’s ridden at Assen and knows the GP circuits. He knows the GP paddock. And he knows how to ride a Grand Prix, prototype machine. OK, he’s never raced a full-blown MotoGP bike, but neither has Gerloff or Razgatlıoğlu. And you’d have to say that a Moto2 bike has as many similarities as a WSBK bike does to a MotoGP machine. Even if they’re different similarities.
Jake has ridden superbikes, and has won on superbikes at BSB level. And we all know how high a level BSB is. He’s a very, very good rider. I’m convinced he’d do as well as anyone from the WSBK grid, given a shot on a MotoGP bike.
And whilst it would mean missing a round of Moto2, the championship he’s contracted to race in, he’s not really anywhere in the championship (21st) at the moment. One non-points-scoring weekend wouldn’t hurt, would it? He’s had enough of them as it is this season thanks to a few too many crashes. On second thoughts, maybe his crash-record is what’s putting the MotoGP bosses off.
When Cal announced his retirement last year, we were promised he would be invited back every now and then to do a bit of racing. Well so far in 2021 it hasn’t happened, despite Morbz spannering himself providing the perfect opportunity. Cal not only has years and years of experience on a MotoGP bike, he knows the Yamaha M1 better than all the other possible suitors put together.
I would have expected Yamaha to call Cal before they even thought about a WSBK rider. As a Yamaha test rider, you’d have thought he was the obvious choice. Maybe they did phone him and he told them to poke their M1 up their arse. Who knows? But with the next GP clashing with the Czech round of the WSBK Championship, they might have to be a bit more persuasive with him. Or give a Moto2 rider a call. Or just park it up.
Park it up
Of course just parking up is an option, isn’t it? Well, no not really. The team will be contracted with Dorn a to put two bikes on the grid at every round, so they can’t just leave it in the pit box and save themselves some fuel. And besides the contract with Dorna, the team have obligations to fulfil with all their sponsors, as well as the Yamaha factory itself. They need to put someone on it.
But who do you think deserves the opportunity to stand-in for Morbidelli?