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Valentino Rossi’s VR46 Team Signs 3-Year Deal With Ducati to Compete in MotoGP Beginning Next Year

Left to right, Alessio Salucci (VR46 Academy) with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and Ducati manager Luigi Dall-Igna

With Saudi Arabia’s Aramco as the title sponsor, Valentino Rossi will contest the 2022 MotoGP championship as a team owner. The Aramco Racing Team VR46 will run Ducati motorcycles with Valentino’s younger brother Luca Marini already slotted in as one of the two team riders. Valentino might take the other slot himself, although this decision has not been made.

It is not known currently whether Ducati will provide current factory machinery to the new team, or whether it will receive one-year-old bikes like satellite team Gresini Racing (which will switch to Ducati machinery next year). Ducati will grid a total of 8 bikes next year between the full factory team, Pramac Racing, Gresini Racing and the new Aramco Racing Team VR46.

Here is the team press release:

The brand-new Aramco Racing Team VR46 have confirmed they and Ducati have signed a three-year contract together to compete in the MotoGP™ World Championship from 2022-2024, with the Tavullia based team also confirming they have penned a five-year contract with Dorna Sports to race in the premier class.

Aramco Racing Team VR46 will be an Independent Team with the Borgo Panigale factory, having two bikes line up on the 2022 grid and beyond. Pablo Nieto – current Team Manager of SKY Racing Team VR46 in Moto2™ and Moto3™ – will be promoted to Team Manager of the MotoGP™ setup, with the Spaniard closely linked to talents of the VR46 Riders Academy and the current teams they have in the intermediate and lightweight classes.

The agreement consolidates the partnership between VR46 and Tanal Entertainment Sport & Media, the joint venture with Saudi Aramco and is part of Tanal’s investment plans for Entertainment Sports & Media related to Saudi Vision 2030. These include large urban projects linked to the KSA New Cities brand, research and avant-garde technology with the involvement of MAIC Technologies, KMHG and other partners international projects and projects aimed at sustainability also in the Motorsport sector.

Alessio Salucci, VR46 Riders Academy: “We are happy to announce that in 2022 we will race in MotoGP with a team of two riders in the colours of the VR46. A journey that began a little over eight years ago with the birth of the VR46 Riders Academy, a beautiful adventure shared with Sky, a long, demanding journey, but full of satisfactions and which makes us very proud. This milestone has a truly unique meaning, but it is not an arrival point.

“Year after year, since 2013, we have grown, we have managed to write beautiful pages of our sport between Moto3 and Moto2 and we crossed our path with many young talents of Italian motorcycling that we have had the privilege of being able to support in their growth path and that we will continue to support from the classes lower up to the MotoGP. A key moment in our history that would not be it was possible without Carmelo Ezpeleta who has always believed in this project and to Ducati for the trust he has placed in us for the future.”

Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna Sports CEO: “Having the pleasure of welcoming Team VR46 to the MotoGP category in 2022 is exciting both for fans from all over the world and for the MotoGP paddock followed the incredible career of Valentino Rossi and the growth of the VR46 Riders Academy from the beginning. Valentino is and will continue to be a very important part of the FIM MotoGP World Championship and now, with his team arriving in the class MotoGP, his extraordinary legacy will continue to inspire new generations of riders and fans. We welcome them to the premier class and look forward to many great achievements in the future.”

Luigi Dall’Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager: “We are very pleased to have reached this agreement with VR46 for the next three years. Their Academy has always worked seriously and with great professionalism, giving many riders the opportunity to gain experience in Moto2 and Moto3, and today they can be proud to have brought three young riders of great talent. VR46 has also shown that it is able to competently manage the a successful team in Moto3 and Moto2 and therefore we will strive to provide the maximum technical support to their new team in MotoGP, convinced they have found in VR46 an ambitious and motivated partner like us, with a common goal to achieve great results together.”

HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Saud: “To communicate the beauty of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, from our history millennial to the major projects that have been announced for the next few years, we have selected VR46 for a five-year joint venture as a strategic partner for competing as protagonists in the MotoGP World Championship organized by Dorna Sports. The agreement just signed between the team and Ducati for the supply of motorcycles for the seasons 2022-2024 is certainly news that we welcome very much positive. Ducati is a company that has great value both in Italy and abroad as well to have demonstrated incredible competitiveness.

“It would be great for me that Valentino Rossi can compete in the next few years as a pilot of our Aramco Racing Team VR46 together with his brother Luca Marini who already competes this year with the sponsorship of our brands KSA New Cities, MAIC Technologies, TANAL Entertainment Sport & Media. TANAL Entertainment Sport & Media and Aramco in the next few days will announce a collaboration in the projects from Saudi Arabia of international motorsport and the details of the project with VR46 in MotoGP and Moto2 world championship with the hope of being able to further extend its presence in MotoGP, which represents a fantastic show to train in the future young Saudi champions are also imminent.”

46 Comments

  1. Jeremy says:

    Well, good for Rossi. I hope he does take one of the seats for a season at least. I’d like to see him ride another bike for a bit just to spice things up before the sun sets on his riding career.

  2. motomike says:

    I’m pretty sure the S/A could buy ten MotoGp teams and have plenty of hacksaw money left.

  3. Lawrence says:

    Still waiting to see what Saudi Umbrella Girls will be wearing…

    • mickey says:

      ha…my wife came out to watch the race with me Sunday morning and asked ” where are all the girls in the skimpy outfits? Don’t they use them anymore?

  4. Doc Sarvis says:

    Is Vale going to ride long enough for Alpinestars to make leathers to fit a set of Depends?

  5. Mick says:

    Reading the comments of some of these TV people about racing is creepy.

    Comments from the sofa. What the furniture thinks.

    These are real people doing something that they love to do. The quality of your television program couldn’t be further from their minds.

    • Randy P Talburt says:

      I really wish the cost of watching racing wasn’t so high. I kinda feel bad that I’m not supporting them. Like all things corporate I’d love to support the riders but I don’t want to support the system. For as long as it lasts, I’ll just have to read about it here or on Roadracing World. I always hoped Rossi would figure out how to ride the Duc. That man is all Italian to the core and he has been helping develop riders for a while now. If he takes a seat on his team I think it would stretch him too thin.

    • mickey says:

      “Reading the comments of some of these TV people about racing is creepy.

      Comments from the sofa. What the furniture thinks.”

      Says the guy that tuned out of MotoGP in 2002 when they went to 4 strokes lol

      • Motoman says:

        Looks like Mick and the new guy Randy have a problem with numbers. The only numbers they know are 1 and 2. They either love something or hate it so much that everyone who participates in any way is creepy.

        I could give many reasons why someone would not be able to ride but still like to watch racing (or live their life how they choose). But to Mick it is only his way or you’re an idiot or criminal. That space in your head must be a weird world to live in Mick. Hope you enjoy it.

  6. mickey says:

    Mr Rossi still has a lot of pull with Dorna and with sports fans world wide. Even if you don’t like who he is getting in bed with, it benefits all of them, and doesn’t really hurt MotoGP fans.

    His team won’t make one iota of difference in the World Championship race…ever. We will still be entertained by the fast guys up front, the top 8 or so elite riders, that provide all the true entertainment.

    Plus it opens up his sattelite ride to a good young rider. Or maybe Dovi?

    • VLJ says:

      “His team won’t make one iota of difference in the World Championship race…ever.”

      Really?

      What if Team VR46 signs the next Fabio, or Marc, or even the next Valentino? Hell, even the next Mir would suffice. Zarco, too, for that matter. With the deep pockets involved here, plus the allure of riding that red rocketship under the same colors that have already won the Moto2 championship, one would have to be insane to think that Team VR46 might not stumble onto another supernova pilot.

      No one knows what the future holds, but if history has shown us anything, it’s that there is always another major new star just around the corner.

      Here’s one for you…

      …Pedro Acosta in VR46 colors. I’m guessing that such a pairing would absolutely make a very definite difference in the World Championship.

      • mickey says:

        well he may be able to sign Acosta but only if one of the majors don’t offer him a ride which you know is going to happen. He’s saving one of his two seats for his half brother, who has not exactly set the world on fire, probably for the next decade.

        Who knows maybe they will make a dent in MotoGP against the factories, I just don’t see it happening. Then again I’ve been wrong before. Once I think. lol

        Let’s visit this again in a couple of years VLJ!

        • Dave says:

          We used to say this about all of the teams that weren’t Repsol Honda or Jorge Lorenzo’s particular Yamaha and were right, until we weren’t. Then we saw the satellite Yamaha win, then outperform the factory bike. We saw Ducati win with Dovi – a lot, and then he Parma’s bikes too. Then KTM won races (!!!) and Suzuki. Then Suzuki won the title.

          I don’t think Marini is going to do it but if someone up to it takes that other seat and they get the same out of it as Pramac does, they’ll make dents, like so many have recently.

          • mickey says:

            Factory Racing Teams always have the advantage… whether it’s talent, equipment or just prestige.

            A hot young rider comes along, he gets a satellite ride, and if he does really well, he gets a factory ride. No one CHOOSES to stay on a satellite team when offered a factory ride.

            see Quatararo.

            Do you think if Zarco is offered a Ducati Factory seat he is going to say Nahhh…I’ll stay where I am cause I am doing so well?

            If VR 46 gets a hot rider that starts doing really well..some factory will find a seat for him.

          • Jeremy says:

            “No one CHOOSES to stay on a satellite team when offered a factory ride.”

            Well, Olivera did exactly that when Zarco’s seat was liberated. And then got mad when Binder got the seat lol.

          • VLJ says:

            mickey, remember, your exact quote was that “no VR46 rider will make one iota of difference in the championship…ever.”

            So, exactly how do you define “making a difference in the championship,” “one iota,” and “ever”?

            Zarco is currently having a huge impact on the championship, and he’s on a satellite ride. Fabio was the championship frontrunner for most of last year on a satellite Yamaha. By the end of the season his satellite teammate, Franco Morbidelli, ended up just a few points shy of winning the title. Oliveira on the satellite KTM played a major role in the title chase last year, as well.

            By any reasonable measure, they all were very definite difference makers in the championship.

            Clearly, the days of needing to be on a Repsol Honda or Monster Yamaha in order to be a factor in the title chase are over. Adding fuel to that fire, Ducati will be lining up eight bikes on the grid next year, so there is a very good chance that at least one of those six non-factory riders will play a serious role in the championship.

            I’m not sure what you’re watching these past couple/few seasons, but the VR46 team has already proven its championship-winning mettle, and surprising new threats pop up out of nowhere every season.

            Case in point: Fabio did absolutely nothing in Moto2. He was truly a non-factor, rarely finishing in the top ten, never mind threatening for the title.

            Now look at him.

            The same was mostly true of Joan Mir. He won the Moto3 title but didn’t threaten to win the Moto2 title, routinely having his head handed to him by Zarco, Morbidelli, and Bagnaia.

            Now he’s the MotoGP world champion…on a freaking Suzuki.

            Considering how well Morbidelli and Bagnaia are doing now following unremarkable rookie seasons, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Luca Marini or Enea Bastianini. Their time could still come.

            Then there are all the current up-and-coming Moto2 guys.

            Point being, we don’t know who is going to be the next Fabio or Mir, because we didn’t even know they were going to be the next Fabio or Mir. Quite the opposite, in fact. Absolutely no one thought either guy would do what they’ve done, this early in their MotoGP careers.

          • Dave says:

            Generally no, I don’t think most riders would turn down a factory ride to stay satellite but there are certainly exceptions. Would you choose the Factory Aprilia over the Pramac Ducati? The Factory Suzuki (which currently lacks the rear squat device most others have)?

            The only point I was trying to make is, it used to be completely impossible to challenge for a win on a satellite bike (tech3 tried for 20 years..) and that’s over now.

          • mickey says:

            wait until you guys hear the latest rumor in MotoGP. It will blow your mind.

            Like I said I have been wrong before but how long did it take for riders on satellite teams to start winning besides the occasional fluke ride? Pretty much not until they started getting same year equipment as the factories.

            When a satellite rider becomes good, either he gets a factory ride or demands the same bike the factory guys are riding. The way it’s going there won’t be any more satellite teams it will only be factory teams with different names.

          • Jeremy says:

            Rumor confirmed. Wow!

          • mickey says:

            Besides Zarco who is on a factory bike, lets look at the other satellite riders positions in the WC

            The next closest is Nakagami in 11th
            followed by
            Morbidelli 13th
            A Marquez 15th
            Bastiani 18th
            Rossi 19th
            Marini 20th
            Pirro 24th
            Rabat 25th

            did I forget anybody?

          • VLJ says:

            mickey, what about last year?

            Fabio, on a satellite bike. Frankie, on a year-old satellite bike. Zarco, on a year-old satellite bike. Oliveira, on a satellite bike.

            Were they not factors in last year’s championship?

            Also, who is to say that Team VR46 won’t eventually—sooner rather than later—receive factory equipment, as Zarco is receiving this year with the Pramac bike? This is Valentino Rossi we’re talking here, with an Italian bike and team, and with very wealthy, starstruck Saudis backing him.

            I fully expect Team VR46 to receive full factory parity, in very short order. If Pramac can receive it, Valentino’s team sure as shooting will receive it.

            And, as you already referenced, what if Ducati and Valentino and Gigi lure Maverick to VR46 with the promise of a factory ride and full factory support?

            Or Dovi? Or Raul Fernandez?

            Or Pedro Acosta?

            Remember, you said “not one iota,” and “ever.” Team VR46 might very well enjoy full factory backing within only a season or two, and what would stop them then?

            You didn’t say Team VR46 would never win the MotoGP title. Nope, you said they would never make even one iota of difference in the championship, even though Zarco is currently doing so this very season, under the same circumstances that Team VR46 will soon be able to offer its riders.

            Again, have you already forgotten what Frankie did just six months ago?

          • mickey says:

            May be eating crow. Please pass the ketchup

            but at least I have a year or better to develop a taste for it.

        • mickey says:

          That would make factory riders 9 out of the top 10 (with the 10th being a satellite rider on a factory bike)

          Which I think makes my point about satellite teams

          • mickey says:

            Factory riders standing in WC
            Quatararo 1st
            Bagnaia 3rd
            Mir 4th
            Miller 5th
            Vinales 6th
            Oliveria 7th
            A Espargaro 8th
            Binder 9th
            M Marquez 10th

          • mickey says:

            and actually POL Espargaro the other factory Honda rider is tied in points with Nakagami.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ll give you Morbidelli made a difference in 2020, but Quatararo and Olivera finished 9th and 10th in the championship 50 points + behind Mir who only had 1 podium, and that’s with no #93

        Mir won that year with 171 points. 171 points would have been good enough for 8th place in 2019.

        2020 was an aberration with an abbreviated season, many back to back races on following Sundays at the same track. Just not a normal season.

        1.J. Mir Suzuki
        2 F. Morbidelli Yamaha
        3 Á. Rins Suzuki
        4.A. Dovizioso Ducati
        5.P Espargaro KTM
        6.M Vinales Yamaha
        7.J. Miller Ducati
        8.F. Quartararo Yamaha
        9.M Olivera KTM
        10.T.Nakagami Honda

        • VLJ says:

          The quote was “wouldn’t make one iota of difference.” No one in their right mind would say the season-long series leader, Fabio, or the eventual second-place finisher who was in it with a chance to win it in the season finale, Frankie, didn’t have a very obvious impact on the championship.

          Same with satellite rider Zarco this year.

          There is a wide chasm between saying “No satellite-team rider will win the title” vs “No satellite-team rider will make one iota of difference in the championship…ever.”

          The first statement may remain true. The second statement has already been proven false, and will do so again next year, and in many subsequent seasons.

  7. Randy P Talburt says:

    Remember when cigarette/tobacco money fueled motorsports? Saudi/corporate money, all the same. I hope he becomes the next Kenny Roberts. I don’t think he’s completely finished but I don’t think he can ride a V4. He’s not doing very well with spec tires right now.

  8. Michael F Cusick says:

    A compound tragedy: First, the man can no longer compete (he runs around in the back of the field with the wankers), and, if that’s not enough, he gets into bed with those murderous Saudis, taking their blood money so that he can take Avintia’s place as the no-hoper team. This man was my hero for the best part of two decades, but this is all self-inflicted. Michael F Cusick

    • joe b says:

      I agree. One would think, Rossi has done it all, and would graciously become a team manager, or something. Going to Ducati, and its hilter skilter few can ride it bike, wont be the “marriage made in heaven” story. But he can prove me wrong. sadly he is just milking the Saudi’s for more play time, imho. I know Gigi is also just wanting the press, and with others money. its all ugly, not beautiful as it says in the press release.

      • Dave says:

        I think it’s fair to say that the Ducati has shed it’s rep as a bike only a few can ride. Dovi, Pettrucci, Bagnaia, Zarco, Miller, even Lorenzo have all been competitive on it, A lot has to go right to win but I think the bike is up to it.

    • Motoman says:

      You wish you could ride like those wankers in the back of the field. And oh yeah, you’d be the only wanker since there are no wankers in MotoGP.

      • joe b says:

        what does that have to do with either of the 2 above comments? are you just sad that others have another opinion, or did your mom leave you alone today?

      • Curly says:

        Totally agree. No wankers in the MotoGP field. Typically there are no backfield lappers at all in a MotoGP race unless they have a mechanical or off track excursion. Even slow old Rossi was less than a second a lap behind first place at the finish.

        • Dave says:

          Very good point about the lap times. The class has changed a great deal, for the better and we’re enjoying razor sharp margins.

          Rossi is also responsible for filling grandstands and living rooms all over the world on Sunday. His draw is like nothing that the sport has ever seen. Winning or not, he is probably the single most important figure in the sport. Hopefully his operating a team will keep the fans as interested as watching him race.

    • ilikefood says:

      He can no longer compete and runs around in the back of the field? So what? He really likes riding and racing. Wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity to race in MotoGP, even if it meant being in the back of the field? I think it’s actually great that he continues to race, doing what he loves to do.

      Taking money from Saudis gives me pause, but hey, it’s better that this money goes to pay for motorcycle racing than for chopping up journalists. If VR becomes a shill for the Saudis, then I’d change my mind.

      • fred says:

        Pretty much, taking the money has make him a shill already. Running the colors/logos/branding on the bikes, the hats, & the t-shirts.

      • Miss Sissy says:

        ilikefood wrote: “Taking money from Saudis gives me pause, but hey, it’s better that this money goes to pay for motorcycle racing than for chopping up journalists. ”

        Looking on the bright side, it means that his team is likely to get very positive press coverage.

    • Jon says:

      are you an American trying to swear like a brit? The only wanker I see here is you with that kind of comment.

    • Marcus says:

      Wankers? Do tell Cusick of your racing greatness.

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