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If You Hate “Team Orders” in MotoGP, You’re Going to Despise “Manufacturer Orders” (Opinion)

With three races remaining, Ducati’s Pecco Bagnaia is just two championship points behind Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha). It was fairly obvious at the end of the last MotoGP race in Thailand that Johann Zarco, aboard a Ducati from the satellite team Pramac, handed Ducati factory rider Pecco Bagnaia three points. Zarco had incredible pace, passing riders at will before he arrived at Bagnaia’s rear wheel with a few laps remaining. He let Bagnaia have the final podium position (likely foregoing a “podium bonus” in his contract).

If it wasn’t obvious what Zarco had done, it became so when Ducati brass openly praised him after the race for holding back on a pass attempt on the Ducati rider with the best chance to defeat Fabio Quartararo in the championship this year. There are eight Ducati riders on the grid, with five or more of them typically finishing in the top ten at each race. If “manufacturer orders” come down from Ducati that “no Ducati rider shall finish ahead of Pecco Bagnaia” during the final races this year (there are three left), is that fair to Fabio Quartararo or Yamaha?

By contrast, Quartararo has no Yamaha rider likely to finish in the top ten at any race other than himself. Most races see Quartararo swimming in a sea of Ducati motorcycles. Even if it were inclined to, Yamaha would be unable to provide a similar advantage to Fabio as the series winds down.

Of course, Jack Miller put his Ducati in front of Bagnaia at the last round, but Miller is leaving Ducati for KTM next year. Zarco’s concession to Bagnaia, however, could be tied to his desire to solidify his relationship with the manufacturer of the motorcycle he will ride in 2023. Indeed, aside from Miller, all of the current Ducati riders will be riding Ducatis next year, as well.

We will see how the remaining races play out, but more concessions to Bagnaia by Ducati riders, such as the one made by Zarco in Thailand, could tarnish the reputation of the Italian manufacturer with some of the fans and, potentially, mar the championship crown of Pecco Bagnaia if he achieves it.


  1. Mick says:

    Annnd none of all this matters anymore.

    That’s racing.

  2. Kevin2 says:

    Ducati has developed a great motorcycle. Good on them. Ducati, through various methods managed to be able to field one third of the grid. Good on them. Ducati really wants a riders championship. Good on them. Everybody does. Honda and Yamaha have fallen well behind Ducati in bike development. Bad on them.
    I have always hated team orders but have accepted them for what they are. But if 4 different teams are working together then you can’t really call it a fair fight, can you??? Now that the cat is completely out of the bag, I am struggling with where I am going to spend my money next year. World Superbike is a great show but it is mostly a 3 man show. I would hate to miss out on Moto3 because I think it is the best thing going race wise. So I am in a bit of a conundrum. If I could just get a Moto3 package a la carte, things would be great. So I will watch these last 3 races and mull it over a bit.
    So it has been well documented how competitive these racers are. I would think it would be extremely difficult for them to be told or even hinted to not to try as hard as they can in every race. Gotta be a real kick in the groin. But here we see it playing out right before our eyes. I realize it is all about money in every sport and I shouldn’t be surprised that MotoGP is no different. But I have to wonder…. if Pecco ends up winning this year by single digits, how will he feel about the whole thing??? He seems like a good dude and has stated he doesn’t want any help but now the entire world sees he is getting it anyway. I wonder if he can rationalize that to himself or not. Again, as competitive as these guys are, I would guess they would not like anything just given to them. Enea and Johann have already very publicly given him a few points. I wonder how that sits with Pecco.

    • Dave says:

      A calculated career move?

      Can you cite a rule that prohibits this? While I’m not intimately familiar with MotoGP’s rules on this, I can’t believe a media outlet would fail to cite such a rule if it exists.

      Edit: this is a reply to Jim. I don’t know why it’s appearing here in he thread..

  3. 5229 says:

    What we’re witnessing is a manufacturer that is desperate. In this case it’s Ducati. Their number one nemesis for years has been Marquez and Honda. During Marcs injury Ducati has failed to win a championship. If Ducati fails to win this current year what an absolute embarrassment to that company. Next year #93 and Honda will be back at full strength, the results of late have proven this. Ducati must win now while their enemy is down. Ducati has what, eight bikes on the grid? And a group of excellent MotoGP riders for sure. Ducati’s MotoGP budget must be astronomical. As of this writing Fabio on his Yamaha is in 1st,Bagnaia on his Ducati 2nd and Espargaro on his Aprilia 3rd. Very close points wise. If Ducati is so great, they should have ALL the top three spots now at this point of the season. This will be very interesting the last three races for sure. But I will say this. Just think about if Honda was doing what Ducati is doing to MotoGP. The Honda haters out there would be absolutely blowing a head gasket! Think about it. As all of us are fans of MotoGP, we want to see racing. Simple as that. Go Fabio!

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is honestly such a bad take, it reads like a 12 year old fanboy having a tantrum. Fabio should still be dominating this championship, but he tangled with Marquez, and scored zero points in Thailand. Quit crying!

  5. MNMark says:

    Going slightly off topic, has anyone considered what Fabio would do on a Ducati? The young man leads the championship on a bike that no one else can put in the top ten on race day.

  6. Jeremy says:

    I agree that it isn’t in the “spirit” of racing, but that “spirit” is a mythical thing at this level or racing/spending. MotoGP is a marketing investment, full stop. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ducati has 3/4 or a billion dollars invested in MotoGP during the years since Stoner last took the title without anything to show for it other than some of us committed fans who recognize the Ducati as the best bike in the grid. I’m not the least bit surprised about manufacturer orders.

  7. Dave says:

    I am not sure why anyone would be surprised by this. Ducati has “earned” this right by fielding a greater number of competitive bikes and hiring riders good enough to put them up front. *Of course* Ducati supplied teams will work together at some level to ensure a Ducati wins the title. Racing is a marketing investment. Enjoy the show.

    • Jim says:

      That is an interesting way to look at it. Of course they will cheat? They’ve earned the right to cheat? Enjoy the show?
      So it’s just WWE on wheels?
      I haven’t been following closely for the last few years. I guess now that it’s openly choreographed, I don’t really need to sit through it.

  8. Martin says:

    Is it a team event, where the rider is just one piece in the package designed to achieve a goal, or is it an individual event, for the rider’s glory? The priorities are decided by those with the most at stake, I would think. Nice article, Dirck.

  9. Jerry says:

    As much as Ducati has invested in this series – they’re practically carrying the entire show at this point – you can’t blame them for using every tool available to win the prize. And don’t think Yamaha wouldn’t be doing the exact same thing if they could find someone who could beat Pecco. Having sucky team mates for Fabio doesn’t make them honorable.

    Ducati have built themselves a fantastic bike, and if they were to let all their riders beat each other and hand the title to Fabio it would be a massive mistake, and everyone would jump all over them for it.

    By all means, stop watching MotoGP and go to WSBK. There’s some great racing over there. Of course, it’s only three men doing the racing, but those three race each other hard. No team orders over there, because nobody’s team mate can keep up…

    • Artem says:

      They can put some more money and rename MotoGP to DucatiGP.

      • Dave says:

        The other brands are welcome to invest. Honda used to be in Ducati’s position, more so really. They supplied half of the bikes and even then if you weren’t one of the factory bikes or on a factory Yamaha you had zero chance of winning, KTM, Honda and Yamaha are simply being out worked.

        • Artem says:

          I agree that previous times Honda (NSR), Suzuki (RGV), Yamaha (YZR), MV (Four and Tripple) were at Ducatis current state. But, in example, there is a financial limitation for developement purposes in F1. Mercedes and Red Bull were even mentioned on overspending. Even if it was not that big, there are some discussions on this subject.

          • Dave says:

            Agreed, and there have been many rule changed in MotoGP to curb the costs (spec ECU, for instance). I’m not sure Ducati is actually out-spending anyone else. I think it’s more that by having some many bikes in the field they have more testing and development resources in play. A few years ago the bike was considered un-rideable. When they got their stuff together it was interesting to see that some of the “un-rideable” vintage bikes started doing very well on satellite teams.

            While everyone is pointing at Ducati, nobody seems to be willing to accept that Honda and Yamaha have simply lost their way.

        • Artem says:

          Interesting. Life finds the way by terms of special approaches.
          By the way, I did not get why a can not reply to particular answer. Just to basic one. Suppose, this is to website owner or to moderator question. There were no “Reply” links.

      • SVGeezer says:

        “They can put some more money and rename MotoGP to DucatiGP.”

        MotoDUCATI, you mean MotoDUCATI.

        • Artem says:

          I do not like the sound of them. Pretty rough. KTM, by the way is close to them. Of course not H-D and japaneese bikes.

  10. Robert says:

    Racing at this level has never been out right racing. Money talks and riders that will not play by team rules stop finding rides. I don’t think any form of racing is truly racing. 20+ years ago when I tried on my own dime in local stuff (besides lacking skill) money was a concern, can’t race a crashed bike. I still think it is fun to watch. I been bummed all year that Honda has not put up a better showing. Oh well their is always next year.

  11. Doc Sarvis says:

    Ducati should be ashamed of themselves for making fast bikes and supporting the sport the way they have.

  12. Ricardo says:

    Same happens in Formula 1. Sponsorship money is the main driver for these decisions…

  13. Stinkywheels says:

    I feel for Yamaha and Fabio, kinda. Ducati has made winning a championship a real priority, developing a fast bad handling motorcycle into what this year could be called dominant. Yamaha and Honda got caught napping and stagnating. All the manufacturers used satellite teams, but most were a far cry from a factory team bike. It looks like ALL the Ducs are the bike to beat. I’ve seen nationality of the opposing riders determine who helps him, teammates, team orders, manufacturers. Yamaha stacked the deck a few times themselves.

  14. TF says:

    Ducati doesn’t spend millions racing motorcycles so Bagnaia can win a championship, they do so a Ducati motorcycle can win it. Ducati is fielding the best bike right now. It will change. Would Yamaha or Honda do the same under the same circumstances? Heck yes they would.

  15. Mick says:

    I’m not about to go looking for a conspiracy. Zarco rode the race as he saw fit. He may or may not have gone after Bagnaia for any number of personal reasons and that’s racing. If you want robots in the leathers, talk to Yamaha.

    I think some folks are just angry that he passed Marquez and not Bagnaia. As if passing Marquez means that you must then go on and win the race.

    Remember when Pedrosa took out Hayden late in a race late in a season. Maybe Zarco didn’t want to take the chance of being that guy.

  16. Artem says:

    I agree. It is not fair in essence.

  17. motomike says:

    I’d bet Johan got his podium bonus and more for taking one for the “team”. He should have.

  18. VLJ says:

    Couldn’t agree more with Dirck. This crap goes against the very spirit of racing. It’s bad enough that it’s one against eight, but when all eight are willing to team up to ensure that one specific rider of the eight always receives maximum points, whatever they may be on a given day, the championship becomes a farce.

    Even Miller isn’t going to pass Bagnaia under those Zarco circumstances. The only reason Miller was in front of Pecco was because he was ahead of him early enough that it didn’t require a late-race pass, and also because he was going for a win, not just the third step on the box. Guaranteed, Zarco would have done the same as Miller there if it meant he could finally notch his maiden victory in MotoGP. Because it was only another podium, of which he has many, he let it slide, just as Bastianini did the previous race.

    Total all these points up that have been gifted to Bagnaia, remove them from his ledger, and Fabio isn’t in nearly such a precarious position today. I’m not all that much of a fan of Quartararo, but this unseemly business has me rooting hard for his David personage over the aero-bedecked, fastest bike on the grid by a mile, eight-headed Goliath.

    This really is garbage.

  19. A P says:

    Zarco is not an idiot. Why doesn’t anyone remember one of the reasons Iannoni “left” Ducati… after knocking down Dovi a couple times during potential championship runs.

    It was treacherous out there, worn tires and a track where passing is tough in ideal conditions. In the dry when the points don’t matter, sure go for it.

    Again, Zarco is not an idiot. Why risk it? Bragging rights? One hopes our professional riders are better than that.

  20. Jim says:

    Sounds like something you’d see in NASCAR. Be better.

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