Over the course of the last 20 years, the Pramac Racing team has been a fixture of the MotoGP paddock – and has fielded some of the most varied and intriguing rider line-ups of any squad.
Making its debut in 2002 as the series made the radical switch from two-stroke to four-stroke machinery, it’s persisted since then, chalking up some impressive results, first with Honda and then with Ducati machinery.
Along the way, Pramac has had a huge assortment of different riders. And while some of the hottest names and most exciting rising stars have been among them, there’s also been an above average number of oddities.
Today’s team launch is set to continue the trend of Pramac rider variety as it shows an all-new line-up.
The outfit oversaw the successful development of Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia – the pair Ducati has picked as its 2021 works line-up.
As rookie Jorge Martin and KTM outcast Johann Zarco take their place, we look back at some of the most notable names who have previously lined up for Pramac.
The rising stars
2009 to 2010
Mika Kallio arrived at Pramac in 2009, fresh off third in the 250cc world championship and twice a runner-up in the 125cc class previously.
The Finn was tipped for success, and eighth place at the first two races looked promising – but crashes soon came to dominate his rookie season.
Kallio was still fast enough to secure a temporary promotion to the factory team to replace Casey Stoner (a sign of things to come as Pramac and Ducati built ever-closer links), but injuries became a defining mark of his time with the team, and he missed a significant amount of races recovering.
Demoted back to Moto2 for 2011, his career never really got wound up again until he returned to where it had started, heading back to his 125cc and 250cc team KTM as test rider and playing a key role in turning the RC16 into a race-winner.
2009 to 2010
Back when he was only 20 years old, Aleix Espargaro got his very first shot at the big leagues with Pramac, standing in first for Kallio as he was in turn promoted to replace factory rider Stoner and then for second rider Niccolo Canepa at various points through the season.
Espargaro, sporting the number 44 synonymous with his brother Pol rather than his trademark 41, only rode four races of the 17-round season – but managed to score an impressive 16 points compared to Canepa’s 38.
He remained with Pramac for a full season in 2010, finishing his first full campaign in 14th and almost doubling the points total of team-mate Kallio.
Espargaro made enough of an impact that, even with a step down to Moto2 in 2011, he was already on the path that led him to factory rider status before long.
2013 to 2014
By 2013, Pramac’s link with Ducati was well-cemented, and it had become the launchpad for anyone seriously considering a future in the factory team.
That’s why hotshot Andrea Iannone was snapped up from the Speed Up Moto2 squad, and why he went on to some strong results with the team.
A top-10 finisher in his rookie race and 12th in the championship in 2013, by the end of 2014 he had become a regular top-five scorer for Pramac and his move to the factory was an easy decision.
Iannone rewarded Ducati in style halfway through 2015 by handing it its first victory since the Stoner era at the Red Bull Ring.
2015 to 2018
In many ways, Danilo Petrucci is the stereotypical Pramac rider. Italian, blisteringly fast on his day, and hailing from a slightly unconventional route from European Superstock Championship to MotoGP, he was quickly embraced by the Pramac family.
Its longest-serving rider of all time with four seasons under his belt, Petrucci also rewarded Pramac for its loyalty to him.
Six times a podium finisher and unlucky to miss out on giving Pramac its first-ever victory on multiple occasions, he too was able to adapt himself to Ducati machinery in enough style to eventually secure a factory promotion, moving on up in 2019 and taking a stellar victory in front of home crowds in Mugello.
The falling heroes
2006 to 2007
Hofmann arrived at the Pramac squad in 2006, fresh off a stint as a factory test rider and racer with Kawasaki in the premier class.
Previously tipped as someone who had the potential to be Germany’s next big star, his time at Kawasaki didn’t exactly help as he tried to tame an underdeveloped bike, and he made the move to Pramac.
But things never worked out for him there either, with Hofmann quickly becoming another Pramac rider whose time with the team was defined by injury.
Although he did get a stint as a factory Ducati rider replacing the injured Sete Gibernau, perhaps his time with Pramac is best summed up by a hand injury that affected the latter half of his 2007 season – sustained when his wife accidentally slammed a car door on his hand…
There are few riders in grand prix history with a career as long and storied as Alex Barros.
First making his 500cc debut in 1990, he’s a race winner on a Suzuki RGV500, a Honda NSR500 and on a Honda RC211V, racking up four victories and 18 podiums before he finally stepped back in 2005, moving to World Superbikes in 2006.
It didn’t go according to plan with the Klaffi Honda squad, though, and despite a win and some podiums he finished the championship in sixth – leaving him looking for a route back to grand prix racing for 2007.
Joining Pramac for what would be his final season at world championship level, the Brazilian actually managed a successful campaign for the team, taking a podium at Ducati’s home race in Mugello (ahead of factory rider Stoner) and ending the year 10th before calling it quits.
Loris Capirossi is another rider whose career was long and successful, but who ultimately ended up languishing at Pramac.
A three-time world champion, twice in the championship top three in the premier class and a nine-time MotoGP race winner, by 2011 he hadn’t won in three seasons and had just lost his ride at Suzuki as the team closed down.
It hadn’t been a successful three seasons for Capirossi with Suzuki either, and by 2011 the only option really remaining for him was to jump onto an outdated version of his old Ducati at Pramac.
Missing four of the season’s 17 races through injury and crashing out of another five, he ended the year a distant 17th in the championship, a long way from the lofty heights of third in 2006.
In fact, perhaps the only notable moment of the season for Capirossi came at the last round (and his final race), when he parked his usual number 65 to honour close friend Marco Simoncelli by running the 58 plate only two weeks after the Italian lost his life at Sepang.
Randy de Puniet
Another rider who found himself making the journey from factory Kawasaki to Pramac Ducati, de Puniet joined up with Capirossi at the Italian team in 2011.
An LCR Honda rider from 2008 to 2010, the Frenchman had just established himself as a regular top-five contender in the opening races of 2010 when he broke his leg at the German Grand Prix. Never quite the same after returning from the injury, he never found that form again and subsequently lost his ride.
Ending up at Pramac, he didn’t find it again there either. After de Puniet crashed five times in his first seven races, a solitary sixth place at Phillip Island was the highlight of a year that ended in 16th overall.
In fact, it’s probably testament of just how bad it was that he finished three places higher in 2012 on an Aprilia CRT bike…
At the end of the 2020 season, World Superbike stalwart Chaz Davies’ name suddenly became a hot topic in the paddock, as the Welshman was linked to a move to Aprilia for 2021. However, had it happened, it wouldn’t have marked his MotoGP debut – thanks to a bizarre series of events that led to him riding for Pramac in 2007.
Davies had been a 250cc rider for the previous five years but, always on poor machinery and never able to be competitive, he found himself without a ride anywhere for 2007, and ended up taking the best he could find – racing for an AMA Formula Xtreme team.
That meant that when Hofmann re-injured his hand (already damaged by a car door) at Laguna Seca, Davies was already there to race in the support classes. Thrown in at the deep end, he didn’t embarrass himself in 16th – and actually did well enough to secure two more rides at Malaysia and Valencia at the end of the season.
2008 and 2011
Now that he’s well-established as both a World Superbike champion and as Suzuki’s MotoGP test rider extraordinaire, it’s almost easy to forget that Sylvain Guintoli raced in MotoGP on a full-time basis – but the Frenchman actually enjoyed a rather successful season with Pramac back in 2008.
Best remembered for his heroics at a wet Le Mans as a Tech3 Yamaha rider the year previously, Guintoli put together an incredibly consistent season on the Ducati, finishing every single race and only missing the points once to end 2008 a decent 13th in the championship.
He even returned for the team in 2011, as well, when the then-Effenbert Ducati World Superbike rider replaced Capirossi at the German Grand Prix.
Another former star of the 500cc era who mysteriously found himself at Pramac for a random appearance, multiple MotoGP podium finisher Carlos Checa’s premier class career looked to be at an end in 2007 when he departed LCR Honda and headed off to the World Superbike paddock.
However, just like Guintoli, he got the nod to return to MotoGP with Pramac, jumping onto Kallio’s bike at Estoril and Valencia in 2010.
His final two grand prix appearances aren’t likely to be ones he treasures, however – he crashed in one and finished 15th in the other.
The almost-tragic way that Ben Spies’ career ended at Pramac Ducati is one of the great what-if questions of modern day MotoGP.
Arguably the very instigator of the now-close bond between Pramac and Ducati, Spies was placed at the team in 2013 in the role that Iannone, Petrucci and Miller would go on to fill as test rider-cum-racer, after being unceremoniously booted out of the factory Yamaha team to make way for a returning Valentino Rossi.
But his potential with Ducati never even got a chance to emerge.
Crashing out of the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix while still a Yamaha rider, Spies heavily damaged his right shoulder, doing enough lingering damage that he was forced to take an absence from Pramac after completing only two races.
Trying everything to heal the fractured joint, he missed the next seven races before attempting a return to action in front of his home crowd at Indianapolis. Crashing again and this time injuring his left shoulder too, Spies never raced again.
It’s a shame we never got to see what could have been, with a path to factory colours laid out in front of Spies had the Texan been able to tackle the Desmosedici fully fit.