MotoGP’s newest independent team looks to have put recent rumoured financial setbacks behind it, according to Ducati Corse sporting director Paolo Ciabatti.
There was speculation around the San Marino Grand Prix week that Gresini – which will be a Ducati customer team next season after the end of its time running Aprilia’s factory programme – could be in danger before its return to independent status has even begun.
It had already announcing Italian shipping container business and long-term MotoGP sponsor Flex-Box as its title partner for 2022, but there have been rumours that the deal has fallen through in recent weeks, leaving Gresini scrambling to find a new financial backer.
Flex-Box has sponsored numerous teams in recent years, including acting as title sponsor of Sito Pons’ Moto2 outfit, as one of the rotating brands sported by Cal Crutchlow’s LCR Honda and as a secondary name on the factory Ducati machines.
And, with Gresini leaving Aprilia for Ducati as it strikes out on its own path after seven seasons as Aprilia’s factory team partner, it’s believed that Flex-Box’s move from smaller sponsor at the factory to full partner at Gresini was part of the incentive dropped by Ducati to entice Gresini to change allegiance.
Despite the rumours, though, Ciabatti told The Race in an exclusive interview that while there were issues in recent weeks in finalising the deal, they’ve now been ironed out and he’s confident about the squad’s future – something more important than ever after a first podium at Misano for current Avintia Ducati rider Enea Bastianini, who will spearhead Gresini’s 2022 campaign.
“I spoke to them yesterday,” the veteran team boss confirmed, “and they had recently some problems with some of the partners but I think it is sorted out now.
“They will also continue in Moto2, and the programme in MotoGP with Ducati will move on as planned.”
That spells bad news for Moto3 frontrunner Leopard Racing, which is believed to have been waiting in the wings to step into MotoGP should the opportunity have presented itself.
Having been to graduate to the premier class for a number of seasons, the Luxembourg team came close to securing the Avintia Ducati spaces 12 months ago only to see that team form a new partnership with Valentino Rossi’s VR46 operation.
Should Leopard have stepped up to MotoGP for 2022, it’s likely that it would have upset the rider market significantly, though – and potentially left Ducati’s latest podium finisher Bastianini in limbo.
Bastianini is contracted directly to Ducati, an increasingly common practice.
Leopard was in talks not with Ducati but with Aprilia about finally realising the Noale factory’s dreams of a satellite squad. Aprilia had hoped to do that in 2022 already in partnership with Gresini, and was left disappointed when the team elected to go down the Ducati road instead.
Gresini also announced its 2022 Moto2 line-up at the weekend, with Czech rider Filip Salac and MotoE rider Alessandro Zaccone replacing Nicolo Bulega and Fabio Di Giannantino, who is MotoGP-bound as Bastianini’s team-mate.
It’s believed that both riders will contribute a significant amount of personal sponsorship to the team’s budget, a situation that has become commonplace for 2022 as team finances continue to be impacted by the pandemic.