Valentino Rossi’s VR46 team will join the MotoGP grid for 2021 in partnership with Ducati’s third-tier team Esponsorama Racing.
Ducati confirmed the next step of its MotoGP line-up revamp on Saturday by announcing that Moto2 frontrunners Luca Marini and Enea Bastianini will pair up at Esponsorama – formerly Avintia – next year, and that Marini will run in VR46 colours. Both moves had been rumoured for some time.
Exact details of how the VR46/Esponsorama tie-up will work are yet to be revealed, but Marini – Rossi’s half-brother – will bring VR46 crew members with him to his MotoGP team.
Alessio Salucci, Rossi’s right-hand man, said: “Announcing that another rider of ours and of the Sky Racing Team VR46 will move up to MotoGP makes us so proud.
“Together with Sky, with whom we started this extraordinary adventure in 2014, in recent years we have given a decisive boost in favor of Italian motorcycling.
“Today, thanks to the agreement with Esponsorama Racing Team and Ducati, Luca Marini and the Sky Racing Team VR46 will be able to race in the top class, which from next year will thus be relying on the talent of another Italian promise.
“It is a great opportunity for the whole team, but also a decisive moment for the rider’s future and for our entire motorcycle movement.
“I’m sure we have a spectacular 2021 ahead of us.”
The move also means that 2014 Moto2 world champion Tito Rabat drops out of the MotoGP field after five seasons, the last three of them at Avintia.
Esponsorama had made clear that it was open to new investment and partnerships, with its long-term MotoGP future having been in doubt despite the huge strides it made with new rider Johann Zarco and increased Ducati support this year.
Team owner Raul Romero said: “With the agreement signed today, the technical and sporting restructuring of the Esponsorama Racing Team continues: in the recent years, from being the tail light of the category to fighting for the positions that matter thanks to Johann Zarco and the important grow path made by Tito Rabat.
“Over time we have shown that work pays off.”
Bastianini and Marini’s promotions complete Ducati’s new youth-focused MotoGP squad for 2021.
Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia – another VR46 graduate – have been promoted from the Pramac team to the factory line-up, as both 2017-19 MotoGP runner-up Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci depart.
The Pramac vacancies will be filled by current Esponsorama man Zarco and another Moto2 graduate in the shape of Jorge Martin.
Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti said: “We are very pleased to have signed this agreement with Esponsorama Racing and Sky Racing Team VR46 thanks to which Luca Marini will be able to make his MotoGP debut in 2021.
“Luca has proven to be one of the fastest and most competitive riders in Moto2 and Ducati will give to him all the necessary support in his first year as a rookie in the top class.
“With this decision Ducati wants to continue its strategy for enhancing the young talents that has already led Pecco Bagnaia, who also grew up in the Sky Racing Team VR46, to make his debut in MotoGP with Pramac Racing in 2019 and to reach an important milestone for 2021 to compete with the colors of the Ducati official team.”
Marco Bezzecchi stays on in Moto2 with VR46, and will be joined by Moto3 title contender Celestino Vietti.