MotoGP riders concerned by Finland, contracts, pay...

The Le Mans meeting of the Safety Commission saw MotoGP riders discuss a range of issues, including the sport’s return to Finland, contracts and pay.
Jack Miller, French MotoGP, 13 May
Jack Miller, French MotoGP, 13 May

Finland’s KymiRing is due to make its belated MotoGP debut on July 8-10.

However, with less than two months to go, the circuit still remains ‘Subject to Homologation’, fuelling rumours that it might yet be dropped.

For riders, the biggest concern is the track layout proved exceptionally tight and twisty during a 2019 test by factory test riders.

“We talked a little about Finland... Theoretically we will go, the track is done,” said Alex Rins.

“Some riders are worried because the track is so small. Some guys are saying that it's only first, second, third gear. But it’s the same for everybody.”

Another topic raised by the riders had been contracts and salaries, particularly in the aftermath of Romano Fenati’s sudden exit from the Speed Up Moto2 team.

“More than the salaries is that it's difficult to keep the contract. For example, we discussed the thing with Fenati,” Rins said.

“We don’t know if there were some [clauses] in his contract, that if he didn't have enough results, he is out.

“But if you have a contract, the team [must respect] the contract. Or at least pay a penalty or something like this.

“Also, someone was saying there needs to be a minimum salary, because I don't know what some riders are taking [pay], but it looks like not too much.”

The issue of low pay was also highlighted earlier in the weekend by Joan Mir’s manager Paco Sanchez, who said Suzuki’s initial offer to Mir had been lower than his rookie 2019 fee, while some riders are now willing to sign a MotoGP contract for 100,000 euros or ‘even zero’.

“[Suzuki] made an initial offer that was worse than the rookie offer of Joan,” Sanchez said. “This was in Portimao. Then in Jerez they said ‘OK, we have been thinking, we will convince [Suzuki] Japan to keep your current [pay] contract’.

“For us that was OK. We didn't ask for more money because we know the Covid situation. We cannot ask for a contract similar to Marc Marquez or the money that Fabio Quartararo was requesting from Yamaha.

“So we said ‘OK, we are happy with that... We will sign’.”

But instead came the shock news that Suzuki is pulling out of MotoGP at the end of the year.

Joan Mir, French MotoGP race, 15 May
Joan Mir, French MotoGP race, 15 May

Joan Mir ‘will not ride for zero’

Sanchez, now seeking an alternative seat for the 2020 world champion, added:

“I will keep more-or-less the same [financial] conditions that we requested to Suzuki [for 2023]. This is our priority. If not, Joan will go home. He will not ride here for zero or for these shit contracts that now KTM, Ducati all of these factories are offering to their riders.

“I have another rider in MotoGP, Remy [Gardner], and I know how shit his contract is. And we will not race for that with Joan. Remy accepted, for me it is unacceptable. Because this is a big business and it's like tennis, golf, football and other sports… MotoGP riders are the stars of this world.”

Those words prompted a firm response from KTM’s Pit Beirer to

"We did a good job with Remy in the Moto2 World Championship, he climbed up to MotoGP with us as world champion and got the MotoGP chance with us, with a very well-paid contract. Then I have to read statements from Mr. Sanchez in the media that KTM and Tech3 give out bad contracts…

"We like Remy very much and would like to continue with him. But it would be better if his manager didn't constantly berate us in the media. Then it would be easier for us to extend the contract.

“We will not exercise the option on Remy against the rider's will. If he doesn't want to stay with us, that's his decision. I understand from what his manager has said that we are not the desired partner.

“But rider managers and KTM riders are two different things. Because we have a very good relationship with Remy. We'd love to continue with him."

Meanwhile, on the issue of minimum pay for MotoGP riders, Sanchez continued: “I don't know if Dorna, or the manufacturers, but somebody needs to pay a minimum. I don't say the [amount] of Marc Marquez, but a minimum fair salary because we forget sometimes that they are playing with their life.

"Now there are many young riders that if you offer 100,000 euros, they sign. Or zero, they sign.”

Marc Marquez, French MotoGP race, 15 May
Marc Marquez, French MotoGP race, 15 May

'The only big sponsor here is Repsol'

Sanchez also poured cold water on the idea that Suzuki’s lack of title sponsorship had been a significant factor in the factory's decision to quit.

“I think not, because I know more-or-less how much the main sponsors pay and this is not a big impact for a factory,” he said. “The only big sponsor here is Repsol. The rest of the main sponsor are peanuts in comparison.

“How much does Monster pay Yamaha? Let’s say maybe 4-5-6 [million] in a budget of 50-60 million, is 10%.

"This is not a reason to take a decision [to leave MotoGP] in a big company like Yamaha. And even if next year Repsol didn’t renew the contract, I'm sure that Honda will continue.

“Because Repsol maybe pay now 10-12-14 [million]. I don't know exactly. But in the total budget of HRC, this is nothing. And for Honda [Motor Company] it’s 0.00001%.”

Instead, in Sanchez's opinion, the Suzuki board's decision was made by "people in suits that are not passionate about MotoGP. They never came here. And they are not worried about all of these people working here. 

"This team made, with a really low budget, really successful results. World champions [2020]. Last year we were third. This year they [were] leading the teams’ Championship. Joan and Alex are close enough to [fight[ for the riders' championship. So I think the team made extraordinary work. They don't deserve to be in this situation.

"But maybe there are people [on the Suzuki board] that say, 'What is MotoGP? Why do we spend 30-40-50 million in MotoGP? For what? We could invest that to develop electric cars or another marketing strategy'. I don't know, but for sure there are some people that don't like MotoGP and they are the majority at that moment of the [Suzuki] board.

"They [told the team that Suzuki were leaving MotoGP] and then they went on their holidays."

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