Saturday, 25 January 2020 | 11:42 WIB

MotoGP 2018: The Rise of Satellite Teams to Challenge Factory Teams

Satellite team riders Johann Zarco (left) and Cal Crutchlow (right) celebrate after finishing podium at Argentina GP (mirror)

JAKARTA, NNC – The 2018 MotoGP is up and running, and had just went through two of the 17 races in the 2018 season. However, the 2018 edition of the two-wheel land jets had already created surprises as the satellite teams try to break the dominance of factory teams.

LCR Honda Team rider Cal Crutchlow has successfully came out as the winner of the second MotoGP 2018 series at the Circuit Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina, on Sunday (04/08). The victory has boosted Crutchlow to take the top spot of MotoGP standings with 38 points.

In addition, the inaugural series winner at the Qatar GP, Andrea Dovizioso, sits at second with 35 points. The Ducati Corse team rider was only able to add 10 points in Argentina after finishing sixth.

The surprise came from MotoGP's 2017 Rookie of the Year Johann Zarco. The Yamaha Tech 3 rider shot upwards to third place at the riders standings with 28 points. Previously, the French racer was ranked eighth. The significant jump was attributed to Zarco finishing second place in the Argentine GP.

Thus, the series of events above has become a dangerous signal for MotoGP manufacturer teams that consist of Repsol Honda, Movistar Yamaha, Suzuki Ecstar, Ducati Team, KTM, and Aprilia Gresini. Moreover, the satellite teams comprising of LCR Honda, Marc VDS Honda, Pramac Ducati, Avintia Ducati, Aspar Ducati, and Yamaha Tech 3 have already showed their prowess.

There are still 17 series that MotoGP teams and riders must complete. However, names like Cal Crutchlow from LCR Honda, Johann Zarco from Yamaha Tech 3, or Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller have shown their capabilities.

In the 2016 season, Jack Miller was unexpectedly able to win the Dutch GP at Assen. Cal Crutchlow successfully won two major podiums with LCR Honda in the Czech GP and Australia GP.

Even though no satellite riders were able to reach the podium in 2017, Johann Zarco looked amazing. His performance in his first year competing at the MotoGP world championship with Team Monster Yamaha Tech 3 was indeed extraordinary. From the 18 races in 2017, Zarco was able to reach the podium three times.

The three successful races Zarco completed are in France, Malaysia, and Valencia. The success also took Zarco to win the 2017 MotoGP Rookie of the Year award.

In addition, there are five other rookies in MotoGP, and they are Franco Morbidelli (Marc VDS), Thomas Luthi (Marc VDS), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda), Hafiz Syahrin (Yamaha Tech3) and Xavier Simeon (Avintia Racing).

Rise of the Satellite Teams

When MotoGP returned to the 1,000cc engine in 2012, the victory podium was almost always filled by teams from manufacturers like Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati for three years. This is despite the fact that there are about 25 motorcycles that compete each season.

At that time, satellite teams were only seen as additions to MotoGP races due to the satellite teams' lack of budget for research and development. There were only several satellite teams supported by big sponsors that were able to compete with manufacturer teams for the podium. These satellite teams include Tech3 and Gresini (in 2012).

To participate in MotoGP races, satellite teams usually rent or lease machines and motorcycles from the manufacturer's teams. Of the six teams of manufacturers this season, Honda, Ducati, and Yamaha provided motorcycles or engines for satellite teams.

The ride and engine specifications received by the satellite team are usually lower in standards as compared to the specifications used by the manufacturer teams. The more funds a satellite team has, the closer the team in getting the bike and engine specifications similar to those used by manufacturer teams.

However, the 2016 racing season became the milestone of the rise of the satellite teams in MotoGP. This situation was attributed to a new regulation issued by Dorna Sports as the organizer of MotoGP. The regulation requires all teams to use the same engine control unit (ECU) and software. The new regulation was tested in the 2016 season with some adjustments.

The result was so clear, as the dominance usually showed by the Honda duo (Marquez and Pedrosa) and Yamaha duo (Lorenzo and Rossi) were no longer visible. The gap between the manufacturer and satellite teams narrowed.

The new regulation has now made MotoGP more competitive. We look forward to whether the riders of the satellite teams can become champions in the 2018 edition of MotoGP.