Next year's grand prix structure yet to be completely determined.
Words: Adam Wheeler
Yamaha Motor Europe have claimed the recent rumours of a sensational switch by Jorge Prado from a contract containing another three seasons with Red Bull KTM to Monster Energy Yamaha crew are unfounded.
The 20-year-old Spaniard’s name had been linked with the factory team in the wake of a modest year of results so far in 2021 for Yamaha and just two podium finishes between Glenn Coldenhoff, Jeremy Seewer and Ben Watson.
Yamaha were frequently associated with Prado in the last month as the manufacturer seeks the same kind of success in the premier class that they are currently enjoying with Maxime Renaux at the head of MX2, and gossip swirled around Prado’s future in the KTM set-up; an organisation where he has spent his entire career.
“There is a lot of noise and rumours about this rider, but it is not Yamaha’s game to go for a rider that is signed with another brand,” underlined YME’s offroad racing manager Alex Kowalski.
“That is not the way we want to do things. If a rider is coming to the end of his contract then that is another game but this is not the case with Jorge.”
Yamaha might be dissatisfied with the season to date, which has been affected by Jeremy Seewer’s bout of Epstein-Barr virus and with Coldenhoff also searching for podium contention consistency.
Watson, as the rookie on the squad, has shone with top ten speed but has also suffered in Russia, Latvia and the recent Turkish double. The Brit currently sits 10th in the standings and Yamaha have yet to confirm him as part of the team with Coldenhoff and Seewer, who have deals in place for 2022.
The procrastination with the UK’s sole works rider in MXGP also fuelled the speculation that Yamaha were looking to change the third member of the line-up or maybe even run two racers on the YZ450FM.
“It’s not completely fixed yet and we will see what happen during the next GPs, but the target is to fix the same rider line-up in both MX2 and MXGP,” Kowalski offered.
“Ben is a super-nice guy and super-loyal to the brand. He’s been with us a long time, won MX2 races for us and we had the chance to let him step up into a factory MXGP team with a one-plus-one contract. We wanted him to show what he could do.
“At the moment the season has been quite tough for him. He’s had some good moments and he’s a fighter – he has everything. He’s an athlete and the riding style is there, but he is lacking a bit still to fight with the big guys of the MXGP class.
“He demonstrated some [potential], but we are still waiting for some strong results. We are not asking him to be world champion or to be winning GPs, but to be part of the fight. Turkey was a struggle, but the team is fully behind him and he needs to work to see how he can improve.
“You don’t put such a rider in a factory team to then not try to find a solution, so we need to find something to continue to support him.”