Satellite MotoGP riders won more races than Factory team riders last season, by a score of 8–6.
That’s quite a milestone.
But the ultimate test of MotoGP’s efforts to balance Factory and Independent teams would be a satellite world champion.
It almost happened in 2020, Fabio Quartararo leading the championship as late as Aragon (round 11 of 14) while Petronas Yamaha team-mate Franco Morbidelli went on to finish second in the standings, 13 points from Suzuki’s Joan Mir.
Herve Poncharal – whose Tech3 KTM team took two victories with Miguel Oliveira and finished 46 points from Mir – is confident last season’s satellite surge was not a one-off during a strange Covid calendar and that an Independent world champion is a realistic goal.
“Honestly, yes. Since now almost all of the Independent teams have equal machinery, equal support, equal development speed,” Poncharal said.
“We could see last year, with all respect to our Factory team, we won more races than them. If you look at what happened in Jerez 2 and Spielberg 1 [where Oliveira fell after contact with Binder and Pol Espargaro, respectively] we could have been very close to maybe the best place in the championship.
“If you look what’s happening with Yamaha, clearly the Independent team was in 2020 the leading Yamaha team.
“So I don’t want to name them all, but an Independent team has the possibility on paper to win races and fight for the championship. I’m pretty sure.
“It was a crazy season in 2020, Joan Mir was an incredible champion, but it all came out of the blue.
“I really believe an Independent team can win the championship thanks to the technical rules, the level of the riders we have and thanks to each Factory that supplies and believes in their satellite operation.”
Asked for his opinion on why Quartararo – a satellite title leader for so long last year – dropped from first to eighth over the final five rounds, Poncharal replied:
“It’s a difficult question and honestly I don’t have the answer. I think the people working close to him also don’t have a real answer, and as a KTM team we don’t have too much access to Yamaha.
“For sure, after the second Jerez win in a row, I thought ‘wow, Fabio is clearly the favourite’.
“Because when you saw those two races, the way he won them, he destroyed the opposition. So you were thinking there is a great chance for him to at least finish in the top three in the championship.
“A few things happened that disturbed him, I don’t know if it’s technical, if it’s psychological, honestly I haven’t got a clue.
“All I know if that Fabio is one of the fastest riders on the grid, he is very young and he’s got a lot of improvement margin ahead of him… But we will be trying to beat him in every race in 2021!”
In addition to the influx of satellite winners, last season saw a record-equalling nine different winners, despite the shortened 14-round calendar.
Valentino Rossi was the last rider outside of an official Factory team to win the premier-class crown, in the final year of the 500cc era, with all of the MotoGP (2002 onwards) titles so far won by Factory team riders.
MotoGP 2020 – Satellite winners (8)
3 – Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)
3 – Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha)
2 – Oliveira (Tech3 KTM)
MotoGP 2020 Factory winners (6):
1 – Mir (Suzuki)
1 – Rins (Suzuki)
1 – Dovizioso (Ducati)
1 – Petrucci (Ducati)
1 – Vinales (Yamaha)
1 – Binder (KTM)