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Has Yamaha and VR46 let a future MotoGP star slip through its grasp?

Gold & Goose

Manuel Gonzalez has revealed he departed Yamaha’s associated team in the Moto2 World Championship because he was disappointed at not being considered by either the manufacturer or VR46 Racing for an imminent rise into MotoGP.

The Spaniard spent two seasons with the Yamaha VR46 Racing team in the intermediate category and turned heads with a series of consistent top ten results, scoring in 29 of the 40 races he started and peaking with a run to second place in Qatar en route to eighth overall in 2023.

Gonzalez stands out among his contemporaries by having flourished in Moto2 despite an unconventional - and sizeable - step from WorldSSP 300 to WorldSSP and into the grand prix ranks, a successful progression that few have attained over the past 15 years.


It’s a talent that was spotted by Valentino Rossi upon switching from WorldSSP to Moto2 in 2022, Gonzalez becoming the first non-Italian rider to join the VR46 Academy and was duly placed in a team supported by both VR46 Racing and Yamaha.

Manuel Gonzalez, Correos Prepago Yamaha Master Camp, 2023 Moto2, Brtitish Moto2, Silverstone, portrait [credit - Gold & Goose]

However, after two seasons Gonzalez was frustrated he wasn’t been considered by either team in a MotoGP context, prompting him to make the switch to Gresini Racing in Moto2 for 2024. It is a deal he feels more comfortable with.

“We expected something more from Yamaha; some more evolution in the team, a little more strength on its part,” he told Motosan. “Even the Yamaha boss told me that it was an evolution team and of course I was to be able to try to win the World Championship. 

“We asked them for more strength, they didn't get me what we needed. In the end I know that it is an incredible team, the results maybe these last two years [don’t show that], because they have not been able to be the best, either because of the riders or something else.

“But I know that in the end the motorcycle is what it is, the rider is the one and on top of the bike on the track you have to give the maximum in the team and on the bike that is that.

"Here in Gresini, I have already seen that it is all much more together, together with the people of MotoGP, with the drivers, with everything, and that is a great step forward, especially for us who are in the smaller categories. 

“This gives us an impressive help by being able to help you with the MotoGP, having much more support from above, because you see that they look at you. 

“Where I was, well, I had the name, but I didn't see them looking at me, which was what I wanted."


Pedro Acosta, KTM Ajo, 2023 Moto2, Austrian Moto2, Spielberg, action [credit - Gold & Goose]

The direct links between MotoGP and Moto2

The Yamaha-backed VR46 team - known as the Correos Prepago Yamaha VR46 Racing team now - will enter into the 2024 Moto2 World Championship with two new riders; Jeremy Alcoba, who swaps with Gonzalez from Gresini, and rookie Ayumu Sasaki from Moto3.

Yamaha is one of three MotoGP manufacturers with a visible presence in Moto2 after joining forces with its ambassador Rossi to rebrand what was the former Petronas Sprint Racing team (RNF Racing) team. This is despite VR46 Racing competing in MotoGP with Ducati machinery.

By contrast, VR46 Racing - which also competed separately in Moto2 in 2022 - is now known as the Fantic Racing team, giving it links to Ducati as a result.


Meanwhile, Honda has the Idemitsu Honda Team Asia outfit to draw potential talent from, while KTM has regularly turned to its multiple title-winning Moto2 effort - run by Ajo Motorsport - for inspiration when it comes to nurturing young talent.

The last time the factory Yamaha Racing team hired a rider directly from the intermediate class was Jorge Lorenzo back in 2008, though the sister satellite Tech 3 Racing drew future talent from WorldSBK (Ben Spies, James Toseland and Cal Crutchlow) and Moto2 (Jonas Folger, Bradley Smith, Johann Zarco).

After four riders from Moto2 made their MotoGP debuts in 2022 (plus one from Moto3), only one rider has been able to make the step between the classes in both 2023 (Augusto Fernández) and 2024 (Pedro Acosta).

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