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MotoGP, Sponsor Movistar at risk for Yamaha: there is a plan B

The Spanish firm may leave the championship and not renew its TV rights contract that expires at the end of 2018

MotoGP: Sponsor Movistar at risk for Yamaha: there is a plan B

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Yamaha was the first to confirm its riders, before the season even got going Vinales and Rossi's contract had been renewed, but it seems the work is not yet done. On the one hand, there is still the matter of a future satellite team to sort, with Petronas looking to have everything in place by the end of June, the date by which the M1s need to be ordered in Japan. On the other hand, the factory team still doesn't know what colours it will be wearing in coming years.

The contract with main sponsor Movistar expires at the end of this year, as does the Spanish firm's contract regarding MotoGP TV rights. The big M first appeared on the factory M1 machines 5 years ago, when Movistar acquired the Spanish television rights, the sponsorship contract having the same terms.

Before renewing, Movistar wanted to first negotiate the TV rights with Dorna. It's no mystery that offering a pay-to-view championship in Spain hasn't proved particularly successful in recent years, with viewing figures falling well below expectation. Added to which, its investment in the Yamaha team hasn't resulted in great results over the last eighteen months.

Yamaha has therefore had to wait and see whether Movistar will retain the TV rights for the coming years. Negotiations seem to have drawn to a close but it's unclear as to whether the outcome will be positive. If not, the fairings of Valentino and Maverick's M1 bikes will be empty.

Naturally, Yamaha's Managing Director Lin Jarvis has been preparing for this eventuality in recent months, working on a plan B to be executed if Movistar were to withdraw. Negotiations have not begun with the Spanish telecommunications company as yet, the manufacturer waiting to know the decision regarding the TV rights.

Yamaha is nevertheless confident about its future, safe in the knowledge that it has alternatives. One of these might be Monster, which already features on the M1 fairings together with Movistar. The energy drink firm will no longer be a Tech3 sponsor once the team moves to KTM (and so to rivals Red Bull) and had already considered a move to Suzuki. Painting the factory M1s green could be an excellent alternative, considering the long-standing relationship the company has with Rossi.

The Movistar-Yamaha case is not the only example of how TV rights can have a bearing on teams. The same goes for Sky, which sponsors the VR46 teams in Moto2 and Moto3. Sky still has not renewed its contract with Dorna, which means teams are on stand-by when it comes to making future plans.

Once again, everything may well fall into place at Assen.

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Translated by Heather Watson

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