Jake Dixon may not have been selected for a 2022 MotoGP seat at RNF Yamaha, but the Englishman impressed team boss Wilco Zeelenberg during his pair of stand-in appearances last season.
Dixon was one of six riders to race in MotoGP for Petronas SRT during its final season.
The Malaysian team was forced into finding a string of replacements for the injured Franco Morbidelli, who then finished the year at the factory Yamaha team in the aftermath Maverick Vinales’ exit.
First alongside Valentino Rossi was WorldSBK’s Garrett Gerloff at Assen, followed by factory test rider Cal Crutchlow for the Austrian rounds.
When Crutchlow was then needed in place of Vinales, SRT promoted Dixon from its Moto2 team for a MotoGP debut at his home Silverstone round and the following Aragon event.
Andrea Dovizioso, the team’s 2022 rider, then took over from Misano onwards.
Riding the A-Spec 2019 bike, none of the SRT stand-ins scored a point until former title runner-up Dovizioso’s second appearance at Misano.
Dixon was the only replacement to step onto Morbidelli’s bike without a previous MotoGP lap under his belt.
The former British Superbike title contender got his lap time within 1.6s of the top on his debut at Silverstone, only to suffer tyre frustration that left him at ‘50%’ pace in the race. He then chipped the margin down to 1.346s by warm-up at Aragon, but an early race mistake, after overtaking team-mate Rossi, saw him caught out by a cold front tyre.
“We had six riders on our bikes last year and to jump on board [during the season] in MotoGP at this moment is really tough,” Zeelenberg said. “Because all of them that jumped on board were last and they still did a good job.
“Cal, Jake, Garrett Gerloff, Andrea – as soon as they did their first race, they were last basically, but it was not embarrassing. They were last, but trying to hang in there. If you just jump on board during the season, I think you are not able to expect much more.
“Jake did a good job, I have to say. He surprised us a lot, even in Silverstone. He struggled a bit over the weekend and he was unlucky in the race [with a tyre performance issue] but he had a good pace.”
But even before Dixon got the surprise MotoGP chance, it was already heavily rumoured that another SRT rider, Moto3’s Darryn Binder, would be joining Dovizioso at the new-look RNF team for 2022.
“Of course, we decided for something else [in 2022], but it was not due to those results basically, because they all surprised us quite well,” Zeelenberg said.
With SRT gone, Dixon, still seeking his first Moto2 podium after three seasons in the class, has returned to Aspar for 2022.
The 26-year-old heads into the new racing season, in Qatar next weekend, having been fastest on the opening day of the official Portimao test, fourth on day two and eighth on day three.