Musquin's Legal Troubles Keep Him on the Sideline

Marvin Musquin, the current MX2 Grand Prix points leader, started the season on a private Honda team, then switched to KTM when its title contender Shaun Simpson was injured. Musquin was even more impressive on the orange bike, but then his old Honda team took him to court in France. The tribunal forced him back on the red bike, threatening a penalty of 150,000 Euros (around $200,000 U.S.) for every time he raced on anything but their bikes. But in Sweden, Musquin didn’t race at all. What happened? We asked our GP correspondent Adam Wheeler to fill us in.

Some processional motos in front of a buoyant Swedish Grand Prix crowd failed to hide the clamour of controversy surrounding the MX2 class and the issuing of statements, opinions and indictments concerning Marvin Musquin, the French teenager who held a 47-point lead in the series coming to the final GP of three in a three-week stretch across northern Europe.

In truth the situation reached absurd proportions. The Honda/KTM rider did not compete at the Grand Prix in the wake of a French court ruling during the week that his mid-season round seven departure, from the privateer NGS Honda team and subsequent alliance with the works Red Bull KTM squad (he claimed technical development had not been carried out on the Honda, yet was winning the championship at the time of his departure) was in breach of contract. Monetary sanctions were put in place if the teenager swung his leg over an SX-F again, pending an appeal. Meetings were held with the rider’s representatives (who now hold a degree of notoriety in the paddock), legal counsel, KTM and Youthstream on Friday evening.

Giuseppe Luongo briefed the press on Saturday claiming that he had previously no legal right to deny Musquin an entry and also absolved Youthstream’s position by saying that the sometimes incomprehensible world of contracts between riders and team has to be regulated by those same parties. On Sunday Luongo rightfully proposed that the FIM could rule in these kinds of incidents in the future with teams presenting sealed contracts at the start of the season to the governing body who would act as an arbitrating force.

Unbelievably Musquin actually attempted a dramatic u-turn when faced with the reality that defending his championship lead with KTM would carry heavy financial penalties and told NGS he would race the CRF again on Saturday morning. The fact that his race licence was submitted through technical control with KTM and his request to the beleaguered French squad was made after the Saturday 8 a.m. deadline meant the orange machines that had taken him to three wins from four and six motos from eight, were his only and costly option.  After consultation the most-deserving winner of this year’s series sat out the Grand Prix, and saw his points advantage shrink to 13 and now looks to a three-week break in which to get his legal position resolved.

In a press conference during Saturday afternoon KTM Off-road Sport director Pit Beirer sat alongside Musquin and both vocally expressed their disappointment with the predicament. Beirer then became emotional, and upon claiming that Musquin had not been paid for a year and a half, embarked on an astonishing tirade against Honda’s murky past of teams failing to fulfil their financial obligations—of which he has bitter personal experience. Beirer’s heartfelt exposition was not without truth but the manner of his delivery will echo in Honda Europe’s office space in the coming days.

Musquin said relatively little but would not comment on the fact that he had been offered - and turned down - a generous deal for 2009 (made on September 4,  2008) by Honda Europe and thus could have avoided his non-payment and this whole episode if it wasn’t for initially chasing the best pay check. With many doors closed for 2009, the talented teenager entered a bare-bones agreement with NGS and was fully aware of the financial balance sheet before he started winning Grand Prix.