The grid for the MotoGP premiere class will feature a few changes for 2011 beyond the well-publicized musical chairs of riders switching teams and motorcycle brands.
Among the changes are interesting switches in apparel some of the riders will be wearing, the latest here rumored to be in affect this 2011 MotoGP season.
Team Ducati rider Nicky Hayden will be stepping out of his longtime, almost trademarked Alpinestars (which the Kentuckian wore to his 2006 MotoGP World Championship title) and slipping into Italian Dainese.
On the other end of the garage, 2010 MotoGP World Champion, Jorge Lorenzo, has announced he is doing the opposite; Lorenzo will be shedding his Dainese leathers (which accompanied on his remarkable charge to win the MotoGP title) for Alpinestars.
To some these types of maneuverings may not seem very significant, but on the world stage of MotoGP the exposure for leather manufacturers like Alpinestars and Dainese is tremendous.
Because there are only an average of 17 or 18 riders on the grid these companies pay enormous amounts of money to get them into their gear. The price at the upper tier of MotoGP riders (say, current and former world champions) is quite high.
The reason? With a worldwide audience of an estimated one billion viewers, MotoGP races are one huge billboard and advertising venue in one. And the public is often swayed to purchase whatever brand their favorite rider is wearing (in the case of Valentino Rossi in his Dainese, he's made the apparel aspect a cornerstone of his appeal).
Imagine how many devoted fans will be making the switch as well and it's easy to see how all this could effect sales at these respective companies.
The timing of this change as the first MotoGP test of the season approaches in Sepang, Malaysia, February 1-3 is interesting, and says perhaps more about rider power then one might realize.
Valentino Rossi, in his trademark Dainese leathers, has made the move from the Yamaha garage to Ducati. His teammate, American Nicky Hayden, will now be in Dainese as well.
On the other hand, Lorenzo, slipping out of Dainese and into Alpinestars, will mirror his new teammate, Ben Spies, who is already strongly associated with the brand, having stormed onto the scene to win the 2009 World Superbike Championship with Yamaha and earn top rookie status in MotoGP in 2010.
Aside from the obvious synergy of having teams on mirror image racing motorcycles, there's a kind of obvious visual harmony in the fact that having the riders in matching leathers makes for a good, solid presentation.
One has to wonder how much influence Rossi and Lorenzo had on the decisions. If you wanted to, you could drum up all kinds of interesting behind the scenes infighting, with riders refusing to wear their rivals' brand and vice versa.
This leather change game is merely a reflection of the intense world of marketing and advertising that drives the machine of racing. Consider how many people purchased Alpinestars and Dainese to look like their favorite rider, whom are now going to have to switch brands.