Even before the summer break ended at Silverstone this weekend the first domino in the row had tumbled. The move of Alex Rins to Monster Energy Yamaha from LCR Honda next season is just the start. Plenty more dominoes will fall in the next few weeks. It’s that time of the year. We have not even reached the halfway stage of this season and already next year is on our minds. It’s part and part of the process that just gets earlier and earlier every season. Some moves come completely out of the blue. Others are much more predictable.

Without a doubt the biggest defection and secret in every sense of the word came in 1961 when Ernst Degner left the East German MZ factory to join Suzuki. At the other end of the scale, Valentino Rossi’s announcement he was leaving Honda to join Yamaha in 2004 hardly came as a great surprise. Both moves played a massive part in the outcome of the World Championships for many years to follow

Degner’s story is more akin to a John le Carre cold war thriller than a Grand Prix paddock story. Riding the two-stroke East German MZ he led the 125cc World Championship from the four-stroke Honda of Tom Phillis going into the penultimate round of the Championship at Kristianstad in Sweden. Suzuki wanted Degner’s engineering and riding prowess to spearhead their attack on both 50 and 125cc World Championships in the coming seasons.

Degner was keen to shake of the shackles of living in communist-controlled East Germany and so his defection from his homeland was hatched in enormous and necessary secrecy. It was never going to be easy. Degner was accompanied and watched by a dreaded Stasi policeman at every Grand Prix to ensure he would return to his homeland after every race.

While he was en route to Sweden a friend smuggled Degner’s wife and children in the boot of an American car through the checkpoint in the Berlin Wall to safety in West Berlin. After the race once Degner knew his family were safe, he tricked the Stasi policeman and jumped on the ferry to Denmark taking with him all the MZ two-stroke secrets plus some engine parts to Suzuki. The Degner family was free and he rewarded Suzuki with their first 50cc World title the following season.

There is nothing the Grand Prix paddock likes more than a good old rumour especially over a beer at the end of a day. Those rumours flowed like that beer, in 2003. The rumour was that Valentino Rossi was leaving Honda and joining the underperforming Yamaha team. I honestly didn’t believe it at first. The BBC were not happy with me because I did not push Honda hard enough on the subject in an interview in Rio, but as the year progressed it was obvious it was going to happen.

Both Honda and Yamaha kept stum, but by the time I hosted the press conference at that final round in Valencia to make the official announcement it was old, but still sensational news. I will never forget Rossi’s first ride on the Yamaha at that opening round of the 2004 at Welkom in South Africa. Twenty-eight laps of pure theatre as those bitter rivals Rossi and Max Biaggi duelled in the sun. At the chequered flag Rossi held a two-tenths of a second advantage over the man he’d replaced at Yamaha. The rest is history and Rossi went on to win Yamaha the World title that season and three more times. I should have believed those rumours from the start!

So the silly season has already arrived with still 11 races remaining. The Silverstone paddock was buzzing with rumours especially concerning the three M’s. Marquez, Morbidelli and Martin. Rins has pushed over the first domino and be prepared for plenty more to follow in the next few weeks. We love it.