To say Randy de Puniet had a tough season this year might be an understatement. Seemingly finding his groove at LCR Honda during the 2010 season, RdP found himself going into the 2011 known more for his well-raced finishes than gravel trap disappointments. The Frenchman showed a new maturity with his riding, and many thought his riding style would suit the troublesome Ducati Desmosedici GP11 well.
While the beginning of the season often saw de Puniet the fastest of the Italian bikes, it was clear that the move to Pramac Ducati was a misstep in the rider’s career. Jumping ship for 2012, and clear that he did not want to race in World Superbike or on a CRT machine, de Puniet seemingly had a number of options in front of him despite the 2011 season winding to a close: a return to LCR Honda, a factory ride with Rizla Suzuki, and ties to the well-run Aspar MotoGP team.
Those options would be limited though, as 2011 Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl was shoe-horned into the LCR Honda squad to keep the pretense alive that Moto2 prepared riders to race in MotoGP. Similarly the rug was pulled out from underneath the Frenchman, as Rizla Suzuki got its plugged pulled almost immediately after RdP tested the Suzuki GSV-R, with promising results we might add. Left with few other choices, and certainly none of them better, it comes with little surprise then that Jorge “Aspar” Martinez’s MotoGP team has announced that Randy de Puniet will be one of its two riders for the 2012 MotoGP season.
De Puniet will be joined by former-MotoGP/Moto2 racer Aleix Espargaró on the two bike team. Dropping Ducati and announcing that Team Aspar will run an all CRT effort, the Spanish team will use Aprilia-powered bikes (De Puniet tested one of these bikes at Jerez last week). While a chassis manufacturer has not been announced, paddock gossip has been suggesting that Aprilia could be supplying a custom chassis for the racing effort. If you’ve been following MotoGP and the CRT movement closely, your eyebrows should be raised right now.
“We are really happy because we find ourselves with a brand new challenge ahead of us and we have full faith that CRT is the future of MotoGP, which is why we are amongst the first to join this initiative,” said Team Owner Jorge Martínez. “As a team we continue to grow and after having a single rider for our first two seasons in MotoGP we will now have two in Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaró. I am pleased to welcome Randy back to the team; he was already with us back in 2005 and we have good memories.”
“Aleix was also with us in 2009 although it was only for two races. We are sure that this will be a successful project with the riders we have but also with the engine supplier, which will be Aprilia. We always wanted to stick with them for this project because of the fabulous relationship we have with them and their pedigree in the smaller classes. Our objective this season is to be the best CRT team and to prepare for another step forward in 2013”.
“I am very happy to return to the Aspar Team, having already raced with them in 2005 during my 250cc career,” explained Randy de Puniet. “I have very fond memories of that time and now we are taking on a new challenge together in the shape of CRT. I know that this is a very competitive team and they will be fighting to have the best material available. We have already tested and gathered a lot of good feedback. CRT is the future of MotoGP and even though we have a lot of work ahead of us it will be enjoyable.”
“The objective for next season will be to adapt as soon as possible to this new prototype and gradually close the gap to the factory bikes,” the Frenchman continued. “Testing at Jerez was very productive, we had good weather and managed to gather a lot of good data. The lap times were interesting even though we are obviously a long way off the motorcycle we will start the season with so I am very pleased with how everything is coming together.”
“First of all I am very excited to join the Aspar Team and especially to be returning to MotoGP, which is a huge source of motivation for me,” exclaimed Aleix Espargaró. “In 2010 I had a pretty positive season and I would have liked to continue for another year. I think that with my height and weight I should be more suited to the category and I am sure we’ll have a good year and get some great results for the Aspar Team.”
“CRT is a totally new concept and we will have a lot of work to do at the start but I have joined the Aspar Team because they comes with certain guarantees and I know they won’t take this challenge lightly,” continued the Spaniard. “They are very professional and I am sure they will develop a great motorcycle. I am delighted to be involved with this new project.”
Source: Team Aspar; Photo: MotoGP