Aleix Espargaro and Colin Edwards will race for the NGM Forward team in MotoGP next year, riding FTR-based Yamaha production machines.
The announcement had been expected for a very long time, but confirmation only came on Saturday morning at Valencia, as haggling over buying out Espargaro’s contract had continued over the past couple of months. Negotiations have finally been completed, and Espargaro has been cleared to join Forward.
The prolonged haggling over the contract had nearly jeopardized both the Forward and Aspar deals. Espargaro had a clause in his contract with Aspar that automatically extended his contract if he ended the season as top CRT rider, and Espargaro was forced to buy his way out of that.
Forward had to pay 300,000 euros to Aspar for Espargaro’s release, while Espargaro agreed to forgo the 100,000 euro bonus for winning the CRT championship.
Rumors circulating in the paddock suggested that Aspar needed that money to be able to afford the Honda Production racers, and without it, he would not be able to make the first instalment on the Honda production racers which Nicky Hayden and an as yet unnamed second rider will race.
Without the Honda production racers, American Honda would not be willing to offer the support promised to Hayden, and Aspar’s budgets would have been badly compromised. The conclusion of the Forward deal with Espargaro means the financial complications have been smoothed out.
The team had also been expected to retain Colin Edwards for a third season, with the veteran American rider expressing his eagerness to get back on a Yamaha-powered machine. For a while, Edwards looked like being the victim of the negotiations between Forward and Aspar, with Forward asking him to take a pay cut to help pay for the package. That situation has now also been resolved.
Espargaro and Edwards will get their first taste of the Yamahas next week at Valencia. Initially, the bike will consist of a leased M1 engine, in a Yamaha frame and swingarm. All fittings and fixtures on the bike – from tank, seating unit, headstock, bodywork, etc – will come from FTR’s workshop in Buckingham.
Yamaha have provided extensive support to the engineering firm, with a special unit being set up inside the company’s engineering department. As the year progresses, FTR will produce more of the bike, including a replacement swingarm and chassis.
Forward also confirmed their Moto2 plans. The team will cut back from four to two riders, retaining the services of both Simone Corsi and Mattia Pasini. The team will switch their Moto2 chassis from Speed Up to FTR as well.
Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.