Aprilia has today confirmed another of the worst-kept secrets in the paddock, announcing that they have signed Scott Redding to replace Sam Lowes in the Gresini Aprilia MotoGP team for the 2018 season.
The news came as no surprise, after it became apparent that Aprilia had decide to break Lowes’ contract at the end of this season.
Lowes had been contracted for two seasons in MotoGP, but Aprilia decided to invoke an escape clause, after the Englishman had struggled at the start of the season. For the full background to the story, read the Friday MotoGP round up from Austria.
With Redding confirmed at Aprilia, that leaves five seats officially still open for 2018. Most of those seats are close to being filled, however.
Aspar is very close to extending their deal with Karel Abraham for another year. The second seat at LCR (if it happens, as that is still not 100% certain) will be filled by Taka Nakagami.
The seats at Avintia Ducati are also still open, though the list of candidates there is very small. It looks like Hector Barbera and Loris Baz will be out from the team, despite Baz posting some solid results.
Tito Rabat is believed to be close to a deal for one of the bikes in the Avintia garage, while there are strong and credible rumors that Xavier Simeon could take the other seat.
That would be a surprising move, as Simeon has had a thoroughly nondescript career in Moto2, after a single notable victory at the Sachsenring in 2015. But he is said to have the backing of Belgian TV and several other interests, and be bringing around €1 million to the team.
That leaves only the seat at Marc VDS. Sam Lowes is one rider under discussion for that seat, after he was ousted from Aprilia. Stefan Bradl is also talking to the Marc VDS team, in the hope of returning to MotoGP after a disastrous year in WorldSBK.
The choice looks to be between those two riders, though rumors persist of Tom Luthi moving up from Moto2.
Luthi seems an unlikely candidate, however, as having two rookies from Moto2 in the team at the same time is a risky step to take. Risky, but not impossible, as Tech 3 has demonstrated this year.
More news is likely to be announced in the next few days. The last few seats in MotoGP should be filled before MotoGP leaves Europe for the flyaways.
Photo: © 2016 Scott Jones / Photo.GP – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.