The final piece in the 2017 MotoGP rider puzzle has been slotted into place. Today, the Pull & Bear Aspar team announced that they have signed Karel Abraham to ride for them for 2017.
Abraham will replace Yonny Hernandez, and will race a Ducati Desmosedici GP15.
Hernandez had initially been expected to keep his ride for 2017, but rumors that Aspar was unhappy with the performance of Hernandez had been swirling since mid-season, becoming more concrete at Aragon.
Hernandez is currently 22nd in the MotoGP standings, and last of the regular MotoGP riders. He has scored just 17 points in 15 races, while teammate Eugene Laverty has racked up 71 points and is 12th in the championship, and second satellite Ducati.
There can be no doubt that Abraham’s signing is connected to the financial health of the team. Aspar has struggled financially since the deal with Malaysian energy drink Drive M7 fell through at the beginning of the 2015 season, in response to a trademark dispute.
Aspar has spent frugally in MotoGP, and signing Yonny Hernandez was a way of ensuring cash flow into the team. Hernandez bought money from personal sponsors, as well as getting support from Dorna as the the only South American rider on the grid.
Abraham’s money will replace the money the team loses from Hernandez.
The plight of Aspar underlines the difficulties satellite teams face as the grid has become more competitive. Sponsors demand some level of success for their investment, but success has become increasingly hard to come by.
A few years ago, there were the factory Hondas and Yamahas, and perhaps Casey Stoner on the Ducati to beat, meaning that if they got lucky, a satellite team had a shot at a podium, and should be capable of competing for top tens, and even top sixes.
Now, with the Yamahas, Hondas, Suzukis, and Ducatis competitive, the Aprilias improving, and the prospect of KTM entering the class, just finishing inside the top ten is hard enough.
And to do that, they face competition from long established teams with strong factory backing, such as Tech 3 Yamaha, Pramac Ducati, and LCR Honda. Top tens are difficult, but even just scoring points can be tough, as Yonny Hernandez has demonstrated.
The new financial settlement from 2017 was supposed to help alleviate situations such as these.
While receiving approximately €2 milion per rider a season from IRTA goes a long way towards running a MotoGP team, it still leaves the team with another €4 million to find.
For cash-strapped teams such as Aspar, that remains a lot of money.
Source: Pull & Bear Aspar; Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones / Photo.GP – All Rights Reserved