Though the factory seats in MotoGP are all filled, the prime seats on the non-factory entries are still open. Top favorites among the riders are the NGM Forward team, with the leased and FTR-kitted Yamaha M1s, and the Aspar team, which will be running factory-backed Aprilias, though not as an official factory team.

These four are the most competitive of the non-factory bikes, and any rider dreaming at a shot of a return to a factory ride, with Suzuki in 2015 perhaps, will want to be on board one of these bikes. At the moment, there are two lynchpins around which all of the rest of the choices revolve.

Aleix Esparagaro is the rider garnering the most interest from teams, unsurprisingly given just how competitive the Spaniard has been on the Aspar ART machine.

Espargaro’s problem is that he already has a contract for 2014, guaranteed by Aspar if he ends the season as the best CRT finisher. Given that he is 41 points of the next CRT rider – Colin Edwards of NGM Forward – not succeeding in that goal looks increasingly unlikely.

And so Espargaro is tied to Aspar. But Espargaro is being tempted by the Yamahas of NGM Forward, and is keen to make the switch. Speaking yesterday, Gino Borsoi said he felt that the Yamahas were “turning the head of some riders,” admitting that Espargaro is keen to leave. Leaving, though, will be expensive: the Spaniard will have to buy out his contract, at a cost of 600,000 euros.

His new manager, Albert Valera, who also manages world champion Jorge Lorenzo, is working to find a way out of the contract, and Aspar may be willing to let Espargaro go. There was no point in trying to keep a rider who does not want to be in your team, Borsoi told us, but Aspar had invested two years in him, and with a new bike due for 2014, they felt they could offer him a competitive package.

It looks unlikely now that Espargaro will stay, however. The Spaniard looks like being on a Yamaha at NGM Forward. That, in turn, opens the way for the second silly season lynchpin, Nicky Hayden.

Hayden was caught out by the social media aspect of his training app, as it posted up a run he had taken around Noale, Aprilia’s home. This weekend, he admitted to journalists he had visited Aprilia’s racing department, saying he had been impressed by the set up. Hayden looks to be very close to signing with Aprilia, and racing for the Aspar team next year.

Speaking to GPOne, Gino Borsoi said that he expected Hayden would make an announcement about his future ‘between today and tomorrow.’ GPOne believes that Hayden is all but signed for Aprilia, and that his contract will be directly with the factory, racing for the Aspar team in MotoGP.

Whether the Aprilia will be entered as a “factory option” machine, and use Aprilia’s own software and 20 liters of fuel, is still unknown. “That decision is up to Aprilia,” Borsoi told us. ‘We hope to know at Aragon, but maybe later, at the flyaways.”

Filling in the other two seats at both Aspar and NGM Forward is more difficult. If, as seems likely, Espargaro leaves and Hayden arrives, Randy de Puniet has a good chance of keeping his seat at Aspar. If Espargaro stays at Aspar, it will be De Puniet who has to make way for Hayden.

The second seat at NGM Forward is up for grabs. Colin Edwards is very keen to remain, having put in so much work on the FTR Kawasaki, knowing that such a strong package is coming. Edwards recently improved form may help him keep the ride.

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

Source: GPOnePhoto: © 2013 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0

  • Bill

    I know Hayden wants MotoGP and I guess on some level I get it. On the other hand he could possibly challenge for wins week in and week out, possibly win the championship with a switch to WSBK. It’s hard to root for people who make these kinds of decisions to run around behind the bikes that can truly win when they have the talent for more. I don’t envy the decision they have to deal with. Good luck to Nicky wherever he goes but man I would like to root for someone who is winning occasionally.

  • Jeram


    As they say in real-estate… its always better to have the worst house on the best street, than the best house on the worst street.

    By your same logic, every non-front runner should downgrade to WSBK so that they can trophy hunt.

    Your forgetting what motivates these riders. they want to be the best. Being a champion in a championship that most consider as playing second fiddle is worse that being mid-pack in the premier championship.

  • pooch

    Spot on Jeram. From the mouth of Nicky “I don’t know how I would feel racing not at the top level of the sport” Nicky is still good enough to command the respect of teams at the top level and they are keen to have him. And you can bet Dorna is keen as mustard to keep the only US racer that is competitive and still young enough to be worth investing in (sorry Colin.)

    Ben Spies however, that’s another matter. No team would have him now in Motogp after the last 1.5 seasons of crashing and injuries and unwillingness to come back while injured (look around you Ben at how hard you need to be to race at the top level.) WSBK looks like his only hope if he wants to keep racing motorbikes.

  • Dave

    I would not mind it if there were some real battles on the CRT bikes, along with the usual 2 or 3 guys at the front on full prototypes….

  • BBQdog

    At a certain moment during qualifying Espargaro was fourth ! No wonder Ducati wanted to buy some of Aprilia’s developers away.

  • Anvil

    If the Aprilia deal turns out to be true, it’s a pretty deft move.

    Hayden wants to remain in MotoGP, end of. Who can blame him?

    An Aprilia deal effectively makes him a factory rider on an improving package which, if the reports on the new bike are to be believed, looks an awful lot like a factory protoype (now known as “factory option” entries). The ART bike already handles well and has excellent electronics. Now it looks like it’ll get much needed horsepower (pneumatic valves), a new chassis, a new aero package and possibly even a seamless gearbox.

    The best part is that the ART, unlike a Honda or Yamaha customer bike, is not duty-bound to be an also-ran.

    Aprilia is considering entering as a “factory option” bike in 2014, which means they’ll have to stick to 20 liters of fuel but get to keep their current electronics package. Or they’ll keep the 24 liters and have to use the spec electronics. I’m sure all their geeks are working all that out now. In any case, it’s almost certain that Aprilia will become a factory team of some sort by 2015.

    And I’m sure they’re paying Hayden a nice sum, too.

  • smiler

    One way of Looking at Hayden’s options is to be wildly optimistic (Anvil) in thinking the Aprilia is a factory bike. Aprilia’s last entry in MotoGP lasted one season, the Cube. The current bike is a WSBK bike and that can be seen in the lap times. @3 seconds behind the factory bikes. The qualifying times at Assen for MotoGP and WSBK Aprilia’s were @the same.

    To make the bike into a competitive factory entry requires a huge amount of effort, engineering and knowledge.

    So all Hayden is doing is going from a currently under performing Factory bike to a WSBK bike in MotoGP that will need a huge amount of development to make up the 1.5 – 3 sec deficit. At his age, something he won’t do. Given Aprilia’s previous attempts in MotoGP, I cannot see how this is a good option, unless he is just taking the money.

  • SBPilot

    David Emmett, you’re making assumptions.

    “and the Aspar team, which will be running factory-backed Aprilias, though not as an official factory team.”


    “Whether the Aprilia will be entered as a “factory option” machine, and use Aprilia’s own software and 20 liters of fuel, is still unknown”

    I think anything can happen right now with Aprilia, ultimately the decisions are not made yet.
    If Aprilia makes the decision to run as a factory option, they may end up deciding to run under an official factory team using Aspar employees running it. Like WSBK Kawasaki. Motocard runs it, but it’s the official Kawasaki team.

    So since Aprilia have not decided on how they will enter the series (factory option or non factory option) lets not keep making assumptions.

  • Anvil

    Another way of looking at Hayden’s options is to ignore Apriia’s most recent accomplishments in GP and WBSK (Smiler), and cite ancient history.

    What I think you’re missing is the complete constrast in approach between the Cube and ART eras. What Aprilia is doing now is vastly different and more measured than the unsustainable Cube effort. It’s pretty clever and it just might work. Might.

    The ART bike won’t be winning races next year, but it certainly seems it could be giving the satellite teams some real trouble. The bike has been rumored to be improved and refined in every major respect. Espargaro has already been giving all the Ducatis a lot of problems on a bike that is significantly underpowered and overweight.

    What I’m saying is that from a a strategic standpoint, Hayden is making an interesting choice. A customer bike is a better option for a younger up-and-comer who is using it as a stepping stone to a factory team. That isn’t likely to happen for Hayden. Aprilia offers him an opportunity to have its top line (and quite possibly improving) equipment.

    Aprillia offers a package that is increasing in development and sophistication, not one that is watered down. Yes, it’s a bit of a longshot, but it’s better odds than a customer bike that is destined to the low-mid field and will never be allowed to get within sight of a factory prototype for as long as they exist.

    The funny thing is I remember when people complained that the RSV4 WSBK was actually a thinly disguised GP bike. I guess we’ll see if there’s any truth to that in the next couple of years.

  • Jason

    Regardless of how successful you may be, once you make it to the big leagues you don’t go back to the minors voluntarily. Playing for the worst team in the majors is better than playing for the best team in the minors. When your time is up the the majors, if you have made enough money and invested it wisely, you retire and live on your investments. If not, you may have to go to the minors to make some money or get a real job.

    While some here seem to thing the WSB and MotoGP are equivalent series, it is obvious that professional motorcycle racers so not agree.

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    And somewhere in this jumble story and opinions is what the future holds.

    Reasonable logic would seem to be closer to how Anvil sees it.

    Nicky choosing Aprilia is very interesting. The Aprilia should be better than the Ducati (hasn’t everyone had it with Ducati by now?), it should be as fast/faster than the “customer bikes” from Honda and Yamaha… and then there is this–development of the Aprilia has been seriously impressive. Its the only CRT success story. Its clear that Aprilia’s engineers know what they’re doing and the bike just goes faster and faster (unlike Ducati which has been chasing its tail for 5 years).

    Nicky staying in the big show is great.

  • according to alex hoffmann (aprilia test rider), aprilia is ready to ship out engines with pneumatic valves and have already a seemless gearbox in tests … so …