As the 2013 MotoGP season heads into its final five races, negotiations for 2014 are coming to a head. While the seats on the factory and satellite machines were filled some time ago, the next level of competitiveness, both in terms of riders and bikes, is now up for grabs. Two names and two teams were the focal point of the negotiations, and the log jam behind which many other riders were waiting.

It was up to Aleix Espargaro to make a decision on whether to stay at Aspar, or pay off his contract and head to the NGM Forward squad, and up to Nicky Hayden to decide whether his future lay in MotoGP with Aspar or Forward, or if it was time to head over to World Superbikes, and become the first rider to win a title in both series.

In turn, the Aspar and NGM Forward teams had become the hot ticket, because of the packages they had to offer, and how competitive they are expected to be. Forward will be running Yamaha’s leased engine package, consisting of an engine, frame and swingarm from the 2013 Yamaha M1 for 2014, with the rest of the bike to be built by FTR.

The British engineering firm will then build an entire chassis package for 2015, though the chassis could be entered earlier if it is finished. The package will run the spec Dorna software instead of Yamaha’s custom electronics, and this is likely to be the limiting factor on performance.

Aspar will continue with Aprilia, after a brief flirtation with running the leased Yamahas, and after losing their Power Electronics sponsorship for 2014 (the Spanish company has shifted their focus to soccer), they have become a de facto Aprilia factory team.

Aprilia will be providing a completely revised bike, featuring an engine with pneumatic valves, possibly a seamless gearbox, and a brand new chassis. The team will be entered as a non-factory entry for 2014, using the spec software while they continue to work on reducing fuel consumption, which would allow them to prepare for a switch to factory status in 2015, running their own custom software.

Though Espargaro was aware of the increased effort and involvement from Aprilia, the lure of a Yamaha M1 has proved too tempting. According to Motocuatro, Aleix Espargaro and his new manager Albert Valera – who also manages Jorge Lorenzo – have negotiated the release fee for the current CRT leader down from 650,000 euros to just 400,000.

Espargaro will now race for Forward in 2014 and 2015, with an option to leave after 2014. If he does decide to leave, he will have to repay most of his Aspar buyout fee, some 300,000 euros, Motocuatro claims.

While Espargaro is leaving Aspar, Nicky Hayden will be joining the team, preferring to stay in MotoGP than to switch to WSBK. At Misano, Hayden denied the deal had been done (though it would be more accurate to say that he refused to confirm the deal had been done), but sources confirm that Hayden will be at the Spanish squad.

His contract, however, will be directly with Aprilia, the factory controlling rider selection in return for providing equipment. Hayden’s interest in Aprilia went from rumor to fact after the American accidentally uploaded to his social media exercise app the route to his morning run a week before Misano, which had taken him around Noale, the Italian city where Aprilia is based.

Hayden confirmed his interest to the media at Misano, and when members of his family were seen going into and out of the Aspar truck for meetings, the signing seemed all but confirmed. Full confirmation of the deal is expected at Aragon.

Taking the other seat at Aspar is almost certain to be Eugene Laverty. The Irishman has a contract with Aprilia, but with the Italian factory courting Marco Melandri to race in World Superbikes alongside Sylvain Guintoli, there was no room in WSBK.

Laverty has long wanted to return to MotoGP on competitive machinery, and being placed inside the Aspar squad on an Aprilia is an ideal situation for him. Laverty will drop the #58 plate he races in WSBK to take his old number, #50, which he raced in both 250s and World Supersport, before being forced to drop it when he moved up to World Superbike where it was taken by Sylvain Guintoli.

With both seats taken at Aspar, there is no room there for current rider Randy de Puniet. The relationship between the Frenchman and the team has deteriorated over the last season, something which could be related to De Puniet’s role as Suzuki test rider. For 2014, the Frenchman looks like taking on this role full time, preparing for a return to the premier class in 2015 with the Japanese factory.

Alongside Espargaro in Forward will most likely be Colin Edwards. The Texan has found a recent burst of speed in the second half of the season, finishing as best CRT rider at Misano. Edwards has long made his desire clear to stay with Forward, especially once the details of the M1 lease package emerged.

Edwards has been an invaluable resource in helping to develop the FTR chassis currently housing the Kawasaki engine, and believes that his experience with the previous M1 bikes can be valuable. Though nothing is settled, it looks like Edwards will get his wish and stay at Forward.

Elsewhere, seats are still open, but some clear favorites are starting to appear. PBM will continue with a two-rider team, the current plan being to continue to develop the chassis being raced by Michael Laverty. PBM had been in talks to run the Honda RCV1000R production racer, but had rejected the idea on the grounds of cost.

Though the rider line up is not yet fixed, Michael Laverty is close to extending his deal with the team for another year, and he looks set to be joined by Alex Lowes, who has been impressive in BSB.

PBM’s current rider Yonny Hernandez, who is to replace Ben Spies at Pramac for the rest of 2013, will likely get to stay in MotoGP, but he will be forced to switch teams. Having a South American is important with MotoGP making a return to the continent next year, and place could be found at the Avintia Blusens team, probably alongside Hector Barbera, who brings personal sponsorship.

As for the IODA team of Giampiero Sacchi, they will almost certainly continue with their  Suter BMW package, and with Danilo Petrucci on one of their bikes. IODA, too, are losing their sponsors, security door manufacturer CAME leaving MotoGP altogether, despite being chased by Yamaha and LCR Honda.

The IODA team is working on a replacement, and a proposal which looks to be highly innovative and a break from the traditional approach. The second seat at IODA will depend on their success at leveraging that proposal.

The influx of new riders changes the balance of nationalities in the paddock, with Spanish and English speakers predominating. Seven Spaniards will line up next season, and while the three best riders in the world are Spanish, series organizer Dorna is less happy having so many riders from the same country.

The Espargaro brothers are highly regarded, but Dorna would very much like to get rid of both Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera. Though both are fast, Dorna would dearly like to replace them with riders from other countries who are just as fast. But there is also a distinctly British flavor to MotoGP next year – or more accurately, the flavor of the British Isles.

With the arrival of Scott Redding and Alex Lowes, the number of UK passport holders will rise to four for 2014. Add in the Laverty brothers (Irish passport holders, hailing from a town in Northern Ireland), and that makes a grand total of six men from the same region.

The common cry of British fans that the series is dominated by Spaniards will ring rather hollow in 2014. At least it will to the Germans, French and even Italians.

The 2014 MotoGP rider lineup, as it looks so far:

Team Rider Bike Contract until
Factory Yamaha
Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha M1 2014
Valentino Rossi Yamaha M1 2014
Tech 3 Yamaha
Bradley Smith Yamaha M1 2014
Pol Espargaro Yamaha M1 2015
Repsol Honda
Marc Marquez Honda RC213V 2014
Dani Pedrosa Honda RC213V 2014
LCR Honda
Stefan Bradl Honda RC213V 2014
Gresini Honda
Alvaro Bautista Honda RC213V 2014
Scott Redding Honda PR 2015
Factory Ducati
Andrea Dovizioso Ducati GP14 2014
Cal Crutchlow Ducati GP14 2015
Pramac Ducati
Andrea Iannone Ducati GP14 2014
Ben Spies Ducati GP14 2014
NGM Forward
Aleix Espargaro FTR Yamaha M1 2015
Colin Edwards? FTR Yamaha M1
Nicky Hayden Aprilia ART
Eugene Laverty? Aprilia ART
Cardion AB
Karel Abraham Honda PR 2014
Michael Laverty? PBM Aprilia
Alex Lowes? PBM Aprilia
Danilo Petrucci? Suter BMW
??? Suter BMW
Avintia Blusens
Hector Barbera FTR Kawasaki
Yonny Hernandez? FTR Kawasaki

All entries with question marks (?) are still uncertain.

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.

  • smiler

    The influx of new riders changes the balance of nationalities in the paddock, with Spanish and English speakers predominating. Seven Spaniards will line up next season, and while the three best riders in the world are Spanish, series organizer Dorna is less happy having so many riders from the same country.

    To be fair, they could have kept the rookie rule and kept Marquez on a satelite bike.

    I think there are 27 riders in all from Spain, 4 rounds, 5 of the biggest sponsors etc, so it does sound like a hollow desire from Dorna, HQ, Madrid.

  • Halfie30

    Did Nicky actually sign with Aprillia…?

  • Assuming this to be correct, it makes a lot of sense. If I were Hayden’s management, I would be holding out for Aprillia to declare itself a full “factory team”. For appearance sake, that way the move looks lateral, from factory ride to factory ride. Nonetheless, if Aprillia actually fields a pneumatic valve head, short stroke cylinder and seamless transmission, Nicky may be trumping Cal and Andrea next year.

  • Anvil

    Halfie30, the rumors reported in the press, and by David’s sources, say it’s a done deal. Nothing is official though, although everyone seems to think it’ll be announced at Aragon, which makes sense.

    John D., I get the feeling that Aprilia probably wants to go with a factory option entry, but they don’t have the 20 liter fuel limit worked out for their bike yet. After all, they’ve been asking for concessions from Dorna so they could enter as a factory option for quite some time now, from what I’ve read. It would have been nice for Hayden, but I don’t know if he could have realistically demanded it. In effect, he becomes a factory rider, anyway, especially with 2015 looking like the year the factory team launches.

    In other news, I’m very curious to see how the Forward FTR-M1s go. I think Aleix has earned a competitive ride and I’ll be rooting for him (and Edwards) to do well.

  • Brainiac

    Nicky is a huge fool is he signs with a CRT team just to stay in MotoGP!! Just go to WSBK dude and ride a factory bike.

  • Thamer

    Nicky will ride in WSBK in two years on an aprilia. He’ll ride in MOTO GP where the best of the best ride, probably hammer his old team into dust, proving it was the bike and not him and that he was better on the Ducati than everyone, except stoner.

    Actually, I would like to see him hammer Ducati a bit for the mistreatment and being treated like a second tier rider.

  • TheSwede

    I like pretty much everyone’s moves for next year, though I would prefer not to see RdP return on the Suzuki, he should stay a test rider. Too much new blood coming in and someone’s gotta go, same with Bautista/Barbera.

    I think the Forward team/package is gonna be a good ‘un, it’s pretty much a M1 with 24 liters of fuel. could be impressive.. Nicky and Aprillia is a good match too. That bike just needs some more power to get heat in the harder tires.

  • Jimbo

    Great article and the Table is great to help get your head round things. Wonder if de Puniet will keep his place as one of the Suzuki riders in 2015 or will you see a displaced Pedrosa looking for a factory ride.
    That Aprilia is a great package. Given the difficulties full factory teams have had implementing a seamless gear box its great that they have snuck one in.

    Also can we quit all the country crap from these discussions. Who cares what country the riders are from just enjoy the racing. If the best riders are spanish so be it. I am not watching the world cup here!

  • Phil

    Hmmmm nothing listed for Colin Edwards.

  • Jimbo

    Edwards likely to stay with Forward Racing, I agree with The Swede, only thing I am not sure of is Alex Lowes to PBM on the PBM Bike, a great rider in BSB this year that could do so much more going down the WSBK route

    Also hopefully de Puniet will get a few wildcards next year, shame to have him out for a whole season

  • Jimbo

    Sorry Jimbo didn’t realise that name was taken!

  • Jimbo (1st one!)

    I just dont know who i am any more ;)

  • Westward

    + 1 Brainiac

    Unless Hayden seriously thinks he can win the title on an Aprilia, I don’t see the point of racing to beat Ducati. Go make history in WSBK, not continue to be history in MotoGP…

    +1 Jimbo

    As for DePuniet, hope he is on the grid in 2015 with Suzuki. The series could use a Frenchman, not to mention an expectionally fast pilot. The thought of him being joined by Pedrosa is an interesting one, and could only benefit the series even more…

    However, I feel Aleix Espargaro should have tried to stay with Aprilia. I think his decision was a little misguided, as though he thinks he will share a team with his brother @ Yamaha in the future with Tech3 or the factory team. If he stayed with Aprilia, it would have more likely happened there instead, if it was at all a possibility…

    Bottom line, it’s still a four bike series factory Honda’s vs. Yamaha’s…

    Maybe they should allow Ducati and the rest unlimited testing until they are actually competitive…

  • TwoWheelLoo

    MotoGP needs more manufacturers, obviously its Honda and Yamaha’s game right now. It’ll be to have Aprilia and Suzuki back in the fray. Hayden and Laverty on the Ap and DePuniet and Spies on the Factory Suzuki please!!!