To say Randy de Puniet had a tough season this year might be an understatement. Seemingly finding his groove at LCR Honda during the 2010 season, RdP found himself going into the 2011 known more for his well-raced finishes than gravel trap disappointments. The Frenchman showed a new maturity with his riding, and many thought his riding style would suit the troublesome Ducati Desmosedici GP11 well.
While the beginning of the season often saw de Puniet the fastest of the Italian bikes, it was clear that the move to Pramac Ducati was a misstep in the rider’s career. Jumping ship for 2012, and clear that he did not want to race in World Superbike or on a CRT machine, de Puniet seemingly had a number of options in front of him despite the 2011 season winding to a close: a return to LCR Honda, a factory ride with Rizla Suzuki, and ties to the well-run Aspar MotoGP team.
Those options would be limited though, as 2011 Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl was shoe-horned into the LCR Honda squad to keep the pretense alive that Moto2 prepared riders to race in MotoGP. Similarly the rug was pulled out from underneath the Frenchman, as Rizla Suzuki got its plugged pulled almost immediately after RdP tested the Suzuki GSV-R, with promising results we might add. Left with few other choices, and certainly none of them better, it comes with little surprise then that Jorge “Aspar” Martinez’s MotoGP team has announced that Randy de Puniet will be one of its two riders for the 2012 MotoGP season.
De Puniet will be joined by former-MotoGP/Moto2 racer Aleix Espargaró on the two bike team. Dropping Ducati and announcing that Team Aspar will run an all CRT effort, the Spanish team will use Aprilia-powered bikes (De Puniet tested one of these bikes at Jerez last week). While a chassis manufacturer has not been announced, paddock gossip has been suggesting that Aprilia could be supplying a custom chassis for the racing effort. If you’ve been following MotoGP and the CRT movement closely, your eyebrows should be raised right now.
UPDATE: Álvaro Bautista has signed with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team for the 2012 MotoGP season. The Spaniard is not expect to have a factory support within the team.
Rizla Suzuki has announced today that rider Álvaro Bautista has left the factory Suzuki team for the 2012 season. It has not been announced where Bautista will race next next year, though best guesses would peg the Spaniard as headed to the LCR Honda squad. Certainly linked to this news, Randy de Puniet was given the opportunity to test the 2011 Rizla Suzuki GSV-R yesterday, and the Frenchman has already made some impressions.
Fourth fastest on yesterday’s time sheets, de Puniet has been keen to get out of the Pramac Ducati garage, and onto a more competitive package. With Bautista, de Puniet, and John Hopkins all playing musical chairs around LCR Honda and Rizla Suzuki, Bautista’s departure at least progresses the game forward. The big question still remains though, with Bautista leaving the Rizla Suzuki squad, does that signal another rider’s entry into the factory team, or does it mean the Japanese company’s departure from MotoGP racing?
Rumored to be headed to World Superbike, or at least a CRT bike in MotoGP, Hiroshi Aoyama’s 2012 season plans have finally been unveiled. Signing with the the Castrol Honda team, the former-250GP Champion will leave the MotoGP paddock to race next season in World Superbike, alongside new teammate Johnny Rea. The move means the displacement of Ruben Xaus from the Ten Kate Honda squad, which is hardly a surprise considering the Spaniard’s horrid season(s).
The announcement also adds further speculation regarding whether San Carlo Gresini Honda will run a solitary bike for next year, at he team has already confirmed a factory RC213V with Maro Simoncelli on-board. Honda has reportedly intervened on Gresini’s plans to run a second bike under the CRT structure, which makes for something interesting to chew on, as the CRT rules were created as a direct reaction to the major manufacturers’ influence over how MotoGP was run and headed, with Honda headlining that now failing initiative.
Ahead of the Japanese GP at Motegi, Team San Carlo Honda Gresini has announced the re-signing of Marco Simoncelli to the satellite Honda team, with SuperSic once again riding on a factory Honda motorcycle. Hoping that the factory Honda RC213V will yield even more positive results for Simoncelli, HRC has thus also renewed their support for the Italian rider, who will join Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa as confirmed factory riders for 2012.
With HRC stating all silly season it would have only three factory riders, two in Repsol Honda, for 2012, this announcement is just as much about Marco Simoncelli as it is about Andrea Dovizioso. Though Dovi has beaten Sic on paper all year long, it would seem the other Italian Honda rider will end up in a satellite squad, either with Tech3 (Team Boss Hervé Poncharal has hinted at Dovi being his #1 choice) or LCR Honda. An announcement on Dovizioso’s 2012 plans outside of a factory HRC contract is expected at Motegi as well.
The CRT rumors continue to swell around Colin Edwards, as the American rider is now being linked to the Italian NGM Forward Racing team for the 2012 MotoGP racing season. Slated to make an announcement at Misano about his future, Edwards has made no secret to the fact that he’s intrigued with the CRT’s possibilities. “I think there’ll be tracks where it’s going to surprise some people,” said Edwards to Asphalt & Rubber while talking about the CRT formula’s potential.
While Edwards also went on to say that “there will be tracks I think where a CRT bike will get its doors blown off,” the two-time World Superbike Champion concluded his thoughts on the subject saying that an R1 motor in a custom chassis would be a lethal combo. “For me, the weapon of choice if you were going to go CRT would be that. 100%.”
Such a Yamaha-derived solution would have likely come from Edwards’ current team: Monster Yamaha Tech 3, which has had a healthy relationship with Yamaha over the years, and also has a strong history of being the top satellite effort in MotoGP. Talking to Guy Coulon, Edwards’s crew chief at Tech 3, A&R has learned that at the very least Tech 3 has explored the idea of a CRT bike with an R1 motor at one point. Coulon briefly outlined to us that he had all the necessary schematics and specifications, based in-part from his Moto2 chassis design, to build a prototype frame for the production motor, but just needed word from on-high to undertake such a project.
With rumors swirling around where Colin Edwards will land next year, we grabbed a moment with the Texas Tornado to ask him about one rumor that keeps cropping up: him on a claiming rule team for the 2012 season. Of course, you don’t just ask Colin Edwards direct questions, and expect direct answers, as the Texan enjoys a good laugh.
Getting some MotoGP-rookie hazing, Edwards had some fun with A&R while talking about CRTs, but what the Texan did say (or in some cases, didn’t say) is pretty interesting. One thing is for certain, the two-time World Superbike champion was very keen on having a pepped-up production motor inside a prototype chassis for his bike next year.
With an official announcement likely to come at Misano, the question now is where Colin will end up for 2012. Welcome to Silly Season 2011 ladies and gentleman.
Make no mistake about the fact that we are well into the 2011 Silly Season, a festive time where paddock gossip is rife with the movings and rumors of where riders and teams will land for the following season. With MotoGP set this weekend to make its second American appearance for the year, we are kicking off the rumormill reports properly with talk of where Colin Edwards will race in 2012. Rumored to be in World Superbike for 2012, the Texan Tornado has been linked to both a factory Ducati ride in WSBK and a factory seat at BMW Motorrad.
Speaking to Asphalt & Rubber and other journalists at a conference call hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday (a transcript of that is in the works), Edwards alluded to the fact that we wouldn’t hear about his future plans at Indy, and likely not at the San Marino GP as well. The Texan did clue the assembled press into the fact that he wasn’t ready to retire his racing spurs yet, and would likely be racing in some form or another for the 2012 season.