Alongside the on-track action, the final round of MotoGP at Valencia saw a flurry of activity to fill the final seats of the 2012 MotoGP grid. That process was not as easy as it could have been: the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli left the picture complicated at Gresini, and the continuing uncertainty over Suzuki's plans for 2012 made it difficult for riders to commit to the Japanese factory.
In the end, though, most of the vacant seats have now been filled. The single bike that Pramac Ducati will field next year will be taken by Hector Barbera, as expected. Alvaro Bautista finally announced he would be leaving Suzuki and joined Gresini, to race the single Honda RC213V that the team will have at its disposal for next year. And though the place at LCR Honda is still officially empty, the performance of Stefan Bradl aboard the Honda 800 during the two-day test was sufficient to secure the deal, sources report, with official confirmation expected over the next few days.
Suzuki's situation remains unclear, though the team continues to fight valiantly to remain on the grid, at least with an 800 for the first half of 2012, and after a strong test on the bike, Randy de Puniet is now favorite to take that spot.
A number of CRT teams have now been confirmed, while the participation of others is still fairly speculative. Former Kawasaki WSBK team owner Paul Bird confirmed his participation in MotoGP with a CRT machine, with former WCM and Tech 3 rider James Ellison at the helm. IODA Racing will field former Superstock racer Dani Petrucci on an Aprilia-powered machine, no doubt with strong support from the Italian factory, given Giampiero Sacchi's ties to the company. Colin Edwards was announced at Forward Racing back at Misano, while Gresini's plans for a second bike to run as a CRT entry have also been known for some time. The current best prospect is for Michele Pirro to race the bike, a Honda-powered machine being built by Ten Kate.
Aspar will be fielding two Suters, though the riders have yet to be announced. Aleix Espargaro is widely expected to be one of them, his brother Pol reported to have been signed with Aspar to race in Moto2. BQR will field Yonny Hernandez on the FTR Kawasaki, and possibly Ivan Silva on the Inmotec, the northern Spanish project finally starting to come to fruition. The Laglisse team will field at least one bike, most probably Carmelo Morales who raced for them in the Spanish CEV championship.
Other CRT entries are possible, depending on who can find the budget to compete, and how quickly their projects progress. Though the CRT entries will largely be fillers for the first half of the season, the grid will at least be looking fairly healthy, with at least 20, and possibly as many as 24 riders lining up for 2012.
The rider list after the latest round of signings:
|1||Casey Stoner||Honda RC213V||Repsol Honda|
|4||Andrea Dovizioso||Yamaha YZR-M1||Monster Tech 3 Yamaha|
|5||Colin Edwards||Suter - BMW||NGM Forward Racing CRT|
|8||Hector Barbera||Ducati GP12||Pramac Ducati|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||FTR? - Aprilia||IODA Racing|
|11||Ben Spies||Yamaha YZR-M1||Yamaha Factory Racing|
|17||Karel Abraham||Ducati GP12||Cardion AB|
|19||Alvaro Bautista||Honda RC213V||San Carlo Gresini|
|26||Dani Pedrosa||Honda RC213V||Repsol Honda|
|35||Cal Crutchlow||Yamaha YZR-M1||Monster Tech 3 Yamaha|
|46||Valentino Rossi||Ducati GP12||Ducati Marlboro|
|69||Nicky Hayden||Ducati GP12||Ducati Marlboro|
|77||James Ellison||FTR? - Aprilia||Paul Bird CRT|
|99||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha YZR-M1||Yamaha Factory Racing|
|65||*Stefan Bradl||Honda RC213V||LCR Honda|
|51||Michele Pirro||Ten Kate - Honda CBR||San Carlo Gresini CRT|
|68||Yonny Hernandez||FTR - Kawasaki||BQR|
|41||Aleix Espargaro?||Suter - BMW/Aprilia||Mapfre Aspar|
|Suter - BMW/Aprilia||Mapfre Aspar|
|31||Carmelo Morales?||Suter - BMW||Team Laglisse|
|Suter - BMW||Team Laglisse|
|14||Randy de Puniet?||Suzuki GSV-R 800||**Rizla Suzuki|
* Should be confirmed some time this week
** Suzuki have been given until the end of the week by Dorna to sign up for 2012. Problems remain with senior management in Japan, reportedly related to the purchase of Suzuki shares by Volkswagen. Suzuki's participation in 2012 is doubtful at best.
? All entries marked with a question mark are