Brno Crunch Time For MotoGP Silly Season Negotiations
Riders and managers will be very busy this weekend at Brno, as negotiations continue for the open slots left on the 2015 MotoGP grid. The deals that saw Stefan Bradl leave LCR Honda for Forward Yamaha and Cal Crutchlow depart Ducati and head for LCR Honda have kicked negotiations for the remaining seats into overdrive. Forward Yamaha still has one seat open, with Aleix Espargaro set to join Maverick Viñales at Suzuki, a deal due to be announced in September. There are two Open class Hondas available, at Gresini and Aspar, with Scott Redding moving up to take the factory RC213V, and Hiroshi Aoyama set to lose his seat. Pramac Ducati has one seat available, now that Andrea Iannone has moved up to take Crutchlow's place in the factory Ducati team. And Aprilia will have two seats to fill when they reenter the class in 2015.
All that means a packed paddock at Brno. Johnny Rea and Eugene Laverty are flying to the Czech Republic to continue conversations started in Indianapolis. Rea is pursuing a ride on a production Honda RCV1000R, and has some support from Honda Europe. With the RCV1000R due for serious updates for 2015 - basically, it will be this year's RC213V, minus the seamless gearbox and with spec electronics - a ride on an Open class Honda should be more attractive next year. Rea also has some interest from other teams, his name having previously been linked with Forward Yamaha. Laverty looks to be close to a deal with Pramac Ducati, now that Iannone is gone. Laverty has a good relationship with Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, from the time the pair were at Aprilia. Laverty sill has strong ties to Aprilia, and could also be in the frame for a ride there. He faces competition from Marco Melandri, the Italian currently riding for Aprilia in World Superbikes. Melandri's prior experience in MotoGP puts him at the top of the list, but Melandri has previously said he is only interested in going to MotoGP on a bike capable of winning. It's unlikely that the 2015 version of the bike - with pneumatic valves and seamless gearbox, but otherwise very similar to the current ART machine being campaigned by IODA Racing - will be capable of victory. Hope rests for Aprilia on their 2016 machine, which will be completely new.
Aprilia Corse boss Romano Albesiano will be heading to Brno this weekend for further discussion of their plans. Top of the list will be securing grid slots, most likely by buying out the places to be vacated by PBM. But Albesiano will also be talking to riders, including Alvaro Bautista and Mika Kallio. Current IODA rider Danilo Petrucci is also in the frame, the Italian due to test the bike the week before Silverstone. Albesiano's problem for 2015 is that the riders he is talking to all want two-year contracts, knowing that the 2015 bike will not be competitive, and wanting to pick the fruits of the development work they do on the 2016 machine.
Brno will likely also see the deal between LCR Honda and Jack Miller finalized, with HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto set to make the trip to the Czech Republic. Nakamoto had chosen to skip the race at Indy, so the contract which would see the Moto3 championship leader go straight to MotoGP could not be completed. Once Nakamoto gives his official approval, HRC will make an extra RCV1000R available at LCR Honda, and have Miller ride that bike alongside Crutchlow's factory RC213V.
Details of the Marc VDS Racing Moto2 program could also be revealed at Brno. Now that the team have accepted that Miller will not be riding for them - the pre-contract has not been rescinded, but the matter is now in the hands of lawyers - Marc VDS are looking for riders to take the place they held open for him alongside Tito Rabat. Alex Marquez is rumored to be in the frame for one of the seats, as is teammate Alex Rins. That could leave Mika Kallio out in the cold, despite the fact that the Finn could still win the Moto2 title.
Kallio has plenty of interest from MotoGP teams. Along with Aprilia, Kallio is being linked to rides at Pramac Ducati, and Aspar Honda. Johann Zarco is also being named in connection with the Pramac ride, with Dorna needing a competitive Frenchman in the premier class. If Zarco leaves, his seat could be taken by Alex Lowes, twin brother of Sam. Sachsenring race-winner Dominique Aegerter is also being widely tipped for MotoGP. The most intriguing name being linked to MotoGP rides is Cameron Beaubier. The young American has made a big impression in the AMA Superbike class, as teammate to Josh Hayes. Beaubier has previous experience in Europe, having ridden the Red Bull Rookies Cup and in the 125cc class as teammate to Marc Marquez.