Despite the fact that the 2012 MotoGP season has only just got underway, teams in all three classes of the series have started to do the chassis shuffle. The major player in the dance is British chassis maker FTR, the Buckingham-based firm gaining in Moto3 what they are losing in Moto2 and MotoGP.
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.
The rule changes coming for the 2012 MotoGP season are generating a lot of interest from new manufacturers interested in entering the series. Current Moto2 chassis builders FTR, Kalex and Suter are all believed to be working on chassis for use in the so-called CRT bikes, machines based around production engines, while BMW and Aprilia are also rumored to be looking at entering the class once the capacity returns to 1000cc.
The perilous state of the MotoGP grid has long been a topic of conversation among MotoGP fans. The grid threatened to drop to just 15 bikes earlier this year, but intervention from Dorna allowed Pramac to keep running two machines instead of dropping to one, and a sponsorship boost from Repsol helped Honda field three riders in its factory team, freeing up space at Gresini for Hiroshi Aoyama.
Hiroshi Aoyama's 250 World Championship has not brought the Japanese rider much luck. Aoyama gained his promotion to the MotoGP class on the back of his 250 crown, and he started the season well, but a brutal highside at Silverstone, in which he fractured a vertebra, put a halt to his progress. And it seems like he will not get a second chance, for the Italian magazine Motosprint is reporting that the Interwetten team is to pull out of MotoGP for next season. According to Motosprint, team boss Daniel Epp acknowledged that he would not have the sponsorship to run a MotoGP team in 2011, and have been forced to withdraw to focus on their 125 and Moto2 efforts.