Aprilia have today confirmed another of the worst-kept secrets in the paddock, announcing that they have signed Scott Redding to replace Sam Lowes in the Gresini Aprilia MotoGP team for the 2018 season.
The news came as no surprise, after it became apparent that Aprilia had decide to break Lowes' contract at the end of this season. Lowes had been contracted for two seasons in MotoGP, but Aprilia decided to invoke an escape clause after the Englishman had struggled at the start of the season. For the full background to the story, read the Friday MotoGP round up from Austria.
With Redding confirmed at Aprilia, that leaves five seats officially still open for 2018. Most of those seats are close to being filled, however. Aspar is very close to extending their deal with Karel Abraham for another year. The second seat at LCR (if it happens, as that is still not 100% certain) will be filled by Taka Nakagami.
The seats at Avintia Ducati are also still open, though the list of candidates there is very small. It looks like Hector Barbera and Loris Baz will be out from the team, despite Baz posting some solid results. Tito Rabat is believed to be close to a deal for one of the bikes in the Avintia garage, while there are strong and credible rumors that Xavier Simeon could take the other seat. That would be a surprising move, as Simeon has had a thoroughly nondescript career in Moto2, after a single notable victory at the Sachsenring in 2015. But he is said to have the backing of Belgian TV and several other interests, and be bringing around €1 million to the team.
That leaves only the seat at Marc VDS. Sam Lowes is one rider under discussion for that seat, after he was ousted from Aprilia. Stefan Bradl is also talking to the Marc VDS team, in the hope of returning to MotoGP after a disastrous year in WorldSBK. The choice looks to be between those two riders, though rumors persist of Tom Luthi moving up from Moto2. Luthi seems an unlikely candidate, however, as having two rookies from Moto2 in the team at the same time is a risky step to take. Risky, but not impossible, as Tech 3 has demonstrated this year.
More news is likely to be announced in the next few days. The last few seats in MotoGP should be filled before MotoGP leaves Europe for the flyaways.
Below is the official press release from Aprilia on the deal with Redding:
SCOTT REDDING WITH APRILIA IN MOTOGP FOR 2018
ESPARGARÓ AND REDDING TOGETHER TO FORM A MOTIVATED, WELL-ROUNDED DUO WITH GREAT POTENTIAL
ROMANO ALBESIANO: “HIS TALENT AND THE GROWTH OF THE RS-GP FOR IMPORTANT RESULTS”
British rider Scott Redding will team up with Aleix Espargaró and Aprilia Racing astride an RS-GP in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.
Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Manager, commented: “Scott is a rider who, in spite of his young age, has significant experience in MotoGP. We are pleased to have him join our project and we think that his talent and the continued growth of the RS-GP will allow the team and him to achieving important results.
Our bike has grown consistently, race after race. The goal to battle stably in the top ten has been more than achieved. And while further steps in technical development are on their way already this season, with this agreement with Scott, we are preparing for next season. Aprilia will be at the starting line with a pair of quality riders that have interesting potential. Aleix is demonstrating more and more that he is a high quality rider and a guarantee for the team. With Scott's contribution, we expect that the team's work will bring Aprilia even closer to the top of the championship, into the positions that such a glorious brand deserves to occupy.
At the same time, we bid Sam Lowes farewell, certainly thanking him for his commitment and efforts during this, his rookie season in MotoGP, and for the contribution he has made to the team's growth. He is a rider who will doubtless be able to express his talent, but right now we must make choices that allow us to fulfil our commitments to the Piaggio Group and our fans. We will continue to work together with the efforts we have always made so that he can have a good season finale and we wish Sam all the best for his career in the future.”
Born in 1993, Scott Redding took his first steps in World Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing astride an Aprilia in the 125 class. In the 2008 season, his rookie year, he took a win at his home GP in Donington Park. In 2010 he moved over to Moto2, where he would remain for four seasons, taking 3 wins and 11 podiums. In MotoGP since 2014, as his best result, he boasts a third place finish at Misano in 2015 and Assen in 2016.