As the Silly Season for riders is almost complete, the test rider market is starting to take shape. The first official announcement came today, as Aprilia announced that Bradley Smith will be taking on a role as test rider for the MotoGP project for the Italian factory.
Smith had told the media yesterday that he felt like he still had work left to do in the MotoGP paddock. "At the end of the day I feel like I have a lot to offer," Smith said. "Also I’m not done. When you’re not done, the motivation is high. I’ve said before I want to be back inside this paddock full-time in 2020. The motivation is high to help the whole project and ride well myself and put myself in the shop window. As long as that’s managed in the right way in the team structure, it’s certainly not a negative thing to be [a test rider]. Having wildcards available is always a good incentive for the rider and also a good incentive for the project. Everyone pushes on and pushes forward."
Smith had also been in the running for the job of test rider inside Yamaha's new European test team, but that option disappeared during the British GP. "In Silverstone the final nail in the coffin came from Lin Jarvis when he said there would be no British rider as a test rider," Smith said. With Smith out of contention there, that means that Jonas Folger is almost certain to take the role with Yamaha as test rider.
Suzuki will have Sylvain Guintoli working as a test rider for them next year, while Michele Pirro will continue at Ducati. Mika Kallio will return with KTM, though the Austrian factory are also trying to persuade Dani Pedrosa to take on a role alongside Kallio. Stefan Bradl is likely to return with HRC as test rider. At Ducati, Casey Stoner is leaving the Italian factory at the end of the season, though there is no sign of whether he wishes to continue as a test rider.
The Aprilia press release appears below:
BRADLEY SMITH TEST RIDER FOR THE APRILIA MOTOGP PROJECT
Aprilia's home GP at Misano Adriatico is also the chance for an important formalisation. MotoGP rider Bradley Smith will join the Aprilia Test Team for 2019 and will also compete astride the RS-GP in a series of wild cards during next season. The arrival of the British rider, runner-up 125 champion in 2009 on Aprilia, is part of the racing department's reorganisation and reinforcing process to consolidate the Aprilia MotoGP project.
Bradley Smith, born in 1980, took his first steps in motorcycle racing at a very young age in motocross, later making his début in the single-brand Aprilia Superteens where he was quickly in the limelight. He moved up to the 125 World Championship class in 2006, taking his first podium finish the following year. He was then runner-up champion in the category in 2009, whereas in 2011 and 2012 he raced in the intermediate Moto2 class. In his MotoGP experience, begun in 2013, he has finished twice on the podium and taken a series of top 10 placements. His trophy collection also includes one from the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours, won in 2015.