With the season 2006 drawing to a climax, there are still a couple of loose ends to be tidied up for next year. The outcome of such loose ends usually comes as no surprise, but just occasionally, a result comes seemingly from out of the blue. That Colin Edwards would prolong his stay with Yamaha was an open secret, especially after his deft display of teamwork in Portugal. Makoto Tamada, however, is an entirely different story.
JIR / Konica Minolta had announced last week what everyone already knew: Tamada would not be riding for them again next season, after two tough years struggling to get to grips with Michelin tires. There were plenty of rumors, centered around either a sideways step to World Superbikes, or a move to Kawasakis, to be reunited with his favored Bridgestone tires. With no names confirmed for Kawasaki next year, this was the hot favorite among paddock rumormongers. But today, Hervé Poncharal announced that Tamada would be riding one of Poncharal's Dunlop-shod Tech 3 Yamahas in 2007. How Tamada will fare on the Dunlops is a big question. Tamada's biggest complaint about the Michelins is that he never felt confident in the front end. Most of the complaints about the Dunlops have been about poor traction from the rear, so it may yet work out. Time will tell.
Despite these loose ends being tied up, the grid is still not fully complete. Tamada's team mate at Tech 3 is yet to be named, and at least one Kawasaki seat is vacant. Randy de Puniet should remain for 2007, but the 2nd bike is still without a rider. Kawasaki are said to be looking for an "experienced" rider, which could mean that Sete Gibernau, who does not yet have a contract for 2007, could be in the picture. James Ellison, who did not have his contract renewed at Tech 3, is also being mentioned, though he has failed to make an impression this year. The other open seats are at Ilmor. Garry McCoy is widely expected to be offered a ride for next year, but the plan is to ride 2 bikes next season, and nothing outside of the realms of wild speculation is known about who will take the second seat. Time will surely tell.
Edited, to correct errors about de Puniet.