After Colin Edwards got bumped off the factory Yamaha team to make way for rising star Jorge Lorenzo, it looked like the Texas Tornado's career in MotoGP was starting to wind down. Edwards himself fueled the speculation, with talk of a possible return to the US to finish his career riding for Yamaha in the AMA Superbike series.
Since then, though, two things have happened that have made Edwards change his mind.
The first is that he has settled in superbly with the Tech 3 Yamaha satellite team, a difficult transition to make for a man who has been a factory rider for nearly all of his career. Even prior to the first race of the 2008 season, it was clear that Colin Edwards was happy with the team, as his results in testing showed that Edwards was back at the sharp end of the field. The Tech 3 role meant that Edwards was freed from functioning as test mule for Valentino Rossi, but still had a lot of input in the direction the bike is being developed. And his role at Michelin has if anything become even more important. The Texan has had a lot to do with Michelin's recovery from their disastrous 2007 season.
The second factor persuading Colin Edwards to try to stay in MotoGP for another year has been the absolute chaos unleashed by the sale of the AMA Superbike series to the Daytona Motorsports Group, the organization that runs NASCAR and several other premier auto racing series in the US. American fans of superbike racing have had a tough few years recently, as the utter domination of the Yoshimura Suzukis has meant that there could only ever be two possible winners at each race. But the turmoil caused since the DMG took over has made things much worse, something many people did not believe possible. Rule changes have suggested, then retracted, then adjusted. Manufacturers have threatened to withdraw, then participate, then set up a rival series. With American Superbike racing in such a horrific mess, a return to the US to race in the domestic series became a seriously unattractive proposition.
And so yesterday, Colin Edwards announced what had obviously been coming. The Texan has signed on for another year at Tech 3 Yamaha, to compete the 2009 season with the team alongside James Toseland, who had signed earlier in the year. The final hurdles, mostly a matter of dollars and cents, to quote the Texan, have been taken, and Edwards will be back in MotoGP again next year.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the announcement is that it was also made via a press release from Yamaha. The Tech 3 team and Yamaha have enjoyed very close relations this year, and it was no secret that Edwards' salary was being paid by Yamaha and Michelin, as Herve Poncharal has yet to find a title sponsor for his cash-strapped team. With the announcement coming from Yamaha, rather than Tech 3, it looks like this construction will be continued for 2009 as well. There has been speculation in the press that the deal would see Edwards devoting more of his time to developing the Yamaha, leaving Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo free to concentrate on racing. An official Yamaha press release announcing Edwards' deal suggests that this is some truth to this speculation.