After Mattia Pasini was drafted in to test the Pramac Ducati MotoGP bike, on the official one-day test after the Brno MotoGP round, speculation grew that the Italian 250cc star would be given the nod to race the Pramac bike for the next two MotoGP rounds, at Indianapolis and Misano. To many people's surprise, once he gave the Desmosedici GP9 back to the Pramac mechanics, he thanked them nicely and then told everyone that he had learned what he wanted to know, and that he had no intention of racing the bike. Instead, Pasini said, he would return to the 250cc championship where he is still theoretically in with a shot at the title.
This left Pramac casting about for a replacement. With the 250cc season also coming to a head and the Misano race clashing with the next round of World Superbikes at the Nurburgring, the list of possible substitutes was looking pretty threadbare. But within a couple of days of testing finishing at Brno, the Pramac squad have found a suitable replacement: For the next two rounds, the Ducati left vacant by Mika Kallio's temporary elevation to the factory Marlboro Ducati team will be filled by former 250cc star Aleix Espargaro. According to GPOne.com, Espargaro was offered the ride after former Suzuki rider John Hopkins declined, when the team refused to offer him a contract for 2010 on top of the two wild card rides at Indy and Misano.
Espargaro - brother of Pol, the Derbi rider who is still in the hunt for at least a top 3 finish in the 125cc championship - had been left unemployed this year, after the Lotus Aprilia 250cc team called it quits at the end of last season. Since then, Aleix has filled his season picking up some odd - but interesting - jobs and lining himself up for a return in 2010. Most of Espargaro the Elder's time has been taken up with various Moto2 projects, the Spaniard being involved in testing the Promoracing Moto2 bike in the Spanish CEV championship. But Esparagaro has also made a brief return to the 250cc class, putting in a couple of impressive rides on the Aspar-run Balatonring Team bike, finishing 4th at Assen and 7th at the Sachsenring.
Espargaro, like Pasini and Scot Honda rider Gabor Talmacsi, has never ridden a MotoGP bike, and the first session of free practice next Friday at Indianapolis will be his first opportunity to get acquainted to the bike. But his arrival may give us a glimpse of the future. Having spent considerable time on a Moto2 bike - at least, the current spec of Moto2 machine currently being campaigned in the Spanish Championship, and so without the spec Honda engine - he has some understanding of setting up a four stroke racing bike, and understands the options available on a prototype chassis. It will be interesting to see how quickly Espargaro picks up the pace on the Desmosedici, and whether any of the skills learned testing the Moto2 bike are transferrable to a MotoGP bike. This, after all, is what Moto2 is supposed to achieve.