The MotoGP silly season is just about played out. With four races left in the season, the rider line up for 2010 is almost complete. As expected, once Jorge Lorenzo finally made up his mind, the remaining pieces in the puzzle fell into place, leaving just a few gaps to fill.
All of the factory seats are now full, and largely unchanged, with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo back at Yamaha, Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden at Ducati, Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa (albeit reluctantly) re-signed with Repsol Honda, and Loris Capirossi joined at Suzuki by the only newcomer to the factory line up, Spanish rookie Alvaro Bautista. Though next year's seats are settled, plenty of excitement still remains over what will happen next year: Everyone but Andrea Dovizioso and Alvaro Bautista is on a one year contract, which means that the Fantastic Four will all be on the market at the same time next year and looking to move, almost certainly precipitating a bidding war and making a mockery of all the cost-cutting measures already put in place.
Of the satellite teams, only the Gresini and LCR squads are completely set. Fausto Gresini got his Italian Dream Team with the two Marcos, Melandri and Simoncelli, and helping him extend the team's sponsorship contract with snack manufacturer San Carlo, while Lucio Cecchinello has re-upped with Randy de Puniet. But even among the remaining teams, the seats are largely taken. Mika Kallio is back with Pramac, and Colin Edwards returns to the Monster Tech 3 team, though reportedly taking a half million dollar pay cut for the privilege. No official word as yet from Team Scot, but as Gabor Talmacsi is the only person likely to be bringing significant funds into the team, the Hungarian must be a safe bet for that seat.
The only two seats still officially open are the second seats at Pramac and Tech 3. And of those two, only Pramac is truly unknown and open to bids, as rumors persist that Ben Spies will be moving up to MotoGP a year early, and taking the Tech 3 seat alongside his Team Texas team mate Colin Edwards. Spies, his mother and manager Mary and Yamaha all keep asserting that the Texan has signed to ride in World Superbikes next season, but each affirmation is undermined by the fact that it is always followed by a disclaimer that things can always change. It is rumored that Spies position at Tech 3 depends upon the Texan wrapping up the World Superbike title, which his is only likely to do at either Magny-Cours or Portimao, in early or late October.
The Pramac ride is likely to go to either the highest bidder - which could be Dorna, if they want to keep James Toseland in the series - or possibly to a young rider like Aleix Espargaro, who so impressed Ducati when he substituted for the temporarily promoted Mika Kallio. Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis are also said to be in talks for the seat, but with Elias rumored to be looking for 600,000 euros in salary, he is likely to be passed over altogether for someone much cheaper.
One question which remains to be answered is whether the hugely popular Hayate team will be back again next year. Support from Kawasaki is scheduled to finish at the end of the season, but there are strong and reliable reports from inside sources - possibly from the highest ranks of Dorna or the FIM - that Hayate will be back again next season, with a leased Yamaha M1 engine. As the Kawasaki was built by the man who originally designed the M1, Ichiro Yoda, there is a very good chance that shoehorning the M1 engine into the Kawasaki / Hayate chassis should not be too difficult.
There are also a couple of newcomers on the horizon, though it remains difficult to see just how seriously we should take them. Best of the bunch is almost certainly the FB Corse project, which we have reported on previously. The bike is a new chassis built around the engine originally destined for BMW's aborted MotoGP project. Photos exist of the bike, and so at least we can say it exists. The same cannot be said for the French Gil Motor Sport project, who have stated they will be racing a new Eskil Suter designed V4. So far, though, only Jean Christophe Ponsson, Gil Motor Sport boss, has commented on the project, and his statement that Kevin Schwantz had agreed to manage the team was denied by the American racing legend. Ponsson's credibility would seem to be rather strained, and the chances of him actually fielding a bike severely limited.
For a full overview of who has signed with whom, and the length of their contracts, check out our 2010 MotoGP rider line up page.