As the final race for the much-loved 250cc class approaches, news is starting to emerge of rider signings and ongoing negotiations for the Moto2 class which is scheduled to take its place. It was reported earlier this week that Alex de Angelis is close to a deal with Tech 3, after the enclave republic of San Marino was not prepared to fund the Scot Honda MotoGP project which would have kept the San Marino native in the premier class, but now more deals are being made public.
Most of the Moto2 news, though, has concentrated on De Angelis' Gresini Honda team mate Toni Elias. Elias was also in line for the Scot Honda deal, though he too would have had to raise money for the ride, something that has proved extremely difficult to do. After that deal fell through, Elias looked certain to ride for Sito Pons in Moto2, and had even signed a pre-contract. However, the Spanish sports daily AS.com is reporting that Elias has ripped up that contract, after Sito Pons refused to guarantee his salary. With Hector Barbera staging a 12 minute strike at Sepang over salary issues with the Pons team, Elias has decided that he cannot afford to risk riding for the team.
Instead, Elias will be staying where he is. The Spaniard will be riding for the Gresini team, but moving down to the Moto2 class. His stated intention is to use the class as a stepping stone for a return to the MotoGP class in the near future, and it was this goal which made him decide against a switch to World Superbikes, where he also had interest. The step from World Superbikes to MotoGP is still fraught with difficulties, and the reverse journey is no cakewalk either. There is no certainty yet as to who Elias' team mate will be at Gresini, but the names of Yuki Takahashi and Alex de Angelis have been mentioned. The Gresini project is still at risk, though, as Fausto Gresini is still struggling to put the budget together for the team, according to Motorcycle News.
Mattia Pasini, who had been linked to a possible Pramac Ducati ride, has announced that he will be riding for JiR in Moto2. The JiR team, run by Luca Montiron, previously ran in MotoGP with marginal success, once the team separated from Pramac. Both Makoto Tamada and Shinya Nakano had dismal years aboard the JiR Honda. Pasini has had a difficult year in the 250s with Team Toth, the Hungarian team having its bikes taken away on a number of occasions after failing to make the lease payments to Aprilia. Pasini said in a press statement that he hoped to have a less turbulent year in 2010: "I hope at last to have a quiet season, where we can concentrate on racing, and not have to think about anything else." The JiR project is rumored to be fielding a Moriwaki chassis, which is a surprise, as the team is currently supporting Aprilia's - rather unsuccessful - RSV4 entry in the FIM Superstock 1000 class.
Fonsi Nieto, motorcycle racing's very own itinerant laborer, will also be making a return to the Grand Prix paddock. According to Motociclismo.es, the Spaniard will be joining his cousins Pablo and Gelete Nieto in their new G22 Moto2 team, after roaming between 250cc, Moto2 and World Superbike duties this year. Nieto is one of the few riders who already has some Moto2 experience, having ridden the LaGlisse Moto2 bike in the Spanish CEV championship this year. The team is due to be presented at the final MotoGP round of the season at Valencia next weekend.
The least surprising Moto2 signing is of course Julian Simon, the newly-crowned 125cc champion moving up to the Moto2 class with his current Aspar team, to partner current Aspar 250 rider Mike di Meglio. AS.com interviewed Jorge Martinez, owner of the Aspar team, and he told the Spanish paper that he thinks Simon will beat Elias in the Moto2 class. Martinez also revealed that he expects to spend 2.6 million euros to run his Moto2 team next year, though the first year of the Moto2 class will be the most expensive, as teams put the infrastructure in place to compete in the new class. That figure is roughly in line with the 2.5 million Sito Pons is said to be spending on his Moto2 project next year.
Besides the confirmed deals, there are a number of projects which are still in the process of being finalized. Hollywood superstar and Spanish native Antonio Banderas has submitted a Moto2 entry, though his Promoracing entry is so far only on the reserve list. But with LCR already having pulled out of Moto2 due to budget constraints and a number of other teams likely to follow, the chance of a well-funded reserve team making it onto the grid is high. Spaniard Joan Olive is reported to already have signed with Promoracing, and the second seat is still up for grabs.
American Kenny Noyes - currently racing in the Spanish Formula Extreme championship - has been linked to that seat, but MCN is reporting that the team is also in talks with British 125 star Scott Redding. Promoracing isn't the only option for Noyes, though, as the American also has an option with the Pramac team. Holiday Gym, a Spanish leisure company, are examining moving their World Supersport sponsorship over to Moto2, bringing with them current WSS backmarker Yannick Guerra. That sponsorship would then fund the Pramac team, with Guerra racing alongside Kenny Noyes.
At Valencia, much more news is likely to emerge, as more teams seize the occasion to present their lineups for next year in front of the assembled press, the last chance they will have for 2009. MotoMatters.com will be reporting live from Valencia, and will bring you updated Moto2 news as it becomes available.