With the 2012 season is about to start on Tuesday morning, the 1000cc bikes taking to the track at 10am, the last few empty seats in MotoGP are starting to fill up. The latest rider signing was expected some time ago, Pramac Ducati finally announcing that they have signed Hector Barbera for the 2012 season. Barbera was the top satellite Ducati rider during 2011, and was the man who looked most comfortable aboard the GP11. Barbera had originally intended to stay on with the Aspar team, but when Jorge Martinez decided to switch to CRT status, Barbera elected to jump ship to Pramac.
With the seat at Pramac filled - and it is just a single seat, the Italian squad cutting back to just one rider for 2012 - the only vacancies aboard factory prototypes (as opposed to CRT bikes) are the Honda RC213Vs at LCR and Gresini, as well as the possibility of Suzuki remaining for another year. Alvaro Bautista holds the key to most of the moves, the Spaniard still not having announced his intentions for 2012. Bautista is signed to Suzuki until the end of 2011, and so will be testing the 800cc MotoGP on Tuesday with the rest of the 1000s. Rizla Suzuki boss Paul Denning is keen to keep Bautista, but there is still no word on whether Suzuki intends to continue next year or not. The team - an arm of Crescent Racing, also competing in World Superikes and BSB - will try to continue, but Suzuki could still decide to pull out of MotoGP, despite a 1000cc bike already having run laps in Japan. If they do continue, they will start the season off with the 800, then switch to the 1000 once it is ready to race.
If Bautista decides to jump ship - the Spaniard believes the 800cc bike will be uncompetitive, and is keen to ride a 1000 - he will take one of the two Honda still on offer. He was originally linked to the LCR ride, but with Lucio Cecchinello still short of money for 2012, LCR may be keener to have a rider who will bring more money to the team. Bautista could instead sign for Gresini, filling the huge boots left empty by the tragic demise of Marco Simoncelli. Gresini is known to be impressed by the Spaniard, and he could serve to please the Italian sponsor San Carlo, though they would prefer an Italian. In that case, Andrea Iannone is the prime candidate for the seat, the Italian being popular in his home country and having shown himself to be fast on several occasions.
Iannone is not the only rider who could move up from Moto2. Around the midway point of the 2011 season, Stefan Bradl and his team announced that they would be staying in Moto2. The decision had been made after Bradl's sponsor, German heating specialists Viessmann, balked at the cost of competing in MotoGP. But with time running out for the teams to find cash for 2012, and Honda apparently worried by the empty seats at LCR and Gresini, Bradl could be in the frame for the LCR ride. The money he brings would help complete Cecchinello's budget, and Dorna is keen to have a German racing in the premier class.
The rumor mill went into overdrive with Bradl last night, with Stefan and his father Helmut being spotted spending a long time talking to HRC marketing directory Livio Suppo. Bradl is scheduled to test the 800cc RC212V with LCR on Tuesday, and a decent time may see the German moving to MotoGP for next year.
Andrea Iannone is also due to test a MotoGP bike, though his test has been put back a day after HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto was unable to attend a meeting on Monday. Once the details have been finalized, Iannone will take the Gresini RC212V out on Wednesday. It will be interesting to compare the times he sets on the Honda to the times Iannone set earlier on the Pramac Ducati he rode at Mugello.
Below is the press release announcing Hector Barbera's signing for the Pramac Ducati team for 2012:
BARBERA' WITH THE PRAMAC RACING TEAM
Hector Barberà is the new Pramac Racing rider for the 2012 MotoGP season. The Spanish rider, after two MotoGP season with another team but always with a Ducati, will have the opportunity to continue to work with the Italian manufacturer with Pramac Racing.
Paolo Campinoti – Pramac Racing Team Principal
"We are glad to announce that Hector Barberà will be with us for the 2012 MotoGP season. We are confident that his experience riding a Ducati in the last two years may take him to achieve an even better season with us. In the year of racing that has just ended, despite a bad injury, he finished as the third best Ducati rider and this bodes well. I would to take this opportunity also to thanks our 2011 riders, De Puniet and Loris Capirossi, for the season lived with us. We wish them a future full of happiness on and off the track."
Hector Barberà – Pramac Racing rider
"This will be my third year riding a Ducati and I want to thank the Pramac Racing Team and Paolo Campinoti who have given me this opportunity. In the last two seasons I have not conquered the results I wanted and I hope that now, after the experience I gained, I can get better results. Both I and Pramac Racing have high goals. I am Coming from one of the hardest moments of my career and I want a change. The Ducati is working hard, this was a difficult year but I am sure that with tomorrow and wednesday tests and especially with the winter break, where they will have time to work, they will be able to give us a very competitive bike at the beginning of next season."
HECTOR BARBERA' STATISTICS :
Season – Category – Final position
2011 – MotoGP – 11th
2010 – MotoGP – 12th
2009 – 250cc – 2nd
2008 – 250cc – 6th
2007 – 250cc – 5th
2006 – 250cc – 7th
2005 – 250cc – 9th
2004 – 125cc – 2nd
2003 – 125cc – 3rd
2002 – 125cc – 14th
GP Starts – 156
Wins in 250cc – 4
Poles in 250cc – 8
Podiums in 250cc – 20
Wins in 125cc – 6
Poles in 125cc – 1
Podiums 125cc – 12