The 2012 MotoGP grid took another step closer to completion today, with the announcement that Michele Pirro will be riding the San Carlo Gresini Honda team's CRT entry in MotoGP next season. Pirro is to ride a CBR1000RR-powered MotoGP machine, the Honda engine housed in a chassis designed and built by FTR.
The move had been long anticipated, with Pirro claiming the favorite role for the seat after his win in the final Moto2 race of the 2011 season at Valencia in November, aboard the Gresini Moriwaki. His Moto2 teammate Yuki Takahashi had originally been linked to the Gresini CRT ride, but the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli at Sepang left Gresini without an Italian rider for 2012, a key point for Gresini's Italian sponsor, snack manufacturer San Carlo. Pirro, who had shown clear progress throughout his debut Moto2 season, took priority over Takahashi once Alvaro Bautista was signed to race Gresini's Honda RC213V factory prototype for 2012, that deal being completed at Valencia.
The signing of Pirro brings the number of confirmed riders in MotoGP for 2012 up to 19. Though BQR has not officially confirmed its participation, Yonny Hernandez and Ivan Silva are expected to contest the Kawasaki-powered FTR bike the team has been testing, which raises the total to 21. The Laglisse team are also expected to field two riders - probably Carmelo Morales and Xavi del Amor - while there is also a chance that the Grillini Team, who tested a home-built BMW machine at Valencia, could also field Federico Sandi in MotoGP in 2012, a move which looked more likely when Sandi's father, experienced crew chief Giovanni Sandi, left Max Biaggi's side to move to the MotoGP paddock.
Below is the official press release issued by the Gresini team announcing Pirro's signing:
MICHELE PIRRO TO RIDE TEAM SAN CARLO HONDA GRESINI CRT BIKE IN 2012
Michele Pirro, winner of an emotional final Moto2 race of the 2011 season at Valencia, will be the rider entrusted with the new Team San Carlo Honda Gresini CRT bike, which features an FTR chassis and Honda CBR 1000R engine, next season. After an encouraging first campaign together in Moto2, the Italian rider and team now take the same enthusiasm and work ethic into a new adventure in MotoGP.
Fausto Gresini "We have decided that it feels right for a new project such as CRT to give Michele Pirro the opportunity to show his talent. He demonstrated in the closing stages of the 2011 Moto2 World Championship that he has the technical ability to improve further as a rider and we believe that he can be one of the leading CRT riders. His fantastic and truly unforgettable win at Valencia was emotional for all of us and it convinced us that he is worthy of this chance. We are also obviously an Italian team so it is also important to us to carry this new project forward with an Italian rider in Michele."
Michele Pirro "I am happy to have made this choice and proud to be competing with Team San Carlo Honda Gresini in this new adventure. It wasn't an easy decision to make because my initial priority was to build on my results from 2011 in Moto2 but the faith shown in me by Fausto Gresini at the end of the season left me in little doubt which route I should take. I am honoured to remain part of this fantastic group of people and to be joining them as part of an ambitious project that represents the future of MotoGP. Hopefully I can pay back the faith they have shown in me with some good results and technical development."