Just hours after Ant West announced on his Facebook page that he would not be racing in MotoGP, as he was unable to find the sponsorship to fund his ride at the Speed Master team, the team issued a press release announcing West's replacement. Italian rider Mattia Pasini is to take West's place, and ride the Speed Master Team's Aprilia CRT bike in MotoGP for 2012.
Rumors had emerged earlier today that Pasini would be racing in Moto2 in 2012, with much speculation that the Italian would be riding for the Stop & Go Racing team. Those reports were based on an announcement on Pasini's Facebook fan page that he had finally signed a contract for the upcoming season, but only later did it emerge that Pasini would be racing in MotoGP rather than Moto2. Despite West's obvious ability - masked during his time at MZ by organizational problems in the team, which made it impossible to ensure a consistent setup for the bike - Pasini is a more natural fit with the Speed Master project. Pasini is highly popular in his native Italy, and having an Italian rider on an Italian bike in an Italian team is a much easier proposition to sell to Italian sponsors.
Pasini will make his debut on the bike on Monday, at the private CRT test scheduled to take place at Valencia. Pasini will be riding alongside Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet on the Aspar Aprilia CRT machines.
Below is the press release issued by the Speed Master team:
SPEED MASTER TEAM AND MATTIA PASINI REACH AN AGREEMENT FOR 2012 SEASON
Speed Master Team announce that in 2012 Mattia Pasini will be the rider of the ART (Aprilia Racing Technology) motorbike, for what concerns the entry in the MotoGP class.
Pasini, a regular of the Road Racing World Championship since 2004, becomes part of the "made in Italy" team, enhancing the CRT project of the team with the experience gathered in the past years in 125cc, 250cc and Moto2. In the three categories, Mattia can count on a total of 11 pole positions, 26 podiums, among which 10 victories, and he is ready to prove his determination on the track as he embarks on this new adventure in the top class.
The first outing for Speed Master Team and Mattia Pasini is due for the private test on 30th and 31st January, organized at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Cheste, Valencia.