With Cal Crutchlow's signing out of the way, a few more pieces of MotoGP's 2014 puzzle are starting to fall into place. The next domino to fall was Stefan Bradl, the German having his contract at LCR Honda extended for the 2014 season as expected. Bradl wil now stay with the team for another season as a factory-supported rider, with direct backing from HRC.
The extension had been a long time coming. HRC held the option to extend Bradl's contract, but gave serious consideration to placing Cal Crutchlow in the LCR team. Once Crutchlow decided to go to Ducati, any doubt over Bradl's future was removed. The news came as a great relief to Lucio Cecchinello, who has been a strong supporter of Bradl, the German having been a very good fit with the LCR team, and having shown himself capable of running close to the front. HRC and LCR's faith in Bradl was finally rewarded at Laguna Seca, where the German scored his first ever podium in MotoGP.
Bradl's confirmation means that all but one of the prototype rides has now been taken, with only the second satellite Ducati left open. Andrea Iannone looks almost certain to keep his seat at Pramac for next year. Any further changes will only take place among the CRT teams, or as they will be known from 2014, the non-MSMA entries. Scott Redding is believed to be close to a deal with the Gresini Honda team to ride a Honda production racer, but any agreement will likely wait until the young Briton's home Grand Prix at Silverstone. The biggest question for many MotoGP fans is what will become of Nicky Hayden, with the popular American being linked to a number of rides. Ducati would like to see Hayden go to World Superbikes and campaign the Panigale, as well as help with its development. They face serious competition from American Honda, however, the US importer keen to bring Hayden back into the fold. That backing would see Hayden on one of two options, either at the Pata Honda team in World Superbikes, or else on a production racer in MotoGP. Hayden is also believed to be in the frame for one of the Yamaha M1s to be raced by the NGM Forward team next season.
Below is the press release from LCR Honda announcing Bradl's contract extension:
STEFAN BRADL TO RIDE FOR LCR HONDA MOTOGP TEAM IN 2014
LCR Honda Team is pleased to announce that Stefan Bradl has confirmed the agreement with Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) to line up as a Honda “factory supported” rider competing for the LCR Team in the 2014 MotoGP World Championship.
The former Moto2 World Champion (currently 6th in the premier class world classification), with direct support from HRC, will continue the productive collaboration with Lucio Cecchinello’s Team which began in 2012 and saw Bradl taking the “Rookie of the Year” Award and his first MotoGP Pole Position and podium this year at Laguna Seca race track.
Shuhei Nakamoto (HRC Vice President): “HRC is happy to continue working with Stefan in the LCR team in 2014. He is showing the performance we expected and he is working very well with Lucio's team. We believe in them and we look forward to seeing Stefan on the podium again soon and many times in the future!"
Lucio Cecchinello – Team Manager: “Being a part of HRC’s program and continuing our sport project with Stefan through to 2014 make us very happy and very proud. Stefan has amazed everybody at his debut in 2012 and is now showing his progress in the MotoGP class. His first MotoGP podium was a great result for him and for the whole Team so, from our side, we will do our best to support Stefan in 2014”.
Stefan Bradl: “HRC’s support was extremely important for me in my first season in the premier class and, with their direct cooperation, I achieved my first podium in the top class this year. I am happy to continue with Lucio’s Team because we know each other very well now and we have built a professional and friendly atmosphere in the Team which allows me to be at 100% every race”.