Aleix Espargaro and Colin Edwards will race for the NGM Forward team in MotoGP next year, riding FTR-based Yamaha production machines. The announcement had been expected for a very long time, but confirmation only came on Saturday morning at Valencia, as haggling over buying out Espargaro's contract had continued over the past couple of months. Negotiations have finally been completed, and Espargaro has been cleared to join Forward.
The prolonged haggling over the contract had nearly jeopardized both the Forward and Aspar deals. Espargaro had a clause in his contract with Aspar that automatically extended his contract if he ended the season as top CRT rider, and Espargaro was forced to buy his way out of that. Forward had to pay 300,000 euros to Aspar for Espargaro's release, while Espargaro agreed to forgo the 100,000 euro bonus for winning the CRT championship. Rumors circulating in the paddock suggested that Aspar needed that money to be able to afford the Honda Production racers, and without it, he would not be able to make the first instalment on the Honda production racers which Nicky Hayden and an as yet unnamed second rider will race. Without the Honda production racers, American Honda would not be willing to offer the support promised to Hayden, and Aspar's budgets would have been badly compromised. The conclusion of the Forward deal with Espargaro means the financial complications have been smoothed out.
The team had also been expected to retain Colin Edwards for a third season, with the veteran American rider expressing his eagerness to get back on a Yamaha-powered machine. For a while, Edwards looked like being the victim of the negotiations between Forward and Aspar, with Forward asking him to take a pay cut to help pay for the package. That situation has now also been resolved.
Espargaro and Edwards will get their first taste of the Yamahas next week at Valencia. Initially, the bike will consist of a leased M1 engine, in a Yamaha frame and swingarm. All fittings and fixtures on the bike - from tank, seating unit, headstock, bodywork, etc - will come from FTR's workshop in Buckingham. Yamaha have provided extensive support to the engineering firm, with a special unit being set up inside the company's engineering department. As the year progresses, FTR will produce more of the bike, including a replacement swingarm and chassis.
Forward also confirmed their Moto2 plans. The team will cut back from four to two riders, retaining the services of both Simone Corsi and Mattia Pasini. The team will switch their Moto2 chassis from Speed Up to FTR as well. Below is the press release containing the announcement:
NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team presents its line-up for 2014
As the 2013 season comes to an end the NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team proudly presents its MotoGP and Moto2 line-up for the upcoming 2014 season.
Forward Racing will take part with two riders in the MotoGP category for the third consecutive year. In this third season the team will be count with the experience of Yamaha and FTR in entering the new “open” class within MotoGP. Colin Edwards will once again join the team in this new project and will be teaming up with Spanish rider Aleix Espargaro. Both riders will be doing a three-day test after the Valencia GP in which they will get to ride for the first time the Yamaha – FTR bike.
The team will strengthen the collaboration with FTR also in the Moto2 category with Simone Corsi and Mattia Pasini.
Colin Edwards – 5
“I am really excited for next year. The majority of my racing carrier has been with Yamaha, from the motocross days through road racing, so I am really excited to get back with Yamaha and obviously to enter into this new project with Forward and FTR. Theoretically on paper it looks like we can compete and right now, as soon as we are done with the season we need to get to work and that’s what I do best so I am really looking forward to it.”
Aleix Espargaro – 41
“After two years with a CRT bike, which have been very good for me, I think the time has come for me to make a change. Forward Racing approached me with an offer, a very exciting and ambitious project involving Yamaha and FTR. I believe it can be a competitive bike and the project itself with the team is something that I am excited about. I look forward to riding the bike, test, work hard and see how far we can go with it.”
Simone Corsi – 3
“I am really happy to have reached an agreement with NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team for 2014. Even if we have not been able to achieve the results that we would have hoped for this season we will try again in 2014. Thursday and Friday after Valencia the new adventure begins with FTR: I have ridden their bike in the past, they will follow us closely and we will aim to get good results.”
Mattia Pasini – 54
“I am very to be continuing with the team for a second year: the goal is to continue improving. At the beginning of the season we started off further behind then we expected but little by little and a lot of hard work we have improved. Unfortunately we have not been able to get where we wanted but continuing to work with the NGM Mobile Forward Racing is what seems best. It is important to provide continuity to this project, keep working very hard and not repeat past mistakes.”