Alex Rins Confirmed At Suzuki, Aleix Espargaro and Johann Zarco Left Out in the Cold

The next piece in the puzzle which is the 2017 MotoGP grid has fallen into place. As had been widely expected, Alex Rins has signed a two-year deal to race with the factory Ecstar Suzuki team from next year. Rins will line up alongside Andrea Iannone on the Suzuki GSX-RR next season.

Rins had long been favorite to take the second seat at Suzuki, as his profile best suited the Ecstar Suzuki team's strategy of having young rider with potential alongside a fast, more experienced rider to help lead development. When Maverick Viñales left for the Movistar Yamaha team, Rins was the name most touted to take his place.

The surprise came when Suzuki announced they had signed Andrea Iannone immediately after Ducati announced they would be keeping Andrea Dovizioso. The signing of Iannone was the writing on the wall for Aleix Espargaro, as it did not fit with Suzuki's strategy to have two older, more experienced riders. In Barcelona, Espargaro was openly critical of Suzuki's attitude, pointing out that he was not far behind Dani Pedrosa in the championship.

Suzuki Japan are believed to have been hesitant to sign Alex Rins alongside Andrea Iannone, as it means having two brand new riders in the team. They would have preferred to keep Espargaro, as the rider with experience of the bike, to partner the rookie Rins. Davide Brivio was in Japan last week to convince them to let him sign Rins, a mission which has been successful.

Rins' signing also leaves Johann Zarco in limbo. The Frenchman had gone to Japan to test the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP bike, as part of a contract he had signed with the Japanese factory. That contract also included Zarco racing at the Suzuka 8 Hour endurance race this year, though it was unclear whether the contract extended beyond the end of this year. After his test in Japan, Zarco canceled his plans to race at Suzuka, which was taken by many that any plans he may have had to ride a Suzuki in 2017 had fallen through. The announcement that Alex Rins was signed to the factory team was merely confirmation of that. 

That leaves Zarco looking for a MotoGP ride for 2017. Hervé Poncharal has made it clear that he has a strong interest in Zarco, and is in talks to sign the Frenchman to ride alongside Jonas Folger next year. That deal is not yet signed, however: an announcement is unlikely at Assen, which means that the Sachsenring will be the earliest place a deal could be signed.

As for Aleix Espargaro, the signs are that the Spaniard will end up on the only other factory bike left on the grid. There are strong reports that Espargaro will announce that he will be joining Sam Lowes on the Gresini Aprilia RS-GP for 2017. Lowes, in turn, is due to get his first taste of the Aprilia in a test after Assen. He will be riding last year's version of the bike, though, to allow him to get used to the Michelin tires and the carbon brakes, and generally get the feel of a MotoGP bike.

This is the way the factory teams look after all but one seat has been officially confirmed:

Team/Rider Contract duration
Movistar Yamaha  
Valentino Rossi 2017-2018
Maverick Viñales 2017-2018
   
Repsol Honda  
Dani Pedrosa 2017-2018
Marc Márquez 2017-2018
   
Ecstar Suzuki  
Andrea Iannone 2017-2018
Alex Rins 2017-2018
   
Gresini Aprilia  
Sam Lowes 2017-2018
Unsigned  
   
KTM Factory  
Bradley Smith 2017-2018
Pol Espargaro 2017-2018
   
Factory Ducati  
Jorge Lorenzo 2017-2018
Andrea Dovizioso 2017-2018

Below is the press release announcing that Suzuki have signed Rins to a two-year deal:


ALEX RINS SIGNED FOR TWO YEARS WITH TEAM SUZUKI ECSTAR

Team Suzuki Press Office – June 20, 2016; 09:00hrs (CET)/08:00hrs (GMT)

Suzuki Motor Corporation announces the agreement with Alex Rins to become its factory rider for the next two seasons. This defines the Team Suzuki MotoGP rider line-up for 2017 and 2018 with Rins alongside Andrea Iannone aboard the factory GSX-RR.

Alex Rins Navarro was born in Barcelona on the 8th of December 1995 (20 years old) and started to race at the age of seven. His debut in the World Championship was in 2012, at the age of 16 in the Moto3 class. He won his first pole position at the second race of his debut season. He raced in Moto3 for three seasons, collecting a total of eight victories, becoming vice-champion in 2013. In 2015 he stepped up to Moto2, ending his first season in the class with 2nd place overall, winning the Rookie of the Year award after collecting two wins, a total of ten podiums and three pole positions. In 2016 he has already scored two wins and currently leads the points standing after seven rounds.

As a consequence of this new signing, the collaboration between Suzuki and Aleix Espargaró will come to an end after the 2016 MotoGP™ season. All the Suzuki family is extremely grateful to Aleix for his contribution to the growth of the MotoGP™ project and the development of the GSX-RR. Both Team SUZUKI ECSTAR and Suzuki Motor Corporation will continue their unconditional support to Aleix, looking forward to the best possible results in the remaining 2016 MotoGP™ races. Suzuki wishes all the best to Aleix Espargaró for a bright and successful future.

Back to top

Comments

But that's cold. I also wonder how much fun Suzuki will be to watch next year. Ianonne wasn't able to produce consistent results on a better machine, and Rins is a Moto2 star, which is a gamble. He could be Marquez or he could be Rabat. Suzuki also still has problems with horsepower and mechanical grip. More power to them, but I'm not sure I see next year being very different from this one, and possibly worse. 

Total votes: 126

The podiums in the flyaways may not be accurate representation of the potential of the ducati. 

Rossi put it clearly that the flyaways at the start of the season are not true representation of how the season will pan out. The track at Qatar gets barely used in between motogp and is dusty on a race day as well. 

And the same case with Argentina. Had it not been for a bone headed move from Iannonne Duc would have had their double podium. 

I am mentioning all this to refute your point about Iannonne not getting the best out of the machine. I believe he has been flattering Ducatic's results and had it not been for him the Ducati wouldnt have been having so much free press about how great it is.

We will know when Lorenzo gets on the bike next year and starts moaning about it from the word get go.

Total votes: 101

I swear that I've read on this very site that Valentino Rossi thinks the Ducati is a race winning bike if it had an 'alien' on board....personally I like Iannone but don't think he's an Alien.

Total votes: 99

Very interesting team at Suzuki next year. If Iannone can sort his head out and Rins delievers on the promise of what he's managed in the smaller classes, along with the bike going from strength to strength, this will be a great team to watch out.

A bit of a shame for Espargaro to be given the flick, but I don't blame Brivio not wanting to miss out on Rins. Aleix is a good development rider, and very quick when it comes to single lap pace, but I always felt his racecraft lets him down quite often and is rather inconsistent. Plus he lets his emotions get the better of him far too often.

It is a big risk for Suzuki having a new pairing next year but sometimes in racing you have to take those risks, to gain rewards.

 

Total votes: 131

Iannone has already sorted his head out well, as we saw last year. I think he has had a back slide (pun intended) into old difficulties. This was SUCH a tough year from his perspective - at the end of last yr he was our potential Alien holding lots of cards for silly season. I think it ended well.

SATELLITE SEATS
This can get interesting...

Total votes: 95

Just not sure what to think about that situation.  In a lot of ways I feel like he was given a bit of an unfair boot from Suzuki.  His results were on average, close to on par with Maverick; and he really has been a big part of making that bike work.

That being said, the factories are more and more coming to the conclusion that your have to have an "Alien" on your bike to fight for wins; and since all the known "Aliens" are taken your only choice is to try and find the next one.  Rins was always going to be a necessity for Suzuki, its Crazy Joe's hire that put the nail in the coffin for Aleix on the GSX-RR.

I hope Aprilia can continue to improve their bike as well as KTM.  I can see some very entertaining battles for top 10s coming in the form of the "B Team" factories next season.

Total votes: 108

Shucks, I wonder what his times were like on Suzuki's Moto GP bike. I sure hope he manages to defend his crown this year -  because I like how he rides and because it will make things more interesting in the Moto GP world of alliances and betrayals.

Total votes: 89

    Zarco is a quality rider.   Zarco is going to win the Moto2 championship again this year and be the first to double the Moto2 championship.  He had a few issues in the opening races but is back on track.  The age factor is bogus.  If he can come into a team at 26 and have good results until he is 33 then who cares.  That is 7 good years.  I do think his smooth style is a fit for the Yamaha.   If he ends up at Tech 3 then it might be a good fit.  Time will tell.  

     

Total votes: 87

David, you alluded to this in the past, but why is Zarco not much sought-after? Is it mostly a sponsorship thing or is some form of politics involved? From a simplistic point of view, Zarco at Tech 3 seems a perfect match, but I am not close to the mechanations of how riders and teams form their bonds.

Total votes: 101

AFAIK, Tech 3 has had an eye on Zarco for a while, but most top riders nowadays try to avoid going the satelite route, because the last man for whom it truly worked was Ben Spies.

I say truly because while Iannone did get the factory ride, at that time it wasn't a ride that was wildly sought for. Everyone was just a bit weary of Ducati saying "This time, next year...".
The fact that they managed to make a turnaround that year was honestly a surprise. 

The satelite's are now seen as a sort of limbo, where you get on one and you're going to at best, be shuffled to a better satelite team, while your chances of getting a factory ride remain slim.

And also, Zarco is "old". 
He's a youngster by any definition, except the one by which athletes are defined.

For me, it's still a no brainer, he's a great rider and a standout, worthy of at least a 1 year factory deal at Suzuki, and I honestly think he has less to prove than Rins, but, the factories think otherwise, and at the end of the day I'm writing a line of text on a site, and they're writing the actual contracts, so...

A little bit of off-topic, but what I personally don't get is why journalistst even to this day write about Pol as if he ever had a chance toget into the factory team. As if the only thing standing in his way was Valentino. Let's be brutaly honest, if both Valentino and Jorge left, and Maverick didn't sign, most could even then find at least 4 riders with better prospects than Pol.

His chance to get into the factory YMR team was real only when he was in Moto2. 

Total votes: 104

It was Dovisioso who landed the Ducati factory ride after Tech3 - not Iannone.

Iannone has never (ever) ridden for Tech3 so I fail to even begin to understand your post and stopped reading at about halfway.

Complete and utter nonsense (which has been up-voted???).

Total votes: 96

Usually, when reading things, some understanding of context and reading between the lines is necessary. 

I never stated that Iannone went through Tech3, but said he went the satelite route.
That he did, riding first for the Pramac squad, and then being promoted onto the factory Ducati.

Dovi was far from being a rookie when he signed for the Tech3 squad, so why you would jump to that conclusion is beyond me, but then again, I've noticed you have a tendency for fighting battles that don't exist.

Total votes: 85

since he'll be 26 next month. Makes me feel really old seeing that a 26 yo guy is seen as too old lol. But he's fast.

Compared to last season, he has 1 more win that he did at the same point last year, but 2 fewer podiums, and 28 points less.

Mr. Emmett posted this on Zarco back in March:

"There are downsides to Zarco, however. The Frenchman will be 26 this July, which doesn't really qualify him as a young talent. What he did in 2015 was remarkable, but so far, he has failed to make any impression during preseason testing. Zarco also brings with him his rather idiosyncratic manager Laurent Fellon. Fellon has brought the very best out of Zarco, but has caused him major problems as well. Zarco had signed with one Moto2 team one year, when Fellon rescinded the contract, after seeing something in the team's garage he did not like. That kind of inexplicable behavior can be hard to deal with, but the fact that Fellon is now getting increasingly caught up with coaching his son, who is just starting to go racing, means he will be less of a factor in any arrangement with Zarco."

Total votes: 103

Fellon allowed Zarco to sleep on his couch, in his own home, when neither had any money.

Fellon raised him from nothing, but Zarco is now managed by Ajo.

Ajo also manages Miller and was recently sacked by Vinales. 

Total votes: 90

Bummer for Aleix, but nonetheless with now 2 years of working to develop a factory bike, it will be interesting to see what he can take to Aprilia.  I like the connection between the Aprilia factory and the ART project, which Aleix did so remarkably well with. And, Aprilia is doing a fine job this year, honestly.  We forget quickly that Suzuki did not have steller results last year all the time whatsoever, and they had special tyre allocations (and two pretty good/great riders).  A year of (hopefully) quality development in the offseason should see them build a competitve machine capable of battling for positions 7-10 consistently (hopefully). 

I've always been an Aleix fan.  I know the CRT/open class was bullshit and blah blah whine whine, but someone had to take up the reins and get the job done and he did a spectacular job.  Always thought of him as the underdog, never getting the proper ride, and that's why he was always my favorite racer.  Now when he did get a factory ride, still was undercut for the superstar of the future MV25.  And then MV left and now suzuki is left with, in my opinion, a less favorable rider combination. Suzuki would have done well to retain both riders and given them equal treatment, but this is not how the world (or paddock) works sometimes. 

And MV might think 'oh, so much to learn from Rossi' but the fact is he's going to become a Rossi enemy just as quickly as JL99 and MM93.  Keep your enemies closer....

Total votes: 109

Actually put that as two big mistakes by Suzuki. The first one is grabbing Andrea Iannone as if he was hot property that all the teams in the MotoGP paddock were waiting to grab. Iannone is wild; about that there can be no doubt looking at how he was in his Moto2 days as well as his MotoGP days thus far (he himself seems to acknowledge that having Maniac emblazoned on his racing leathers). Aleix Espargaro being sent out is the second mistake. Right from the days of the CRT machines Aleix Espargaro has been overperforming and fetching results that were actually beyong the capabilities of the motorcycles he was riding. Maverick Vinales is a special talent and Cal Crutchlow has said that as he develops and matures Vinales will be one of the riders who will be very difficult to beat. Signing Alex Rins is a good idea, since he does seem special on the Moto2 machines and while taking a new talent into the team, there is always a bit of risk involved, but if there is one rider who worth the risk it is Alex Rins. The ideal pairing should have been Aleix Espargaro and Alex Rins. Aleix Espargaro has been steady and this could have given the team a chance to spend more time on developing Rins. Instead they chose the unpredictable Iannone over Aleix Espargaro. I feel sorry for the man.

Total votes: 120

I think you're being too harsh on Iannone. Granted he behaved somewhat erratically (almost to a moronic level in Argentina I admit) but I wonder how much Ducati's management should be held responsible for it. Look at last year : he did a good season. He was fast, combative within the limits, no crazy moves. No stupid moments. So what changed? I don't think he just snapped one morning and threw away all he had learnt. Or rather he did snapped because of Ducati behaviour. If you remember there were rumors that Ducati was courting both Lorenzo AND Marquez.... plus drooling in front of Stoner sending one message only to the two Andreas : thank you for the commitment and the effort but we don't give a flying f..k about you. And by the way show us that you can beat the s..t out of your team-mate so that maybe just maybe we keep you.
Who wouldn't lose it? It was there in front of us since Qatar, Dovi making (unnecessary ?)passes on Iannone in the opening laps.... they were both trying so hard to prove they were worth it that they tried too hard.
Maybe in Suzuki with the good environment Iannone might find a new more serene environment and new more balanced determination.

Total votes: 120

I remember several years ago David did a piece for his blog here on Ducati Corse CEO or Team Principal (I forget which). In the article the individual made several comments about Ducati and their racing family. I made a respectful but disparaging comment about how Ducati had treated other family members which David deleted(Stoner while ill and flirting with Lorenzo publicly; sending Marco Melandri to a sport shrink to find out why he couldn't ride the bike better; booting Capirossi for Marco)(and before they booted NH69). The above said and considering your comments, Ducati are a graceless bunch. 

Total votes: 100

They sign a fast crasher (Iannone) in place of another (Espargaro) to help develop the bike. Few factories want a fast crasher.

They sign a promising rookie (Rins) in place of another (Vinales). The big factories will quickly lure him away if he's fast.

If Suzuki had any real belief and ambition, they'd of made Pedrosa and Dovizioso an offer they couldn't possibly refuse.

Suzuki? Second rate riders and promising rookies. Where's the future in that?

Total votes: 128

They sign a fast crasher (Iannone) in place of another (Espargaro) to help develop the bike.

Counterpoint: Aleix isn't actually all that fast.  Aleix: 1 podium in 4.5 years.  Andrea: 4 podiums in 3.5 years.

Few factories want a fast crasher.

Counterpoint: JLo crashed a lot his rookie year.  A lot of factories would have gladly taken JLo

They sign a promising rookie (Rins) in place of another (Vinales).

Counterpoint: Maverick is not a rookie

The big factories will quickly lure him away if he's fast.

Counterpoint: Where are all these magical open "big factory" seats for Rins to be lured away to if he does indeed end up being fast???  There are a four what I would consider "big factory" seats.  Six if you throw in Duc.  There is a much greater supply of riders than demand.  It's very simplistic to just say as a blanket statement that a big factory will lure Rins away.

If Suzuki had any real belief and ambition, they'd of made Pedrosa and Dovizioso an offer they couldn't possibly refuse.

Counterpoint: It's just the easy, huh?  That's like if you listen to sports talk radio in the States.  "My favorite team should just trade the bench warmer for LeBron James!"

Total votes: 94

Maybe you're just arguing for the sake of argument?

They sign a fast crasher (Iannone) in place of another (Espargaro) to help develop the bike.

Counterpoint: Aleix isn't actually all that fast.  Aleix: 1 podium in 4.5 years.  Andrea: 4 podiums in 3.5 years.

FACT: Espargaro beat the more fancied Vinales in the standings last year. Perhaps you can name the last Suzuki rider to put a Suzuki on pole and the date of the event, but I can't. 

Few factories want a fast crasher.

Counterpoint: JLo crashed a lot his rookie year.  A lot of factories would have gladly taken JLo

FACT: Neither Espargaro or Iannone are rookies so I fail to see the relevence of your reference to Lorenzo in his rookie season. Both Espargaro and Iannone are experienced and fast but both crash often. Crutchlow learned that top factories don't want a 'fast crasher'.

They sign a promising rookie (Rins) in place of another (Vinales).

Counterpoint: Maverick is not a rookie

FACT: Both Rins and Vinales were promising rookies when Suzuki signed them. Assen will be only the eighth time that Vinales has ridden without being eligible for the 'Rookie of the Year' award, so he's hardly a seasoned campaigner.

The big factories will quickly lure him away if he's fast.

Counterpoint: Where are all these magical open "big factory" seats for Rins to be lured away to if he does indeed end up being fast???  There are a four what I would consider "big factory" seats.  Six if you throw in Duc.  There is a much greater supply of riders than demand.  It's very simplistic to just say as a blanket statement that a big factory will lure Rins away.

FACT: Vinales showed speed and Yamaha stole him away. With Rossi set to retire in the next two years, who's to say they won't do the same with Rins?

If Suzuki had any real belief and ambition, they'd of made Pedrosa and Dovizioso an offer they couldn't possibly refuse.

Counterpoint: It's just the easy, huh?  That's like if you listen to sports talk radio in the States.  "My favorite team should just trade the bench warmer for LeBron James!"

FACT: Both Pedrosa and Dovizioso were available. Both have proven pedigree. Both have a wealth of experience. Both have chosen to remain with their current teams in the role of 'second rider' rather than go to Suzuki. Got any idea why that is?

'Counterpoints' aren't clever - they simply highlight a lack of knowledge and imagination.

Total votes: 103

Re a "fast crasher"
I have seen many references indicating that you can't make a rider talented but can make a talented rider consistent.
Iannone is very talented. And in 2015 he settled in nicely, showing great promise. I saw greatness several times that is quite uncommon. MotoGP sees plenty of riders that can get to mid pack w/o crashing much. Seldom do we see what Iannone showed at his peak on a MotoGP bike. It was actual, not potential. Then came Michelins and new (old) electronics, a bunch of pressure, and he reverted. I dont see why we would think we have seen the last of his great rides.

Total votes: 93

I think Aleix relished the role of underdog and was comfortable when he could surprise and punch above his weight. I think the pressure of having to perform to Factory level got to him and he got rattled and (as respectfully as possible) choked.

Total votes: 100

I know all the Spanish riders are of course great, but the series is starting to lose me with every top seat going to a Spaniard. Unless you are on a factory team, you are looking for scraps. And the fact that any team would not look at Zarco because of his age is even more reason to dislike what I am seeing. How many years do many riders stay in one place anyhow?

Moto 2 is far more entertaining for me. And that is a shame.

Total votes: 90

I've heard this same, lame excuse put forward so many times in the last 40 yrs, that it's become ridiculous.

Talent always counts for more than 'nationality'.

A South African leads the Moto3 championship, and a Frenchman is the current Moto2 World Champion.

In MotoGP, a Spaniard currently leads an Italian by just 22 points.

Despite the obvious facts, you still spout about 'Spanish World Championship'. I wonder about you and your logic.

Last year, a British rider won the Moto3 title.

Last year, a French rider won the Moto2 title.

Last year, a Spanish rider won the MotoGP title.

Do you understand? 

Total votes: 94