The last of the factory seats has been officially filled. Today, the Gresini Aprilia team announced that Aleix Espargaro will be joining Sam Lowes at Aprilia for the next two seasons.
The announcement did not come as a surprise. Rumors had emerged at Barcelona that Espargaro would be going to Aprilia, Espargaro telling the media on Friday that he had already signed a contract, but that he was unable to announce who with.
Espargaro's signing leaves both Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista out of a job. Bautista is expected to sign with the Aspar Ducati team for 2017, where he is likely to partner with Eugene Laverty, while Stefan Bradl is being linked to several rides in the World Superbike paddock.
Below is the official press release announcing the news:
ALEIX ESPARGARÓ TO JOIN APRILIA
Aleix Espargaró, Spanish rider born in Granollers on 30 July 1989, will ride an Aprilia RS-GP in the MotoGP World Championship. The agreement signed with Aprilia Racing is for two years, covering the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Bringing Espargaró on board is part of Aprilia's development plan - which aims for an increase in competitiveness, in line with the progress already demonstrated this year - and it reaffirms the Piaggio Group's commitment to an excellent technological and sport project aimed at making the Aprilia brand a protagonist on the track and on the road.
Aleix Espargaró was the Spanish champion in the 125 category in 2004. After a series of placements in the 125 and 250 categories, in 2009 he made his début in the top class where he drew attention during the 2012 season astride the ART (the CRT bike developed by Aprilia Racing), finishing the season as the best rider in the category. This excellent result was repeated the next season as well, again on the ART - Aprilia Racing bike. Overall, in MotoGP, he has taken two pole positions and a podium finish, as well as seventh place in the rider standings (his personal best) for the 2014 championship season.