Aspar Signs Bautista For MotoGP - 2017 Line Up Almost Complete

The penultimate piece of the 2017 puzzle has fallen into place. Today, the Pull&Bear Aspar team announced that they have signed Alvaro Bautista to race for them for the 2017 season.

The deal had long been anticipated, Bautista confirming at the Sachsenring that he was in talks with Aspar, and expected a contract to be signed. The final details were sorted out in Austria, and an announcement made the day before the Czech Grand Prix is to get underway in Brno.

Like the Avintia Ducati team, Aspar will have two different bikes at their disposal for their riders. One rider will be given a Ducati Desmosedici GP16 for the season, while the other will have a Desmosedici GP15. In the Avintia team, it is Hector Barbera who will have the GP16, while Loriz Baz makes do with the GP15. In Aspar, it is Alvaro Bautista who has the GP16, while the second rider, still to be confirmed, will get to use the GP15.

Bautista's signing leaves one more seat to fill. The second seat at Aspar is still up for grabs, though Eugene Laverty has first refusal on it. The Irishman is still vacillating between the Aspar ride and a seat in WorldSBK with Aprilia. A decision on that shoudl be forthcoming very soon. If Laverty doesn't take the seat, then Yonny Hernandez will retain his seat in the Aspar squad.

Below is the table of signed riders and their contract lengths, while at the bottom is the press release from the Aspar team announcing the signing of Bautista:

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
Aleix Espargaro 2017-2018
KTM Factory
Bradley Smith 2017-2018
Pol Espargaro 2017-2018
Factory Ducati
Jorge Lorenzo 2017-2018
Andrea Dovizioso 2017-2018
Pramac Ducati
Scott Redding 2017
Danilo Petrucci 2017
LCR Honda
Cal Crutchlow 2017
Monster Tech 3 Yamaha
Jonas Folger 2017-2018
Johann Zarco 2017-2018
Marc VDS Honda
Jack Miller 2017
Tito Rabat 2017
Avintia Ducati
Hector Barbera 2017
Loris Baz 2017
Aspar Ducati
Alvaro Bautista 2017
Eugene Laverty/Yonny Hernandez?

Below is the press release from the Aspar team announcing the deal:

Aspar Team and Álvaro Bautista to reunite in 2017

Spanish rider returns to the team where he was crowned 125cc World Champion in 2006 and 250cc runner-up in 2008

The Aspar Team and Álvaro Bautista will join forces again in 2017, the Spaniard (born 21st November 1984) returning to the team where he last raced between 2006 and 2009. Bautista's fifth season with the Aspar Team will also be his eighth season in MotoGP, this time riding aboard a Ducati GP16.

Álvaro Bautista touched the sky in his first season together with the Aspar Team in the 125cc World Championship in 2006. The rider from Talavera de la Reina picked up eight pole positions, eight victories, four second places and two thirds, taking 338 points from sixteen races on his way to a dominant title. Bautista was crowned champion in Australia, handing the Aspar Team its first World Championship with three rounds to spare.

Bautista moved up to the 250cc World Championship together with the Aspar Team, fighting for honours throughout three seasons that saw him come close to the title in 2008, when he finished runner-up. Bautista and the Aspar Team again recorded impressive figures in the intermediate class, with a total of eight wins, twenty podiums, nine poles and twelve fastest laps.

In 2010 he made the step up to MotoGP with Suzuki, spending two seasons with the Japanese factory team before switching to Gresini, where he currently rides an Aprilia after an initial period on a Honda. The 2012 season was Bautista's best so far in MotoGP, with two podium finishes and fifth overall in the championship.

Jorge Martínez ‘Aspar’: “For the Aspar Team it gives us great pleasure in every sense to welcome Álvaro Bautista back. As a team we picked up our first World Championship title with him back in 2006 and we enjoyed some wonderful years together. Our professional and personal relationship with him is excellent and for the team and our sponsors this is great news. My hope and desire is that this brings great results for Ducati and for us. It is important for us to have a Spanish rider with his record and his professionalism. He can give us an advantage on track.”

Álvaro Bautista: “I am happy to be returning to what was my home for many years in the World Championship, where I enjoyed my best results including the 125cc World Championship title and fought for another title in 250cc. I am happy and motivated to be going back and especially to have another year in MotoGP, a new adventure. Over the years I have grown a lot and I have much more experience now. I am confident that with this team we can be competitive in 2017.”


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Silly season 2017 should be a snoozer with almost everyone signed up for new two year deals. 2018 should be another barn burner....

I am glad to see that Alvaro got the seat for next year. In my view he has done a wonderful job moving the Aprilia forward, and I believe that this work has earned him this Aspar seat. I am eager to see how he takes to the Desmo 16 machine. Something tells me it's going to go well. This is a very good looking grid!  I should not get too far ahead of myself, however. There are still 8 to go this year! 

I have read that Eugene is not in favor of using equipment that is dissimilar to his team mate, hence the pending move to WSBK and Aprilia. But given his admirable performance this year on a lesser bike, he may want to reconsider. I love Superbike, don't get me wrong, but in my mind MotoGP is still "The Show." How many chances do you get to make the Show? I wish him the best and hope that he does in fact stay in MotoGP.  

I think Laverty should go back to WSBK, especially if Bautista gets the newer GP16

I can see why a rider might see that as a lesser position, not being given the newer model bike. Which brings up the question - Why run different equipment anyway? Apart from clearly defining the number 1 and number 2 riders, somehow I am failing to see the upside to this. Running a different bike means you have to carry a whole different set of spare parts, each bike will get different revisions, and so on. Given this, I am not seeing a cost offset. Unless the GP15 is being offered at "fire sale" prices and the difference is so great that it does make an impact on the team budget. 

So in Eugene's case, he sees this and says "no, I am not going to take a number 2 spot on a lesser bike in GP when I can go to Superbike and ride an Aprilia machine that can definitely win races on that grid".  Of course what we don't see is the difference in the 2 deals, what the compensation deltas are, and so on. The time he has spent in MotoGP will serve him well in Superbike, which is probably making that option very tempting. It will be interesting to see which one he chooses. 

I believe the reason most consistently mentioned in the media was good ol' money. Aspar had a few sponsor issues in recent years and not that much cash at his disposal as he used to, so running two of the more expensive bikes would likely be out of his reach, even if the difference might "only" be a few hundred thousand for one machine. The cost throughout a year of course also is more than just a bike itself and I would suppose that Ducati charges more for the support and parts of the newer model than the old one.

It might also be a question of what Ducati is willing to provide in general, setting a limit for GP16 bikes in the satellite teams as there was previously talk about Avintia getting two & Aspar none while we now have one each. I even faintly remember reading somewhere in the silly season rumours that Aspar would only get the GP16 if Bautista signs up, probably that he can attract more sponsorship with him to offset the higher cost & that it otherwise would have been no GP16 for Aspar at all. Anyway. In the end I guess there's probably more paddock politics involved than we will ever know on the outside.

Bautista seems to be the "chosen one" at Aspar, Laverty would just be there for the sponsor's money!

Wasn't it Ducati's choice to only offer Aspar and Avintia one GP16 each? I mean, Ducati only has four of them on the grid now, so that's four they can offer to satellite teams next year. Factories are restricted by Dorna to only supplying four current bikes, right? Two go to the actual factory team, and two to the top satellite team. There really aren't that many GP16s to spread around.

So it's not like Avintia and Aspar are making a choice, is it? They'd probably both love the challenge of finding the money to run two GP16s, or, for that matter, GP17s if it were possible.

As for the 2017 silly season, the only open seats in 2018 will be at the, for lack of a better term, "low" end of the satellite spectrum. Might be the perfect scenario for getting some new blood in the class. Six open seats is more than a quarter of the MotoGP grid, and none of them is at a major player, so the risk of taking a chance with unproven (in MotoGP, at least) talent is perhaps less daunting.