As had been widely trailed, Franco Morbidelli has signed a two-year with the Marc VDS squad to move up to MotoGP. The deal will see the Italian take the place of Tito Rabat inside the Marc VDS team for the next two years, with an option to sign on for a third.
Morbidelli had also been under consideration for a ride with Ducati, but the relationship the Italian had built up with the team proved decisive.
With Morbidelli signed, the focus will now switch to the second seat in the Marc VDS squad. Jack Miller is still the favorite for that seat, the Australian currently in talks with the team. Miller's priority is to secure the best package available, however. The outcome of those talks will depend on what Honda can offer Marc VDS in that regard.
Below is the press release from the Marc VDS team:
Morbidelli to step up to MotoGP with Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS
Franco Morbidelli will step up to the premier MotoGP category in 2018, after agreeing a contract extension with Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS in Assen today.
Morbidelli, who leads the Moto2 World Championship, will remain with Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS for a further two years. The agreement reached today also includes an option for a third year, should the Italian wish to continue with the team for the 2020 MotoGP season.
Morbidelli made his debut for Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS in 2016, securing eight podium finishes on his way to fourth place in the Moto2 World Championship.
While a first World Championship win proved elusive in 2016, Morbidelli started the 2017 season with victory in Qatar, which he then backed up with further race wins in Argentina, Austin and Le Mans.
Morbidelli currently leads the Moto2 World Championship by seven points from Thomas Lüthi after seven of 18 races.
"Firstly I want to thank Marc van der Straten and Michael Bartholemy for having faith in me and giving me this opportunity. Thanks to my management team for arranging everything, leaving me free to focus on the racing and also to the Riders Academy. It's good to have everything sorted so early in the season, as I can now concentrate fully on what I have to do this year in Moto2. I'm excited by the thought of MotoGP and I'm happy to be making the step up to the premier class with the team, and with people I know and have worked alongside already. It's a big challenge, but it's definitely one that I'm looking forward to. But for now my focus is on this year, so thinking about MotoGP will have to wait until after the final Moto2 race of the season in Valencia."
Marc van der Straten: President, Marc VDS Racing Team
"I am delighted that we have secured Franco Morbidelli on a long term contract to represent the team in MotoGP from 2018 onwards. Franco was something of an unknown quantity when he came to us at the beginning of 2016, but we took a chance on him because we could see his potential. It was a good decision on our part, because he's not only realised this potential, his progress has actually far exceeded our expectations. He's leading the championship after dominating from the opening race and I am confident that he will adapt quickly to MotoGP once he makes the move at the end of this season. For now, though, he has other priorities, namely winning his first, and the team's second, World Championship title."