MotoGP musical chairs continues

We don't know where Ben Spies is headed at the end of the season, but he's leaving Yamaha - and after his recent string of bad luck aboard the factory bike, we can't blame him. Photo: MotoGP
We don’t know where Ben Spies is headed at the end of the season, but he’s leaving Yamaha – and after his recent string of bad luck aboard the factory bike, we can’t blame him.

Even though the Moto GP factory seats are already settled for 2013, there are still lots of guesses about the remaining rides.

Top of the list is Ben Spies, who announced before the Indy round that he would not be returning to Yamaha’s Moto GP team.

That was a surprise and a disappointment for Yamaha, actually; even though Spies has had a terrible year most of the problems have not been his fault and both the company and lead rider Lorenzo wanted him back. Still, getting Valentino Rossi instead can’t have made anyone too unhappy!

It was assumed Spies would be riding for the BMW Italia World Superbike team next year with Marco Melandri. However, recently there’s been some question as to whether Alvaro Bautista will keep his ride with San Carlo Gresini Honda, and Spies’ name has been tossed into the hat for that seat.

With Casey Stoner out with a broken ankle, it’s Jonny Rea’s big chance to ride for Repsol Honda.

He’s joining more than a few others. With Honda favourite Jonathon Rea testing with Repsol Honda to replace Casey Stoner for a race or two (and he’s made no secret of his wish to jump to Moto GP – more on this below), he’s obviously a possible with Gresini, and a couple of Moto 2 rider names have come up as well, notably Brit Scott Redding.

The Gresini team would really prefer an Italian rider (chief sponsor San Carlo is an Italian snacks manufacturer), so where the call will go there is really up in the air.

The other two possible semi-factory rides are at Ducati, which plans to run a “junior” team in 2013. Unlike the satellite teams of Honda and Yamaha, the plan is to give all bikes the same spec. Young riders from Moto 2 are the ones being eyed for these rides; Scott Redding is in the mix here as well, and has actually tested this year’s bike, getting off with seriously wide eyes from the power delivery.

With Cal Crutchlow signing this weekend to continue with Tech 3 for a single year, it means that there will be a few top riders will be at the end of contract after 2013, the Englishman joining Lorenzo and Pedrosa. Rossi has a two-year deal with Yamaha into 2014, Marquez ditto with Repsol Honda.

The elephant in the closet, of course, is Suzuki, who have announced clearly that they plan to return in 2014. Spies’ long association with U.S. Suzuki have certainly put his name up as a possible candidate there, and Bautista’s success with the bike in Suzuki’s last two Moto GP seasons would seem to favour him as well.

More fun than the racing, this stuff can be.

And what about Jonathon Rea’s upcoming stint in MotoGP?

He’ll be replacing Casey Stoner with the Repsol Honda squad for the next two races, assuming Stoner’s badly injured ankle keeps him off the bike that long, as doctors are predicting.

Rea tested the Repsol Honda at Brno yesterday on his way home from the WSB race in Moscow, and will test again at the Aragon track in Spain September 4-5. Fortunately for him and for Honda, the WSB schedule doesn’t conflict with the next two Moto GP rounds in September at Misano and Aragon.

Rea has previously tested a Honda 800 cc Moto GP bike (at Sepang in December of 2010) and in fact was hoping to make his Moto GP debut with Team Roberts back in 2007, but a crowded schedule put paid to that.

Rea has been a WSB star for Honda, winning 10 races since 2009. He also won the Suzuka 8-Hour this year, a huge victory in the eyes of the factory.

The text of the HRC announcement follows:

Jonathan Rea, Ten Kate Honda rider in WSBK, will join the Repsol Honda team for tomorrow’s test in Brno, and also for the 2 day test in Aragon that will take place on the 4th and 5th of September.

In case, as doctors anticipate, Casey Stoner is not able to re-join the Repsol Honda Team in time, then Jonathan will replace him in Misano and Aragon.

Honda Racing Corporation would like to thank Honda Europe, Ten Kate Team and all their sponsors for their cooperation under the circumstances.

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