It’s not the time to stop the presses just yet, but things have evolved rather quickly during the first day of MotoGP testing at Valencia today.
Originally scheduled to test Suzuki’s 800cc machine both today and tomorrow as he’s still under contract until the end of the year, Álvaro finally was not on track at all, instead getting a pass from Suzuki to continue negotiations with the Honda Gresini team about a factory-supported 1000cc RC213V for next season, the bike that Marco Simoncelli would have ridden. The main objection for the deal seemed to be Italian main sponsor San Carlo who is eager to get an Italian rider on the bike for maximum promotion in their main market Italy. That Italian was originally rumoured to be Andrea Iannone and he was set to test the bike today, but wasn’t able to meet up with Honda bosses in time to get the go ahead. It’s unclear if he might still test the bike tomorrow.
In the meantime Álvaro might have already snatched that ride away from under him as according to paddock rumours San Carlo would actually be fine with Álvaro joining the Gresini Team as Michele Pirro is the main candidate to ride the CRT entry of the team, providing the Italian passport San Carlo is looking for.
At the time of writing this no official announcement has been made by Álvaro or the Gresini Team, but most paddock insiders assume it’s more or less a done deal, only being delayed to wait on the approval from HRC. Álvaro also had the offer to ride with the LCR Honda team, but the perpetually cash-strapped team would prefer a rider bringing some much need sponsor money with him and Moto2 world champion Stefan Bradl has been testing their 800cc bike today, already posting rather impressive laptimes on it and he might be able to bring his sponsor Viessmann along to support the team financially. Putting another nationality on the list with a German rider in the MotoGP class would certainly also make series promoter Dorna more than happy and might add further support for the LCR-Bradl combination.
Meanwhile Álvaro’s Suzuki did not get dusty in the garage, instead Randy De Puniet took it for a ride and clocked some impressive laptimes, finishing the day in fourth position on the time sheets. According to the official announcement, Suzuki was simply looking to get “another rider’s perspective” on the bike’s potential, but considering the good job he was doing in only his first time out, it certainly seems very likely for De Puniet to sign with the team for 2012.
Earlier today it was reported by Spanish journalist Mela Chercoles that Suzuki was putting pressure on Álvaro to stay with them and threatening to leave the class if he left them. With De Puniet a possible candidate and John Hopkins on standby, that pressure seems to have faded and in case Álvaro does sign with Gresini, we might already see him on track tomorrow.
Suzuki also received a deadline from Dorna to finalize and officially confirm their plans until Friday, putting pressure on the factory to make a decision. Although it is highly likely they stay, it’s so far still unknown whether or not Suzuki will continue in the class at all.
The final day of testing tomorrow should bring some announcements and hopefully an official confirmation of Álvaro’s plans for 2012.
We’ll keep you updated.