Alvaro Bautista has signed a two year contract with Aprilia, and will remain in the Gresini squad in MotoGP for the 2015 and 2016 season. The Spaniard had been widely expected to be one of the two riders on the factory Aprilias, given his long association with both Gresini in MotoGP and Aprilia in the 125cc and 250cc classes. Bautista won the 125cc world championship for Aprilia in 2006.
The signing of Bautista is the next domino to fall after the announcement that Marc VDS Racing would be moving up to MotoGP, and taking over the Honda RC213V from Gresini, along with Scott Redding. That, in turn, had been triggered by Gresini's announcement that they would be switching to Aprilia, and abandoning Honda. Bautista's deal was dependent on Redding, as the Englishman was Aprilia's first choice to place alongside Marco Melandri. With Redding no longer available, the path was cleared for Bautista to sign.
However, it also became clear at Misano that Marco Melandri is far from certain to take the other seat at Gresini Aprilia. In several TV interviews that the Italian gave at Misano, he said he was only interested in coming to MotoGP with a competitive ride. The 2015 bike is not expected to be competing for wins next year - Aprilia boss Romano Albesiano told the German website Speedweek that "tenth places would be a good result for us" - with 2016 the first year of a completely new and radically updated MotoGP prototype. Melandri appears to be favoring remaining in World Superbikes and competing for wins and titles, rather than going to MotoGP and battling Open class Hondas. Although Aprilia is scrapping its factory WSBK team, there are reports that a new team is to be set up with strong factory backing, under the leadership of Giulio Bardi, currently in charge of the EBR team, and previously having worked with Yamaha.
If Melandri does choose to remain in World Superbikes, then it will open a new raft of speculation on who will be the second rider at Gresini Aprilia in MotoGP. Along with the second seats at Pramac, Aspar and Forward, there are still a lot of seats to be filled.
Below is the official press release from Aprilia on Bautista's contract:
ALVARO BAUTISTA WITH APRILIA IN MOTOGP
Two year contract for the Spanish rider, 2006 World Champion with Aprilia
Spanish rider Alvaro Bautista will ride one of the official Aprilias that will race next year in the MotoGP Championship, managed by the Aprilia Gresini Racing Team.
The agreement with Bautista is valid for two years, for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. A rider with vast experience, Bautista – born in Talavera de la Reina on 21 November 1984 – took his first world championship steps astride an Aprilia 125cc, which he rode to victory as World Champion in the "eighth litre" class in 2006.
In his fifth year in the top category, MotoGP, Bautista boasts 3 podiums and one pole position and his trophy case includes a total of 16 wins, 33 podiums and 18 pole positions.
The signing of Alvaro Bautista comes just a few hours after the official announcement that the Aprilia brand will return to the MotoGP World Championship – already in 2015, one year ahead of the previously announced plan – through a four year cooperation with the Gresini Racing Team and Aprilia Racing manager, Romano Albesiano, commented with satisfaction. "This represents another step in defining the team that will take the Aprilia bikes onto the track for the next MotoGP season" said Mr Albesiano. "On Friday we announced our return to the championship with Gresini Racing. Today we have inserted another very important tile in the mosaic by announcing Bautista's signing. I am particularly satisfied because Alvaro has been confirmed on a team that he already knows well, creating the basis for that rapidity in finding maximum competitiveness that led us to moving up our plans to return to MotoGP".
"I am happy to be able to continue working with Bautista - confirmed Fausto Gresini - Alvaro has significant experience in MotoGP so his contribution will certainly be essential in developing the new projects with Aprilia in the best possible way. I believe very much in him and his potential and I am confident that he will be able to bring us the results we are expecting. Also, this two year agreement will allow us to maintain continuity in the bond between Alvaro and Gresini racing which was formed in 2012 and that has been strengthened over the years".
Also enthusiastic about the new project is Alvaro Bautista: "I am very happy to have signed an agreement with Aprilia or the next to MotoGP World Championship seasons. Working in close contact with a manufacturer is what I wanted for my future and Aprilia has offered me a great chance. I am also very motivated to embark on this new adventure because I am coming back to a brand that has brought me great satisfaction in the past and with which I have shared some great times. Above all, the cooperation between Aprilia Racing and Gresini Racing will allow me to stay on a team that I've been racing with already for three years and which has become like a family to me. I have worked directly for a manufacturer in the past and I really liked developing a new project together. Knowing that I'll be able to count on the support of so many engineers and technicians is exciting and I can't wait to get started working with them".