The first official announcement of the Barcelona weekend has been made. Yamaha issued a press release today announcing that Pol Espargaro will not be riding for Yamaha in 2017. The Spaniard had a contract directly with Yamaha, but rode in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. He had three offers to continue - a one-year deal from Yamaha to continue at Tech 3, and multi-year deals from KTM and Avintia Ducati - and is due to announce his future soon. It is widely believed he will join Bradley Smith at KTM.
Espargaro's departure leaves a seat open at Tech 3. While Yamaha has been pursuing Alex Rins for the seat, Rins is keen on joining a factory team, and looks bound for Suzuki. If Rins does not fill the seat, then the Frenchman Johann Zarco could join fellow rookie from Moto2 Jonas Folger in the team.
Below is the press release from Yamaha announcing the departure of Espargaro:
YAMAHA AND POL ESPARGARÓ TO END PARTNERSHIP AFTER 2016
Barcelona (Spain), 2nd June 2016
Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. announce that Yamaha and Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team-rider Pol Espargaró will go their separate ways at the close of the 2016 MotoGP season, when the Spaniard will start new racing challenges.
Espargaró joined the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team in 2014, following his championship victory in the Moto2 class the year before. The currently 24-year old adapted to the YZR-M1 quickly, as was displayed when he qualified second for the fifth race in Le Mans and claimed the accolade of ’rookie of the year‘ as well as ’top satellite MotoGP rider‘ with a sixth place overall finish.
Espargarò followed up this successful year by taking ninth place in the final rankings in the 2015 season, with the highlight of finishing as the highest satellite team rider in Assen and Valencia with two fifth places.
In addition to the MotoGP program, Espargarò also secured the win for Yamaha at the 2015 Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race where he teamed up with Tech3 teammate Bradley Smith and Katsuyuki Nakasuga.
Espargarò will team up once again this year with Katsuyuki Nakasuga and new rider Alex Lowes in an attempt to secure back-to-back wins for the Yamaha Factory Team.
So far this season Espargaró holds seventh place with 48 points in the 2016 MotoGP World Championship standings and has been the leading independent team rider since the start of the 2016 campaign, finishing three times as the best independent rider in Losail, Jerez, and Le Mans.
Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. look back with great appreciation on Espargaró's contributions to its racing successes over the past two and a half years and wish Espargaró the very best in furthering his racing career.
Yamaha and the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team will continue to put their full efforts into finishing the 2016 season with Espargaró in the best possible manner and hope to share many more memorable moments during the upcoming twelve MotoGP rounds of the 2016 World Championship.
The 2017 Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team replacement for Pol Espargaró will be announced in due course.