The news that Toni Elias had turned down offers from both Jorge Martinez Aspar to ride a Kawasaki and initial advances from Ducati to stay with the Alice satellite team left a hole in the MotoGP silly season. The seats at Alice look increasingly certain to go to Mika Kallio, currently chasing KTM's first 250 title, and Niccolo Canepa, the young Italian test rider for the Ducati factory. But Elias' refusal left Aspar with a big problem.
The Valencian team manager - who played a pivotal role in bringing F1 to the streets of his home town - really needs a prominent Spanish rider for the extra factory Kawasaki bike he is to field. He had hoped to announce both rider and official confirmation from Kawasaki at Motegi next weekend, but with Elias out of the equation, Aspar has been forced to seek other alternatives.
After the compulsory mention of Max Biaggi, now signed to Aprilia in World Superbikes, the Spanish press' current favorite to ride for the team is hoary veteran Carlos Checa. After a mediocre year aboard the LCR Honda, Checa made the switch to World Superbikes, joining the Ten Kate Honda team. Checa's move has been relatively successful, getting a double win in Utah, and running close to the top of the title chase, though still a country mile behind Troy Bayliss, the man who continues to dominate World Superbikes in his final year.
But according to Motociclismo.es, Checa's first priorities lie in World Superbikes, and staying with the Ten Kate team. Checa left MotoGP disillusioned, and has been revitalized by running in World Superbikes, a series in which he feels he can be competitive. For Jorge Martinez Aspar, this would be a serious blow, as Checa is still a big name in Spain, and has a vast amount of MotoGP experience
So Aspar may be forced to turn elsewhere. And two other options keep popping up in this respect. One is the man who replaced Jorge Lorenzo in 250s, Alex Debon. Like Checa, Debon has plenty of experience, but unlike Checa, Debon's ability is open to question, having never quite made it in the smaller classes. The other option is the current leader in the highly competitive Spanish Supersport series, Angel Rodriguez. Rodriguez previously rode for Aspar in the world championships, but has since returned to compete in Spain, where he has regained much of his hunger for competition. Whether he can make the leap from racing a restricted Supersport-spec machine at national level to the pinnacle of motorcycle racing is a big question, though.
Aspar's biggest problem is that he needs a Spanish rider to please the Spanish sponsors he has lined up, and all the very best Spanish riders are already taken. He will need to work fast to secure a deal before the end of the year.