Last year, we complained about the silly season starting early, yet in 2009 it seems to have started even earlier yet. With a host of young riders on the verge of entering MotoGP, there is already a veritable tsunami of speculation concerning who will be filling which seats next year. Marco Simoncelli and Alvaro Bautista look almost certain to move up to the premier class from 250s, and over in World Superbikes, Ben Spies is widely tipped to move across to MotoGP, while there are even whisperings of a couple of the standout young British riders - such as Leon Haslam and Johnny Rea - taking a chance.
With all these young guns getting ready to kick the door down, and any increase in the numbers of bikes on the grid extremely unlikely - whether or not the Grand Prix Commission decides to go to a single bike for 2010 - that means that some of the riders already in the series are going to have to make way. Some are safe by virtue of their nationality - James Toseland's seat in MotoGP is safe (though not necessarily his seat at Tech 3) for as long as the BBC has a deal to televise MotoGP, or until another British rider can be found to take his place, and Yuki Takahashi is safe as long as Hiroshi Aoyama decides to stay in the 250cc / Moto2 class next year - but others are less fortunate.
One possible candidate for the transfer list is Colin Edwards. Despite the fact that the Texan is having a pretty good year and is a fair bet for at least one podium this season, the Yamaha veteran is simply becoming too expensive to maintain. The economic downturn has hit motorcycle sales in the US very hard, and as Yamaha is paying for most of Colin Edwards' considerable salary, it looks unlikely that they will be able or willing to do a similar deal for 2010.
This leaves Colin Edwards looking elsewhere, most notably towards World Superbikes, a series where he took two World Championships. According to the British weekly Motorcycle News, Edwards is already talking to Aprilia about a return to World Superbikes to ride their impressive RSV4 machine. Edwards has a good relationship with Aprilia, having ridden their terrifying RS3 Cube machine in the early days of MotoGP, and with the demise of the 250 class, the Italian factory is investing an increasing amount of resources in the World Superbike championship.
Edwards' father confirmed that the Texan has been talking to Aprilia about World Superbikes next year in a post on Colin Edwards' fan forum. Even more interestingly, he also mentioned that Edwards had also been talking to Ducati. Colin senior did state that nothing firm had come from any of these talks so far, but a factory ride is the only place where Edwards would be able to retain anything like his current salary level, and after 6 years in MotoGP, a factory ride in the premier class is highly improbable. This leaves World Superbikes as Edwards most likely option.
A move to either the Ducati or Aprilia factory teams in World Superbikes faces a good many obstacles, not the least of which is the fact that the teams' current rosters are already well entrenched. If - and it's still a big if, this early in the season - Noriyuki Haga wins the 2009 World Superbike crown, he is unlikely to want to go elsewhere, and even less likely to be sacked. Michel Fabrizio's strong form, allied to Ducati's preference for at least one Italian rider in the factory squad, makes Fabrizio a strong candidate to keep his ride too. Over in the Aprilia garage, Max Biaggi looks like being a firm fixture with the team for next year, and has scored some outstanding results on what is a brand new bike, untested before this season.
Yet Aprilia looks like being the most likely destination for Edwards, if he does decide to move to World Superbikes. Biaggi's team mate Shinya Nakano has had a solid, if not spectacular season, scoring top ten finishes where Biaggi has been top five. Aprilia may well feel that a rider with the amount of development experience that Colin Edwards has would be a better bet for helping to develop the still new RSV4.
Of course, this is still just early speculation, based on early reports of talks. Deals are a very, very long way from being signed yet, and a couple of podiums - or better yet, a win or two - could completely turn Colin Edwards' position in MotoGP around. There's still a long way to go before contract season begins in earnest.