The final piece in the 2017 MotoGP rider puzzle has been slotted into place. Today, the Pull & Bear Aspar team announced that they have signed Karel Abraham to ride for them for 2017.Abraham will replace Yonny Hernandez, and will race a Ducati Desmosedici GP15.
Hernandez had initially been expected to keep his ride for 2017, but rumors that Aspar was unhappy with the performance of Hernandez had been swirling since mid-season, becoming more concrete at Aragon. Hernandez is currently 22nd in the MotoGP standings, and last of the regular MotoGP riders. He has scored just 17 points in 15 races, while teammate Eugene Laverty has racked up 71 points and is 12th in the championship, and second satellite Ducati.
There can be no doubt that Abraham's signing is connected to the financial health of the team. Aspar has struggled financially since the deal with Malaysian energy drink Drive M7 fell through at the beginning of the 2015 season, in response to a trademark dispute. Aspar has spent frugally in MotoGP, and signing Yonny Hernandez was a way of ensuring cash flow into the team. Hernandez bought money from personal sponsors, as well as getting support from Dorna as the the only South American rider on the grid. Abraham's money will replace the money the team loses from Hernandez.
The plight of Aspar underlines the difficulties satellite teams face as the grid has become more competitive. Sponsors demand some level of success for their investment, but success has become increasingly hard to come by. A few years ago, there were the factory Hondas and Yamahas, and perhaps Casey Stoner on the Ducati to beat, meaning that if they got lucky, a satellite team had a shot at a podium, and should be capable of competing for top tens, and even top sixes.
Now, with the Yamahas, Hondas, Suzukis and Ducatis competitive, the Aprilias improving, and the prospect of KTM entering the class, just finishing inside the top ten is hard enough. And to do that, they face competition from long established teams with strong factory backing, such as Tech 3 Yamaha, Pramac Ducati, and LCR Honda. Top tens are difficult, but even just scoring points can be tough, as Yonny Hernandez has demonstrated.
The new financial settlement from 2017 was supposed to help alleviate situations such as these. While receiving approximately €2 milion per rider a season from IRTA goes a long way towards running a MotoGP team, it still leaves the team with another €4 million to find. For cash-strapped teams such as Aspar, that remains a lot of money.
2017 MotoGP rider line up and contract duration:
|Monster Tech 3 Yamaha|
|Marc VDS Honda|
Aspar Press release:
Karel Abraham returns to MotoGP with the Aspar Team
Czech rider to team up with Álvaro Bautista in 2017 on board a Ducati GP15
Karel Abraham will be an Aspar Team rider in the MotoGP World Championship next season. The Czech rider will pilot a Ducati GP15 on his return to MotoGP, where he already boasts five years of experience, lining up alongside new team-mate Álvaro Bautista.
Abraham began his World Championship career in the 125cc class, making his debut in the Spanish Grand Prix back in 2005. In 2007 he moved up to the 250cc class and then enjoyed his greatest success in Moto2, scoring a memorable victory in the final round of the 2010 season at Valencia.
That win proved to be his last appearance in the intermediate class as he moved up to MotoGP for 2011, riding a Ducati to fourteenth place in the championship for two successive seasons. Abraham scored his best MotoGP result on the Ducati, which he guided to seventh place at Jerez and Silverstone in 2011 and at Valencia in 2012.
After three further seasons in MotoGP, at the end of 2015 Abraham announced he was switching to the World Superbike series, where he has spent this season. The final round of the WSBK season on 30th October in Qatar will mark the end of his adventure in the production series as he prepares to make his return to MotoGP in 2017.
Jorge Martínez “Aspar”: “We are happy to be joined by Karel Abraham for next season. He is a new rider for us, he is still young but he has a lot of experience: he has raced in every category of the World Championship and in MotoGP already on a Ducati. I hope and want to be able to give him a competitive crew and bike so that he can show his worth.”
Karel Abraham: “I am really pleased to come back to MotoGP. I started to work on this goal as soon as I knew there was a possibility. I am really happy: coming back to Ducati, which is my favourite bike, and also thinking about my first season with them, which was my best season. It’s an honour to be a part of this team, which is so famous in the paddock, so professional and so good, and together with Ducati I believe we can make a very good connection, I’m really looking forward to that.”