Aleix Espargaro has become the latest MotoGP rider to extend their contract until the end of the 2022 season, signing up to remain a factory Aprilia rider for another two years.
The deal was announced on Tuesday and comes as no surprise given both paddock rumours and the positive noises that he’s made about the new-for-2020 machine that Aprilia brought to pre-season testing for him.
“The human aspect is extremely important for me, and in four seasons, Aprilia has become my second family,” said Espargaro.
“So with this contract, which is certainly the most important of my career, they demonstrated that I am at the centre of this project.
“On a technical level, the growth in recent months convinced me, with the arrival of many reinforcements and the debut of the 2020 RS-GP, which did so well in the tests.
“I feel like we need to finish the job we started over the winter.
“I can’t wait to get back together with my entire team and race with the new bike, to take this project where it deserves to be.”
With Aprilia in a much more uncertain situation regarding its second rider, team boss Massimo Rivola said keeping hold of Espargaro ensured much-needed consistency.
“We wanted Aleix’s confirmation by all means and we are very happy that it arrived,” he said.
“At a rather tumultuous time for the rider market, providing continuity for our project with a rider the calibre of Aleix is essential.
“With him, who we have established as our captain, we have begun an entirely new project, involving new resources and taking a bike that seems to have come out very well onto the track.
“Now we hope that he will soon take an Aprilia to the top, where it has never been in MotoGP history.”
While Espargaro’s future is confirmed, the second Aprilia seat still remains wide open.
Current team-mate Andrea Iannone remains banned until June 2021, with his appeal for a doping offence still pending with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
With it appearing unlikely that the body will look favourably on his case, there is major doubt over whether Iannone will remain with Aprilia if he cannot ride in the opening part of next season.
Bradley Smith remains set to step into his shoes for the 2020 season when it gets underway following the coronavirus pandemic, with Iannone’s case expected to be heard before the scheduled opening race on 19 July.
A number of riders have been linked to taking over from Iannone next year, with Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci the most commonly-mentioned name so far.