Moto GP silly season off to a running start

SWITCH: Three-time Moto GP champion Jorge Lorenzo will leave the Yamaha team to go to Ducati after nine years with the Japanese company. Picture: Getty Images
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The Moto GP season still has 11 races to go.

However, the silly season has been in full swing with a number of riders announcing they will be changing teams for 2017.

The most significant so far is triplechampion Jorge Lorenzo’s decisionto leave theofficial works Yamaha team for Ducati after nine years with the Japanese company.

During that time,the Spaniard achieved 40wins and an amazing 97 podium finisheson his way to championship titles in 2010, 2012 and 2015.

It is a big gamble bythe 29-year-old,who is currently second in the championship – 10points behind Honda’s Marc Marquez.

Lorenzo will joinDucati rider Andrea Dovizioso, 30, and replace crash-prone Italian AndreaIannone who has been told his serviceswill not be required next season.

Iannone, 26, has been thrown a lifeline by Suzuki as a replacement for Spain’sMaverick Vinales.

Vinales will team up withthe re-contracted Valentino Rossi at Yamaha instead, while it is uncertain if Aleix Espargaro will retain his seat at Suzuki.

The rumour millsuggests that either Alex Rins or Johan Zarco, who are the frontrunners in Moto 2, will pinchEspargaro’sspot.

Zarco is the defending Moto 2 world champion and has been very impressive to sit third in thisyear’s title chase behind the first-placed Rins.

Zarco hasexperience inhis favour, whichcould be enough to secure him the job.

Tech 3 Yamaha riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith will leave the team at season’s end bound for new outfit KTM.

The newcomers are making their first foray into Moto GP, despite beinginvolved in other levels of the sport.

As to who will replace Espargaro and Smithis very much up in the air.

The official Honda works team have locked in their arrangements for 2017 and beyond with2013 and 2014 champion Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa staying put.

There is aquestion mark as to whetherveteran Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl will keep their positions at Aprilia.

Australia’s Jack Miller has a further two years to go on his contract at Marc VDS Honda, butwill need to start getting some better results if he wants to further his career prospects.

Britain’s Cal Crutchlow also needs to stop crashing his LCR Honda to continue riding at the top level.

There is no question he is fast, as his times in testing at Catalunya this week suggest,but speed meansnothing if you don’t finish.

The silly season has just begun.

No doubt there will be more changes to come as the season progresses.

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