Duncan Bishop

Aspar unafraid to ring the changes

Duncan Bishop

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There are five races remaining in the 2012 season and if someone hasn't emerged as a title contender by now, then they have left it a little late. However, there is still plenty to fight for, sponsors to please and rides for 2013 to be earned — and in some cases this final run-in is an audition for a spot in the World Championship.

One team with high standards and unafraid to ring the changes are the Aspar Team. Led by former 80cc and 125cc World Champion Jorge Martinez 'Aspar', the outfit encompasses teams in all three categories and is the largest in the paddock. Aspar is an excellent judge of talent and also a savvy businessman. Hence a series of changes during 2012.

This season is not the first in which the Spanish team have divorced themselves from riders, of course. Pere Tutusaus was ushered out through the back door three-quarters of the way through 2008, for example, and there is also the precedent of the Gabor Talmacsi-instigated split from the Balatonring offshoot in 2009. Nothing has come close to the activity of 2012, however, when big choices have had to be made in tough times.

First out of the door was the biggest name of the Aspar lineup. He might have fallen straight into a MotoGP stand-in ride, but Toni Elías is now at a dead end in his career after having shown that he is not an inevitable world beater in Moto2 anymore. His results and failure to adapt to the machine provided — to the extent that he requested his team push for a change of chassis provider - led to a mutual agreement to tear up his contract and Aspar being left without his star rider in the lower cylinder categories.

"The circumstances for all three of the changes have been fairly similar," says Gino Borsoi — manager for the team and himself a former GP racer. "The decision to part ways with Elías was a mutual one, because he didn't like the bike and if a rider doesn't feel comfortable and doesn't get the results, then it is no use to either party."

Last week's decision to dispose of Hector Faubel came as something of a surprise, even bearing in mind the two previous rider switches this season and his only three top-10 finishes. The Spaniard does, after all, have a long association with the team for whom he was a World Championship runner-up in 2007.

In the end, the decision does make sense: Faubel is a master of 125cc machinery — of that there is no doubt - but in two moves up to 250cc and Moto2 gave warning signs that the change to a four-stroke Moto3 wasn't going to be successful. Now 29, he would also be ineligible to compete in the class next season.

"We've changed chassis twice this year," Borsoi adds, "and the Kalex riders have shown that they can be fast and get good results. The arrival of Jonas Folger showed this: with a fast rider, the bike is ready to win and the team as well."

Ah, Jonas Folger. In for Indianapolis, straight onto the podium and then collecting the winner's trophy at Brno. His has been the most successful arrival to the team, at the expense of Alberto Moncayo.

"With Moncayo, he just wasn't up to the standard that we were hoping from him," explains Borsoi. "The team had to make a change, because the sponsors were putting a lot of pressure on us for results. He just seemed the right rider to change then, unfortunately. It wasn't a joint decision that time."

Longtime sponsors Bankia (formerly Bancaja) ended their association with the team after the Spanish government bailed them out, so Mapfre have picked up the ball in Moto3. They will need a better return on their investment in 2013, and the most positive signs for them have been the arrival of Folger and the improvement of Moto2 rider Nico Terol.

The only recognisable Aspar team, then, is in MotoGP. The two top-ranked CRT riders in the overall standings are their duo of Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaró, plus the ART bike is clearly a step ahead of the rest. They might not be battling for wins, but at least they are getting regular TV time.

"We took a chance on the CRT concept and it is obvious that Randy and Aleix have done the best in that, in terms of results," says Borsoi. "We are still quite a way back on the factory teams, but we are getting closer."

The lack of available seats in factory or satellite teams has increased the chances of holding onto De Puniet for 2013 (in the past his head would likely have been turned by a satellite offer). We'll know the full lineup for next season sooner, rather than later.

"Between Aragón and Japan — or Japan at the latest - we will have the names of the riders," Borsoi told me on Monday, with Aspar himself revealing a few additional details — and understandable details, taking into account the sponsors.

"We want a winning Spanish rider in Moto3 and another challenger, even if he comes from abroad," he said. "In Moto2 we'll stick with Nico and look for a team-mate for him. In MotoGP, we'd like to continue with our current duo.

"I want to make clear that the Aspar Team wish the best for those riders who've left, but we are a winning team and are trying to win each race and championship. Whether we achieve that or not, we have to aim for it and can't be finishing low down in consecutive races."

He might have plenty of clout and the support to bring in the best, but never let it be said that Aspar is afraid to make big decisions.

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