Forward Racing announced Thursday at Misano one of the worst-kept secrets of the second half of this MotoGP season: The team will field two bikes in 2014 with Yamaha M1 "customer" engines and a Franken-chassis that includes a Yamaha frame and swingarm, with FTR building the rest of the chassis parts.
Now for the big part of the puzzle. Who is going to ride this machine that suddenly will elevate Forward from CRT anonymity to a potential consistent top-10 finisher?
A German media report indicated Forward may clean house next season, hiring Ducati factory refugee Nick Hayden and top Aprilia CRT rider Aleix Espargaro for its two seats.
That scenario would provide a spoonful of sweet syrup and bitters for American MotoGP fans. Popular 2006 World Champion Hayden would stay in MotoGP, a very important victory for Dorna, which will have two or three MotoGP rounds next season in the United States. But hiring Hayden and Espargaro would kick American Colin Edwards II to the curb. And with his 40th birthday coming next February, there may not be many MotoGP suitors for the Texas Tornado.
Forward team owner Giovanni Cuzari tipped his hand about his desire to hire Espargaro Thursday during the press conference announcing the deal with Yamaha. All that blocks the deal is Espargaro finding a way to extricate himself from his contract with the Aspar team, which reportedly would cost about 600,000 euros.
Hayden is a free agent, so no ransom would need to be paid for him to move to Forward. But he also is in demand, with a reported MotoGP offer also from LCR - if additional budget can be found - and a World Superbike offer from Ducati. Hayden also confirmed Thursday that he talked with Aprilia officials about a WSBK deal after the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
But Hayden reiterated Thursday that he would prefer to stay in MotoGP.