Aleix Espargaro will step down from MotoGP to Moto2 next season after signing to ride for the Pons Kalex team.
After failing to land a full time grand prix ride in any class last year, Espargaro made his MotoGP debut in late 2009 as a stand-in rider at Pramac Ducati.
The young Spaniard impressed by outpacing regular rider Niccolo Canepa and was signed to join Mika Kallio for the full 2010 season.
Espargaro has outperformed his troubled team-mate in 2010, scoring 60 points compared with 43 for Kallio, who has stepped down from the final two rounds of this year and is also likely to move to Moto2 next season.
However, Espargaro has himself been outscored by fellow satellite Desmosedici rider (and rookie) Hector Barbera this year and, with a best finish of eighth, the 21-year-old has been unable to keep his seat.
“If I had to go to Moto2 I'd have to have the best guarantees and I know that Sito Pons can give me them," said Espargaro. "I'm delighted and very excited at the new challenge and at the prospect of being able to work with Sito, Santi Mulero and the whole team.
“I know what they are capable of and I know what I'm capable of too, and together we have the potential to fight at the highest level from the very beginning. I take this on with great respect too because I know I'll be riding amongst great riders and teams, which gives me even more of an incentive to face this new challenge.”
Team principal Sito Pons, a former world champion and MotoGP team owner, believes Espargaro can be a title contender in 2011.
“We have been looking for a rider who can give us the best chances of success in 2011. We've always admired Aleix. The moment he decided not to continue in the MotoGP category we were clear that he was the rider we wanted to lead our project," said Pons.
“Aleix is a rider who has done very well in MotoGP and who also knows the Moto2 category. Combined with his enormous talent and youth it all fits in perfectly with the philosophy of our team. Aleix will have the full support of our manufacturer, Kalex, and along with the experience of our technical team directed by Santi Mulero I am convinced he can be a main contender in Moto2 next season.”
The Pons Kalex has taken a best finish of second, in the Italian Grand Prix, at the hands of Sergio Gadea.
Sito's son Axel will stay on as team-mate to Espargaro.
Aleix's younger brother Pol, fighting for the 125cc title this year, may also move to Moto2 in 2011.
Nine time 500cc/MotoGP race winner Loris Capirossi has been confirmed at Pramac Ducati for 2011, with Randy de Puniet expected to move from LCR Honda to take the second seat.
New Moto2 world champion Toni Elias looks set to replace de Puniet.