Colin Edwards has become the first MotoGP rider to change seats for the 2012 season, after announcing that he will leave Monster Yamaha Tech 3 to ride one of the new CRT bikes.

"I've always been a good test rider and I'm happy that this will be my next challenge," said Edwards.

The popular and experienced Texan, renowned for his development skills, will take on a new challenge by riding for Forward Racing, which is stepping up to MotoGP from Moto2 as a Claiming Rule Team (CRT).

CRTs, essentially privateer constructors, are a new initiative coinciding with next year's change to 1000cc engines.

In order to help them compete against the established factory MotoGP bikes, CRTs - which will combine a modified superbike engine with a prototype chassis - will be allowed 12 instead of 6 engine changes per season and 24 (instead of 21) litres of fuel per race.

The type of chassis and engine to be used by Forward is still to be officially confirmed - but negotiations are ongoing that could see Edwards continue his links with both Tech 3 (chassis) and Yamaha (R1 engine).

"We will be riding a Yamaha engine. As far as a chassis, Herv? you want to answer this?" said Edwards, referring to Tech 3 team principal Herve Poncharal.

Tech 3 already builds a race-winning Moto2 chassis, although Forward have also been linked with the Suter MotoGP chassis - a BMW-powered version of which got within 3.9sec of Casey Stoner's 1000cc Honda at the recent Brno test.

Edwards moved to MotoGP as a double World Superbike champion in 2003. The popular Texan then swapped a factory Aprilia for a satellite Gresini Honda to claim his first podiums the following year, and has been a Yamaha rider since 2005.

Initially alongside Valentino Rossi at the factory team, where he finished a best of fourth in the standings, Edwards switched to the satellite Tech 3 team for 2008, in order to make way for Jorge Lorenzo.

What was labelled as one final season before retirement has turned into four years for the French-based team, with Edwards beating all of his team-mates bar Ben Spies and finishing as the highest satellite rider in the 2009 championships (fifth).

The 37-year-old, who lost out on victory at the final corner of the 2006 Dutch TT, took the most recent of his twelve podiums at the wet Silverstone round this year, just one week after breaking his collarbone.

Edwards is presently eighth in the world championship, and the leading non-factory bike rider.

With Loris Capirossi's announcing that he will retire at the end of 2011, Edwards looks set to be MotoGP's oldest rider next year.

Rookie team-mate Cal Crutchlow has a two-year contract with Monster Yamaha Tech 3. Names linked to the now vacant Edwards seat include Andrea Dovizioso, Eugene Laverty, Bradley Smith and Stefan Bradl.

Forward Racing (Suter) is presently 18th in the Moto2 championship with erratic Frenchman Jules Cluzel.

Tech 3 is sixth in the standings with rookie Bradley Smith, who has claimed three podiums on the team's Mistral 610 chassis.

Edwards joins Valentino Rossi (Ducati), Nicky Hayden (Ducati), Casey Stoner (Honda), Dani Pedrosa (Honda), Ben Spies (Yamaha), Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and Cal Crutchlow (Tech 3) in being assured of a place on the 2012 MotoGP grid.

Forward are the first CRT team to announce a 2012 rider. The other Moto2 teams with a potential place on the 2012 MotoGP grid are By Queroseno Racing (BQR), Kiefer Racing, Marc VDS Racing, Paddock GP Racing (Interwetten) and Speed Master.

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