By Lisa Crouch
Alvaro Bautista's switch from Suzuki to Gresini Honda, in time for the last day of testing at Valencia, marked the final major move in MotoGP's annual game of musical chairs.
The Spaniard had spent his first two seasons in MotoGP on the GSV-R, and seemed keen to continue, but couldn't afford to let the coveted Honda RC213V ride slip away.
Suzuki subsequently confirmed its withdraw from MotoGP, after a season that began with a broken femur for lone rider Bautista during the opening event in Qatar.
"It's been a tough year," said Bautista, in an interview with Europa Press. "I did not start as expected with the fall in Qatar. Then I needed to get my confidence back. Mid season everything fell into place, I went on with enthusiasm and confidence, taking small steps forward to make the bike more competitive."
A career-best equalling fifth in the wet at Silverstone was followed by two sixth places in the dry at Indianapolis and Aragon - and was promoted to a front row start at Phillip Island - but accidents meant Bautista finished just three of the last eight races.
"In practice I was usually around sixth and seventh and I made a couple of second row starts. We lacked luck in the race, we have missed opportunities to end the year with good results. But we must be satisfied," reflected Bautista.
Ultimately, the catalyst for Bautista's departure was when team manager Paul Denning broke the news that if there was a bike available for 2012 it would be one of this year's 800cc machines, rather than a new 1000cc entry.
The number 19 told MotoGP.com: “I left Suzuki only because of the technical side, because the people there are fantastic and I'm very happy with the work I did last year and I want to say sorry to the team, but the technical plan for next year was not the best for me and I thought the best way to have a competitive bike was to change teams and I did that."
While Suzuki repeatedly deferred their decision and deadlines passed, Bautista had been linked with a seat at Tech 3 Yamaha, which eventually went to Andrea Dovizioso.