Randy de Puniet has expressed his satisfaction with securing a spot on the 2012 MotoGP World Championship grid having been signed to front Aspar's ambitious new CRT project.
The Frenchman has become a MotoGP stalwart since making his premier class debut in 2006, though a disappointing season on the Pramac Ducati in 2011 had left his immediate future in doubt.
Indeed, de Puniet had initially indicated his reluctance to tie himself to a CRT project, but with his last remaining options of LCR Honda and Rizla Suzuki being scuppered, he has since agreed to ride a production-prototype hybrid for the 2012 season, albeit with experienced existing team Aspar.
Sealing the deal after testing at Valencia, de Puniet says he is encouraged by the Aprilia-engined machine, even if he concedes there is still some way to go before it can challenge the prototypes.
“I'm very happy, this will be a new adventure, a new project, and I will do my best to be as competitive as possible and to be as close as possible to the prototypes and beat them if I have the opportunity,” said de Puniet. "I worked with Aspar in 2005, my last GP win was with them and it's a very competent team. I know they will do everything possible to have the best material and I'm very optimistic about this new project”
“We had great testing conditions for the two days, we made some progress and I had fun with this bike. It was a good first impression and so the two days were encouraging. I'm happy with my times and my pace, we are still far from the prototypes, but I think we can be pleased because it was the first time riding the bike, and it's far from the bike that it will be in January."
Looking ahead to the future, de Puniet says Aspar is still undecided as to which direction to adopt for the chassis, with rumours suggesting it could be a heavily updated version of the Aprilia RSV-4 Superbike.
“Regarding future work to be carried out based on his first contact with the bike, de Puniet said: "The objective of this test was to try to decide on a direction to build a chassis and I think the team now has a good idea of how to move forward. We will do more testing at Jerez in late January, before going to Sepang with a bike that won't yet be final, as we'll continue to develop it, but it will be the basis of what we'll have next season."
de Puniet, who will be joined by Aleix Espargaro in the two-man Aspar team, joins Colin Edwards in providing an experienced benchmark for the burgeoning Claiming Rule Teams.