Suzuki will have an all-new MotoGP line-up next season after signing Moto2 title leader Alex Rins to join Andrea Iannone.
The young Spaniard turned down satellite teams in pursuit of a factory ride and has been linked to Suzuki since it became clear that Maverick Vinales would join Yamaha.
Rins has agreed a two-year deal.
“Alex Rins is a young rider who has already proven to have much talent, always fighting within the top positions of the World Championship since his debut in every class, making him the type of rider who we want to support for the future," said Suzuki team manager Davide Brivio.
"To pair Andrea Iannone, an experienced rider with such a young talent as Alex creates a perfect combination for our challenge. We believe that the combination of these two riders, together with the further development of the Suzuki GSX-RR, can help us to create a strong team to compete at the maximum level."
The long awaited announcement confirms that Aleix Espargaro will leave the team.
Espargaro and Vinales have formed the Suzuki line-up since its 2015 comeback season and are currently fifth (Vinales) and seventh (Espargaro) in the world championship standings.
But while Vinales - who clinched the GSX-RR's first rostrum at Le Mans – has chosen to join Yamaha in place of reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo, Espargaro has been forced out of the team.
Suzuki will thus repeat the mix of youth and experience that served them well with Vinales and Espargaro. Rins is the best replacement for Vinales from that point of view - the bad news for Espargaro is that Ducati's Iannone was selected as the 'proven' rider.
"It wasn't an easy choice and we feel sorry for Aleix who we would like to thank for his hard work and the real passion he has continued to put in our project since it started," Brivio said. "We wish him all the best for his future but in the meantime we will support as best as we can to try to get the best possible results together until the end of this season.”
Espargaro is tipped to join Aprilia
, where he would ride alongside Rins' Moto2 title rival Sam Lowes.
The 2017 Suzuki situation has been further complicated by an 'option' in place with reigning Moto2 champion Johann Zarco. It is thought the Frenchman was in-line to ride a satellite Suzuki, but such a deal is yet to materialise and Zarco is now hotly tipped to fill the vacancy at Tech 3 Yamaha.
As part of the 'option' agreement, Zarco recently made his MotoGP debut
during a private test on the GSX-RR in Japan, ahead of preparations for the Suzuka 8 Hours. However the Rins deal, combined with news that Zarco is set for Tech 3, means it is now unlikely that the Frenchman will compete in the 8 Hours.
Rins is the third rider to be officially named as moving from Moto2 to MotoGP next season: Lowes has long been confirmed at Aprilia while Jonas Folger signed for Tech 3 in May.
By Peter McLaren