With the 2017 factory MotoGP line-up now complete, attention is turning to the remaining places available at the satellite teams.
Working down the world championship standings, the highest placed rider yet to officially sign is Avintia's Hector Barbera, in seventh. However Avintia sources state Barbera is '100%' certain to continue next season, when the team will jump from GP14.2 to 2016 Ducati machinery.
The top rider still very much available is therefore Eugene Laverty, ten points from Barbera and tenth in the world championship for the Aspar Ducati team.
Laverty has made a huge step
during his second MotoGP season, already scoring more than five times his 2015 points total, including a fourth place in Argentina.
That is despite missing much of winter testing - when the Aspar team made the transition from Honda to Ducati - due to injuries.
So what are Laverty's 2017 options?
Ousted Aprilia rider Alvaro Bautista is heavily rumoured to be joining Aspar and, given his performances, the Spanish squad are interested in retaining Laverty for the second seat.
Yonny Hernandez currently rides alongside Laverty, but has scored just three points compared with Laverty's 48.
So why hasn't a new Laverty-Aspar deal been done? The main issue appears to be doubts over machinery.
The current (GP14.2) Aspar bikes are two years old and designed during the era of Bridgestone rather than Michelin tyres.
Rumours in the Assen paddock suggest that, at present, Aspar can only guarantee 2016-spec Desmosedicis for one of its riders next season. Bautista would be the clear priority for the GP16 while his team-mate would receive the GP15, as used by Pramac this season.
If such a fundamental difference exists between the Aspar riders it would likely be a red line for Laverty, who made his displeasure clear when 2015 team-mate Nicky Hayden received a new Honda swingarm three rounds before him.
Alongside the Aspar discussions, Laverty is being pursued by leading World Superbike teams, aiming to tempt him back to a series where he won 13 races - for three different manufacturers - and finished title runner-up in 2013.
In contrast to MotoGP, where all the leading seats have been filled, Kawasaki is the only WSBK manufacturer to have completed its 2017 line-up - and Laverty recently revealed he came close to accepting the ZX-10 ride
Laverty was present at the recent Misano WSBK round where he was seen speaking with Ducati, Yamaha and Honda. The 30-year-old then attended World Ducati Week where he is believed to have spoken with Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall'Igna and sporting director Paolo Ciabatti.
But were they talking about MotoGP, WSBK or both?
“You know I never comment until a deal is done,” Laverty told Crash.net
. “All I can say is that my priority is to secure the most competitive bike possible for next season and I'm still open minded about where that might be.
“We've made real progress in MotoGP this season and I'm certain that with the right package we can make another step in 2017. But winning is what racing is all about in my mind, so I'm taking the WSBK interest very seriously.”
By Peter McLaren