As rumoured last month
, Karel Abraham will return to MotoGP in 2017.
The 26-year-old Czech is replacing Yonny Hernandez at the Aspar team, steering a Ducati GP15 alongside fellow new signing Álvaro Bautista, who will get a GP16.
Hernandez initially looked certain to stay, following team-mate Eugene Laverty's decision to return to World Superbike.
But at Aragon rumours emerged suggesting Aspar was concerned by Hernandez being 22nd and last of the full-time riders, scoring 17 points compared with Laverty's 71 on the same GP14.2 machinery. Sponsorship is also likely to have been a factor.
Abraham's signing was made official ahead of this weekend's Phillip Island round.
“I am really pleased to come back to MotoGP," said Abraham, who has spent 2016 in World Superbike on a Milwaukee BMW. "I started to work on this goal as soon as I knew there was a possibility. I am really happy: coming back to Ducati, which is my favourite bike, and also thinking about my first season with them, which was my best season.
"It's an honour to be a part of this team, which is so famous in the paddock, so professional and so good, and together with Ducati I believe we can make a very good connection, I'm really looking forward to that.”
Laverty opted for a return to WorldSBK when Aspar were unable to secure a second 2016-spec Ducati. The Irishman will effectively swap seats with Abraham, having signed up for a new Aprilia-backed project at the Milwaukee team.
Abraham spent eleven seasons in grand prix, riding in the 125cc, 250cc, Moto2 and MotoGP classes for his father's AB Motoracing team (Abraham Sr also owns the Brno circuit).
His most successful season was in Moto2 in 2010, when he took two podiums, including a race win at Valencia. He raced Desmosedici machinery in 2011 and 2012, finishing 14th in the world championship on both occasions, his highest premier-class ranking to date.
Abraham also scored his best MotoGP result on a Ducati; seventh places at Jerez and Silverstone in 2011, then Valencia in 2012.
Team principal Jorge Martínez 'Aspar' said: “We are happy to be joined by Karel Abraham for next season. He is a new rider for us, he is still young but he has a lot of experience: he has raced in every category of the World Championship and in MotoGP already on a Ducati. I hope and want to be able to give him a competitive crew and bike so that he can show his worth.”
Abraham is currently 18th in the WorldSBK standings with one round to go, claiming a best finish of ninth. Team-mate Josh Brookes, also leaving Milwaukee, is 14th. Hernandez meanwhile is the only South American rider in MotoGP, where he has raced since 2012. The Colombian's future plans are unclear.
By Peter McLaren