Jorge Martinez 'Aspar' is targeting Carlos Checa or fellow Spaniard Toni Elias for his team's 2009 MotoGP debut, Crash.net
Aspar, who already has race-winning teams in the 125 and 250cc classes, looks certain to run a third Kawasaki ZX-RR in MotoGP next season.
An Aspar team source confirmed to Lynne Huntting at Indianapolis that they will step up to the premier-class in 2009 - and added that the two riders in contention for the new MotoGP ride are Toni Elias and Carlos Checa.
Elias has long been linked to the project, but his recent form - two podiums in the last two races - has prompted renewed interest from his current Alice Ducati squad and a determined effort by his previous team, Honda Gresini.
Gresini is now seen as favourite to secure Toni's services, leaving Aspar in search of a high profile Spanish rider to please the sponsors that are expected to fund his MotoGP move.
The only other Spaniards currently in the premier-class are Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, both of whom have already signed for 2009. Aspar's 250cc star Alvaro Bautista is planning another quarter-litre title attack next season, while Sete Gibernau looks set to pilot a fifth Ducati. All of which had left Aspar's rider options looking precariously dependent on Elias.
But whilst Elias remains a target, Checa also has the passport, star quality and grand prix experience Aspar is seeking, having raced in 500cc/MotoGP from 1996 to 2007, when he claimed two race wins and a peak championship ranking of fourth.
Checa switched to World Superbikes with Ten Kate Honda for 2008, where he has shown flashes of brilliance, most notably a debut double victory at Miller Motorsports Park. However, Checa hasn't finished on the podium in the ten races since and has been increasingly overshadowed by team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari, winner of three of the last four races.
Nevertheless, the 35-year-old still holds fourth in the championship and was expected to stay at Ten Kate for 2009, when a full-on WSBK title assault would be expected. But the Dutch squad currently has more potential riders than seats for its three-strong SBK outfit and Checa might well be tempted by the bright lights and big money offered by MotoGP.
Kiyonari is certain to stay with Ten Kate next year, whilst Ten Kate's World Supersport riders Andrew Pitt and Johnny Rea both want to switch to the 1000cc class. Kenan Sofuoglu could step back down to WSS but there are also the likes of HM Plant Honda BSB riders Leon Haslam and Cal Crutchlow to consider, both having made their world championship ambitions clear.