The final 'official' vacancy on the 2018 MotoGP grid has been filled, with Xavier Simeon announced as stepping up from Moto2 to join the Reale Avintia Ducati team.

The long-rumoured deal - which is for two years - confirms that the Belgian will ride alongside another new Avintia signing, Tito Rabat, with Hector Barbera and Loris Baz forced to leave both the team and MotoGP.

Simeon, 28, has been off the podium since his victory in the 2015 German Moto2 race and is currently 21st in this year's Moto2 standings on a Tasca Racing Kalex.

“This is a fantastic opportunity and I have been working hard for it for a lot of years," said Simeon. "I’m really happy to realise this dream that has followed me since my childhood. Day after day, I have done everything I can to get up there. My efforts, combined with those of Freddy Tacheny and Zelos’ crew ended up paying and I have to thank each of them.

"I conquered my world title in Superstock with a Ducati and I am delighted to find again the Bologna brand with the team Reale Avintia Racing. I’m really looking forward to discover the Ducati. Once again I would like to thank all of my partners and fans for believing in me and the support they are bringing in this new challenge!”

Team boss Raúl Romero: "I’m really happy to announce that Xavi Siméon will be riding for our team next season. He is a hard worker and he has won in Moto2, a very competitive and hard-fought category. After several seasons in the middle class, he will step up to MotoGP with high motivation, looking forward to learn everything.

"I think he will form a great team with Tito Rabat, who is going into his third season in MotoGP and will be the reference inside the team. But the 2017 season is still running and in the last five races I’m confident that we can celebrate a great result with our current riders Hector Barbera and Loris Baz. Both have contributed to making our team bigger and better. I wish both of them the very best in the future.”

Simeon joins Franco Morbidelli, Thomas Luthi and Takaaki Nakagami in moving up from Moto2 to MotoGP this season, with Sam Lowes and Barbera switching back to the intermediate class.

Baz starts this weekend's Aragon round 15th in the world championship on Avintia's GP15 machine, with Barbera 21st on a GP16.

The Spaniard is returning to the Pons team for Moto2, while Baz is thought to be seeking a return to WorldSBK.

While all 24 of next year's MotoGP grid places are now occupied, there may yet be a change at KTM, with management hinting they could decide to switch the roles of race and test rider between Bradley Smith and Mika Kallio.

Much will depend on this weekend, when Kallio - who claimed the RC16's best dry finish of tenth in Austria, 19.766s from victory - has his latest wild-card entry.



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