Andrea Dovizioso and Eugene Laverty are the leading candidates to join Cal Crutchlow in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad next season.
Dovizioso’s manager Simone Batistella has been locked in talks with Tech 3 team boss Herve Poncharal for weeks, with the French squad searching for a replacement for American veteran Colin Edwards.
And Irish rider Laverty remains a serious contender having produced a series of eye-catching performances in his debut season with Yamaha’s factory World Superbike squad.
Texan Edwards will leave Tech 3 at the end of the season having signed a deal to ride for the Forward Racing squad on a new privateer 1000cc project.
British rider Bradley Smith passed up the opportunity to move from the Tech 3 Moto2 squad to partner Crutchlow, the 20-year-old preferring to remain in the 600cc four-stroke class to launch a title assault in 2012. The Oxfordshire rider though has yet to announce which team he will ride for in 2012, with Tech 3 desperate to retain him.
Factory Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista is also in contention for the vacant Tech 3 slot though he has also been strongly linked with the second Aspar Ducati rider alongside Hector Barbera.
Poncharal told MCN: "I would say now there are three names. There’s Andrea Dovizioso, Eugene Laverty and Alvaro Bautista. I think who will be the rider should be clear by Japan. I believe Alvaro is giving the priority to Suzuki first and if nothing works out there it could be Aspar or us. I would say the two strongest candidates at the moment are Eugene Laverty and Andrea Dovizioso. It is not an easy decision.
"Eugene is young and really fast and he made a good step from Supersport to World Superbikes this year. With Yamaha stopping in World Superbikes he’s facing a tough situation right now, but I have a lot of faith and trust in his potential. On the other hand Dovizioso is third in the championship and a proven performer in MotoGP. We know immediately he would understand the bike and he could deliver good results straightaway and that is something we have to consider."