James Ellison gutted to lose MotoGP ride

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James Ellison admitted he was gutted not to get the chance to stay with the Paul Bird Motorsport CRT squad in MotoGP next season.

The 31-year-old equalled his career best result of ninth in two out of the last three races but it was not enough to save him from the axe from Bird, who had threatened to replace him earlier in the season.

Ellison scored 10 other top 10 finishes in his first premier class campaign since 2006 on board Aprilia’s new ART machine.

But he wasn’t offered a new deal by Bird and he told MCN: “It is really gutting and frustrating because I made a really big sacrifice for the last couple of years to have a big push to get into the world championship because I know I can do well.

“So when the CRT class came along it was a bonus being in MotoGP and when the offer from Birdy came it was ideal.

“When we discussed it, it looked like it was for the long-term because I didn’t want to just come and do it for one year with my reputation being on the line. I’d taken a lot on and I wanted to do it for a minimum of two years.

“Birdy signed a contract with Dorna for three years and he said he would like to bring a young rider in later on so I was assuming, I’d have one more year. 

“I think we’ve done well. Like everybody has in the first year we have had some ups and downs but I think we have done enough to stay. For whatever reason Paul wants another rider on it.”

Ellison’s future has been the subject of intense speculation from the early part of the season when Bird threatened to replace him for the Le Mans round in France back in May.

Bird had wanted to draft in triple BSB champion Shane Byrne but persevered with Ellison.

The uncertainty though was unsettling for Ellison, who last rode in MotoGP back in 2006 when he partnered Carlos Checa in the Tech 3 Yamaha squad.

He added: “It has been very difficult. I’ve tried to brush off what’s been said in the press and keep my head down. I’ve not said anything to defend myself to anybody and I just tried to do the best I can.

“I see it, read it and take it on the chin but it has been difficult. I’ve had a tough year with losing my dad and finding out the week after that I’d probably lost my job.”

Ellison is now likely to try and secure a ride in next year’s British Superbike series and he said: “I have talked to quite a lot of BSB teams and there are plenty interested but a lot of things have to fall into place.

“To be honest I was probably a bit naïve trying to cling onto the hope that I had something in MotoGP, so I haven’t really pushed anywhere else.”

Bird though said Ellison was being released because he had not matched pre-season expectations.

Bird said he was asked to replace Ellison after the Misano round in Italy earlier this year, with Dorna putting pressure on him to find a more competitive rider.

He kept Ellison on the ART bike for the remainder of the season but Bird told MCN: “He has underperformed, simple as that. I’ve had to fight his corner to keep him on the bike all year.

“He has done ok and we knew it was going to be a tough year for him. But I told him a few weeks ago that he wasn’t going to be part of our plan. I was fair with him and he should have started looking for another job then.”

ird plans to run a two-rider team in 2013 with one Aprilia ART bike and one machine that will use his own chassis, which has been designed and developed by GPMS in the UK.

There is still no confirmation on the rider line-up though so far. Bird was hopeful of announcing Colombian Yonny Hernandez last week but no official statement was issued, while Byrne is still to decide on whether he will switch to MotoGP or stay in BSB.

He was due to test the ART bike in Valencia last week but poor weather meant he didn’t complete a single lap.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt