How serious is Honda about winning the 2011 MotoGP World Championship? At Team Gresini’s MotoGP launch at Monza today, it was quietly confirmed that the San Carlo Honda Gresini squad has been given the keys to the candy store, turning the team into a factory-backed effort. While Marco Simoncelli was already assured factory support from Honda for the 2011 season, the move adds Hiroshi Aoyama to the factory rider list, and likely makes Gresini’s life infinitely less complex by not having to manage between a factory and non-factory split garage.
Team Gresini will now get full access to the Honda’s technical staff and data acquisition from the other factory riders — meaning every Honda rider except Toni Elias. This bodes well for the squad, as Simoncelli looked very promising at Sepang (likely a factor adding in this announcement), and of course Honda is keen not to see its only countrymen in the series (Aoyama) excluded from having the best equipment.
“Today is a factory team a hundred percent,” said Team Principal Fausto Gresini (translated from Italian to English via Google). “And I feel much more official than in the past for the opening of the Honda against us: we now have access to all data and Honda placed his staff between our technical team. If you see the box you understand that our team is official.”
Cramming the MotoGP grid full of factory riders seems like an interesting way to better the Honda’s chances for success, although it remains to be seen how having five hungry mouths to feed with technical support will work for the Japanese manufacturer, and who, if anyone, will get top priority with development efforts.
In addition to its five factory riders, Honda has already had to tip its hand regarding its new faster-shifting transmission, after accusations that Honda was using an illegal DCT arose from the Italian press. At the latest Sepang test, the 2011 Honda RC212V looked assuredly faster when compared to the Yamaha, Ducati, and Suzuki MotoGP efforts. It’s far too early to make analogies to the 2011 season, but Honda has certainly thrown down its challenge. It’ll be interesting to see how the other teams respond.