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.
The Honda boys were out in full-force today, as MotoGP testing continued at Sepang. With only Toni Elias outside of the Top 7, Honda’s race package for the 2011 season is looking very stout, despite the fact that chassis selections still haven’t been finalized. While landing at the top of the results list is about as useful as yelling “first” in the comments section, Casey Stoner just barely snatched the honor away from Dani Pedrosa in his final lap around the Malaysian circuit, leaving only .058 seconds between the teammates.
Like yesterday, the Yamaha Racing factory squad looked in good form as well, with Spies showing marked improvements despite crashing in one of the sessions. Jorge Lorenzo spent some time on two different bikes, confirming the direction his crew was going with developing the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1 for the new season.
Things weren’t progressing as well in the Ducati camp though, as all the teams struggled with front-end issues. Notably absent from the day was Valentino Rossi, who has come down with cold/flu like symptoms. He retired to the hotel, in the hopes of being well enough to ride in tomorrow’s last day of testing. Carrying the Corse flag alone, Nicky Hayden had a tough day that ended with gearbox problems. Still, the ever-positive American was hopeful for better fortunes on Thursday as the team seems to have worked out some chatter issues.
Rumors are intensifying about Marco Melandri’s possible switch to World Superbike next season, as BMW Team Manager Davide Tardozzi told Italian news site GPone, “we don’t have the signature, and that is the most important part, but I received a very positive impression from Melandri.”
As is the case with many riders leaving MotoGP for WSBK, money seems to be less of an issue, than returning to a racing format where non-alien riders can be competitive again. Continuing in his statement, Tardozzi said, “We never talked about money, only about how competitive we would be. Marco wants to win and show that he is still a top rider, and I think this is the right philosophy for Superbike.”