It’s a bit of irony that Casey Stoner was the first MotoGP alien to to make his move in the 2010 silly season, yet is the last MotoGP alien whose fate we know completely. Signing with Honda it was assumed that Stoner would be a part of a three-man team within Repsol Honda, with HRC saying as much during its press announcement with the Australian rider. When the budget necessary to field a three-man team failed to materialize from Repsol, HRC began looking for other options, with the most prominent being a single-man team (likely with Casey Stoner), possibly sponsored by Red Bull. Unable to get the energy drink company to foot the bill, HRC then turned to satellite squad Gresini, where Marco Simoncelli, another HRC contracted rider, currently resides.
Andrea Dovizioso seemingly drew the short-straw in that arrangement, with HRC pressuring the Italian to move into Gresini with the promise of factory support being made for both riders. Dovizioso is reported as having a performance clause in his contract that guarantees him a seat in a factory team should he meet certain criteria. With Dovi honoring his end of the agreement, he looked to HRC to honor its side of the contract, and a Honda Gresini ride is not what the Italian had in mind. Making matters worse is HRC’s history of not honoring support agreements to riders once they leave the folds of the factory team. As such Dovizioso held his ground, and rightfully so.
With the 2011 season likely to see four factory-backed Honda riders, something had to give, and that something seems to be Repsol Honda. According to MotoWorld, Repsol Honda agreed at the Australian GP to up its MotoGP funding from €10 million to €15 million, and support a three-man Repsol Honda factory team. With Stoner, Pedrosa, and Dovizioso tucked away under one tent for the 2011 season, and Marco Simoncelli staying in Gresini Honda, that leaves a vacancy in the quasi-satellite team that will surely be filled by Hiroshi Aoyama.
Hiroshi Aoyama has had a tough rookie season in MotoGP this year, fracturing his vertebrae at Silverstone during the British GP; but his team Interwetten Honda has had an even harder time of things, and have announced that they will not run a MotoGP team in 2011. Leaving the former 250GP Champion high and dry, Dorna has had to step-in to assure that the only Japanese rider in the sport finds a team for 2011. While no official announcement has been made, it’s an almost certainty that Aoyama will slot in with Gresini Honda as teammate to Marco Simoncelli, with Dorna reported picking up some of that tab to make the deal happen.
Dorna has a dual-interest in seeing certain riders find teams for the 2011 season. The first and constant priority is to make sure riders of certain nationalities enter the sport, to ensure that big media countries have a local favorite to root for, and to keep interest in GP racing alive across the world. The second goal is to help setup Moto2 as a proper feeder series for MotoGP. With that interest in mind comes the current Moto2 Champion Toni Elias, who is almost certain to have a MotoGP ride next year.
Elias has said that he has signed with a team, but cannot say whom; however the good money rests on the Spaniard moving into LCR Honda. This of course brings up question marks with Randy de Puniet, who has been linked to seemingly every other ride in MotoGP, which includes Pramac Ducati, Rizla Suzuki, as well as staying-put with LCR Honda.
With Suzuki cutting a deal with Dorna to run a single-bike next year, the Japanese firm is now out of the running for de Puniet, and Pramac Ducati seems to be his only option. Eric Mahe, Randy de Puniet’s manager, has denied talking with Pramac, or that his rider has signed with the squad, but you can surely expect the two parties will be talking heavily at Estorial in a week’s time. De Puniet will likely ride with Loris Capirossi who will be leaving Alvaro Bautista behind at Suzuki to ride with the Rizla-less squad.