Now that the MotoGP paddock is assembling once again at Brno for the Czech Grand Prix, some movement is starting to return to the rider market. We reported yesterday that both Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera are likely to announce the deals they have penned, with Suzuki and Aspar Ducati respectively, but today, news of much bigger fish has started to emerge.
The website of the Spanish magazine Solo Moto is reporting that Repsol and Honda will be finalizing renewal of their sponsorship contract this weekend. HRC president Tetsuo Suzuki is said to be on his way to Brno to put his signature to the deal, which Solo Moto's Manuel Pecino believes will be a two-year extension of their current contract. The Spanish petroleum giant has been working with the factory Honda squad since 1995, and are so closely associated that they have become almost synonymous.
The deal would put an end to much speculation. Earlier in the year, Repsol was rumored to be looking to take its sponsorship elsewhere, after Honda failed to deliver an instantly quick bike for the third year in a row. Repsol really wants a Spanish world champion, but since the switch to 800cc, Honda have struggled to deliver. The last few races have shown a marked improvement, however, and Repsol and Honda have been getting closer to a contract extension for the past couple of months, to be concluded at Brno.
The renewal with Repsol is likely to be just part of the deal to be announced here this weekend. Solo Moto is also reporting that new deals will also be inked with Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, the Repsol Honda team remaining unchanged for next season. Dovizioso's renewal is in part a reward for the debut win the Italian took the last time out, while Pedrosa's contract was made possible by the news that Jorge Lorenzo's first priority is to remain with Yamaha.
Once Pedrosa and Dovizioso have been signed, then an announcement by Lorenzo will surely not be far behind. Once both Repsol seats are filled, Lorenzo's options with Honda will quickly run out, leaving the Spaniard with few options other than to re-sign with Yamaha. The irony of Pedrosa and Dovizioso announcing their contract renewal before Lorenzo would not be lost on the paddock, as it would see the man who has held up the rider merry-go-round for so long with his dalliances with Honda and Yamaha forced into a decision not of his own making.