Hannspree Ten Kate Honda's James Toseland is rapidly becoming MotoGP's hottest property for 2008. In addition to being linked to Pramac Ducati for next year, as well as Ten Kate's mooted MotoGP team, Hervé Poncharal has now admitted to Motorcycle News that he is trying to sign Toseland for the Tech 3 Yamaha team for next season. Poncharal has already signed a new contract with Yamaha to lease Yamaha M1 MotoGP machinery for 2008, but has refused point-blank to discuss which tires he will be running, increasing speculation that Dunlop could lose their last foothold in MotoGP, despite improving results. Poncharal is likely targeting either Michelin or Bridgestone tires and big name riders, in the hope of attracting sponsorship to fund it all.
Two things catch one's eye about this story: Firstly, the fact that Poncharal was given permission to approach Toseland by Yamaha, after Yamaha declared they had no interest in the young British rider. This suggest that if, as he has stated, he will only go to MotoGP on a factory or near factory ride, then his options could be more limited, for if one factory is not interested in Toseland, it is likely that others may also not have him at the very top of their hiring list. The one exception here could be Kawasaki, which is rumored to have a pair of blank cheques for two top-line riders to finally fulfill the mean green machine's potential. But with just about everyone whose contract expires at the end of the season being linked with Kawasaki by default, including Marco Melandri, Loris Capirossi, John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen, the negotiations are far from being completed. Toseland's best hope may still lie with Ten Kate's strong links to HRC providing access to top-flight Honda machinery.
The other point of interest here is the insinuation that Yamaha are close to a deal with Jorge Lorenzo, current world 250 champion, and the man dominating the 250 series so far this year. While Yamaha are known to be looking to the future, if, as everyone expects, Valentino Rossi retires from MotoGP at the end of the 2008 season, Rossi is said to have been very explicit that he would be completely unwilling to share a garage with the flamboyant Spaniard. This would place Yamaha in a very difficult situation, forced to choose between the proven star of the past, and a potential future star. Yamaha have to build for the future, but can't afford to sacrifice the present.
Whatever the truth of any of this story, it seems that at the very least, the 2008 season will see a lot more personnel changes than the 2007 season did.