Silly Season: Satellite Hondas and Ducatis Close To Signing Dovizioso, Elias And Guintoli

With all the factory rides taken for 2008 ‘ despite Dani Pedrosa's continuing refusal to sign the new contract Repsol Honda have for hime ‘ the focus of the silly season has switched from the official to the satellite teams. The situation at the satellite Honda teams and at the Pramac d'Antin team is all very fluid, the only definite signing being Randy de Puniet at LCR Honda.

Now, Autosport is reporting that some of the open seats are close to being filled. The first piece of news merely confirms what everyone has been predicting, that Andrea Dovizioso is close to taking the JIR Honda, currently being piloted by Shinya Nakano. Dovizioso has remained loyal to Honda throughout his career in the 250s, despite the current Honda RS250 being barely able to keep up with the Aprilias in the 250 class, and the ride in MotoGP would be a reward for this loyalty. His current sponsor, Scot Construction, would take over the main sponsorship from Konica Minolta, who are believed to want to pull out at the end of the season once their contract comes up for renewal.

The other Honda team with no riders signed for next year is Fausto Gresini's team. The Italian team manager is believed to have narrowed his selection down to three riders: Toni Elias, currently riding for the team, Alex de Angelis, riding an Aprilia in the 250 class for 2007, and Shinya Nakano, who is almost certain to lose his ride with JIR / Konica Minolta at the end of the year. Elias is the clear favorite of the three, but Alex de Angelis would please Honda Italy, who provide much of the support for the team, and Shinya Nakano could well regain some of his form on the Bridgestones he must now be regretting he left behind.

Finally, as discussed here earlier, the D'Antin team are likely to sign Sylvain Guintoli this weekend. The Frenchman has done far better than expected this season, regularly beating his team mate Makoto Tamada on the Dunlop Tech 3 Yamaha. Guintoli has several options in World Superbikes thanks to his riding, but is trying to stay in MotoGP. Guintoli's switch to the team could cause some internal friction, as it was Guintoli who crashed into the d'Antin teams current rider Alex Hofmann at Laguna Seca, badly injuring Hofmann's hand, and probably ending the German's chances of remaining in MotoGP.

The question of who will join Guintoli at Pramac d'Antin is still unresolved. Alex Barros, despite his podium at Mugello, has not been the force which d'Antin had hoped for, but may be given another year. Chaz Davies is another name being linked to the team, after testing at Mugello earlier this week, but so far, Livio Suppo has only talked of offering Davies a role as official Ducati test rider.

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