Toni Elias To Return To Gresini Honda?

The fall from favor of Luis d'Antin has done the team he previously ran nothing but good. Since the Spanish former GP star was forced out of the team, the team's fortune has improved vastly.

This is especially true for Toni Elias. The Spaniard has had two podiums in a row, at Brno and Misano, and has gone from being the man most likely to leave MotoGP to one of the premier class' hottest tickets.

For the past few weeks, Elias has been most closely linked with the extra Kawasaki that Jorge Martinez is likely to be running next year. Martinez, who runs the extremely successful Aspar teams in the 125 and 250 classes, is keen to step up to the MotoGP class, and having secured a bike to run, as well as likely sponsorship from a Spanish backer, now needs a Spanish rider to keep the sponsors happy. Toni Elias would have fit that bill perfectly.

The downside to any Kawasaki deal, however well funded, was always going to be the Kawasaki. From the most improved bike on the grid last year, this year's green bike has been a complete disappointment, with Ant West continually propping up the timesheets - unless there's a downpour - and John Hopkins stuck firmly in mid-pack.

And so according to sources in the Spanish press, Toni Elias has decided to take the safe option: Instead of gambling on a Kawasaki, Elias is said to have signed a contract with Gresini Honda for next year, and will make a return to the team with which he took his first and so far only race win.

The reason for Elias' return to Gresini is simple: The team have promised him a factory-spec Honda for next season, and in light of Shinya Nakano's dramatic improvement in results at Brno, after receiving a factory RC212V to test while functioning as a test mule for Dani Pedrosa's dramatic switch to Bridgestones, that is a very attractive prospect indeed.

The only minor problem is HRC's recent record of reneging on deals which involve factory support. And it is a record which Elias will know almost from first hand. During his previous stint at Gresini, Marco Melandri was promised a factory-spec RC212V in 2007. However, once Honda found out just how far Ducati had moved the goal posts during the switch to the 800cc formula, all previous deals were off, while HRC concentrated on fixing the factory bikes. Or more accurately, the factory bike that Dani Pedrosa was riding.

Official confirmation of the deal is yet to be forthcoming, but a return to Gresini would make a great deal of sense for Elias. Even if the factory support falls through, it is inconceivable that Honda would get the bike wrong three years in a row. The Honda lane is sure to open again at some point, and history shows that it is more likely to be sooner than later. And once it does, then a satellite Honda will be a great place to be.

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