No Honda For JIR and Spies, Bike Goes To Scot And Takahashi Instead

When the split between the JIR and Team Scot sections of Team Scot JIR was announced at Laguna Seca in July, speculation immediately began on who would get the Honda RC212V the joint team was running. JIR - Japan Italy Racing, run by Luca Montiron - held the contract with Honda for a bike and a start license, while Team Scot brought sponsorship money, an outstanding pit crew, and the extraordinarily talented Andrea Dovizioso.

Though JIR held all the paperwork and contracts, the team had been heading ever more rapidly downhill since they switched from Bridgestone tires to Michelins in 2005, eventually fatally injuring the careers of Makoto Tamada and Shinya Nakano. By joining forces with Team Scot, who have been immensely successful in the 250 and 125 classes despite riding seriously underpowered Hondas, and fielding the extremely talented Andrea Dovizioso, the team had been transformed, with Dovi currently standing 5th in the championship, and the team not far behind the Gresini and Alice teams in the team standings, despite scoring points with only one rider.

So the decision was always likely to come down to Honda's view of the future of the team. JIR's track record of running and managing a team was patchy at best, and though Luca Montiron was rumored to have an option on triple AMA Superbike champion Ben Spies, he looked to have the weaker hand.

Team Scot, by contrast, has a strong track record in the smaller classes, and perhaps more importantly for Honda, they also had Yuki Takahashi, a rider who, like Dovizioso before him, is punching well above his weight on the underpower Honda 250. What's more, Takahashi is Japanese, and with Shinya Nakano likely to be transitioned into a role as test rider for HRC, Honda will be very keen to keep a Japanese rider in the series.

Now, it looks like the stronger half of the partnership has won out. Motorcycle News is reporting that Honda have decided to drop JIR in favor of Team Scot. Luca Montiron told MCN's Matthew Birt that Honda had informed him at the beginning of September that they wouldn't have a machine for him, and that therefore, Team Scot will be getting the 6th Honda RC212V.

Montiron claims that he still holds a contract with Honda which gives him priority when it comes to the allocation of bikes, and is determined to pursue what he regards as his right to run a team in MotoGP, but with Honda controlling the bikes, Montiron's efforts are likely to come to very little. Honda have apparently decided that they want a successful team running a Japanese rider, rather than taking a chance on a big American name.

There is some merit to this argument. The JIR part of the partnership consisted almost solely of Luca Montiron, with Team Scot providing the lion's share of the team personnel. For Montiron to strike out on his own, he would have to recruit an entire pit crew as well as other ancilliary staff to help run the team, starting out more or less from scratch. Honda most likely felt that their best chance of success lies with Yuki Takahashi and Team Scot.

This almost certainly means the end of any chance Ben Spies still had remaining of running in MotoGP next year. Spies has repeated told the press that he has several options outside of MotoGP, but with the state of motorcycle racing in the US in complete turmoil, as the DMG battles it out with the manufacturers to stage a racing series, those options are becoming more limited.

The most interesting recent rumor is that Spies will be signed by Yamaha Motor Italia to run the new long bang Yamaha R1 in World Superbikes. This would be a huge boost for Yamaha USA, which could benefit hugely from the marketing value of having a big name star in a prestigious global series, but competition is fierce. The Yamaha Motor Italia team recently signed up-and-coming BSB star Tom Sykes to replace the departing Nori Haga, and Troy Corser is also rumored to be departing to join the new BMW team. But as reported earlier, Sylvain Guintoli has been testing Haga's R1, and is said to have clocked some pretty decent times on the bike.

With Montiron forced out of MotoGP, silly season is almost concluded. We are still awaiting the formal announcement that Mika Kallio and Niccolo Canepa will be joining the Alice Ducati team, and there's some doubt about the 3rd Kawasaki and 5th Ducati which could be joining the grid. But mostly, silly season is over. And sadly for a lot of American fans, so are Ben Spies' chances of riding in MotoGP.

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Glad to see that Takahashi and a strong team got the bike. I would love to see a Japanese rider at least seeing the podium off in the distance. It has been a long time.

As for Spies, meh. I have never really gotten the excitement over the guy. It may be that he doesn't seem to have much of a personality and in the absence of a test of his skill other than Mladin that is all I have to go on.

how about 6th place and first suzuki at indianapolis? there were lot's of "great" riders intimately familar with their bikes who finished well behind him.i think suzuki made a mistake signing a rider (capirossi) a year or so from retirement over a young charger.

I think Spies showed he was a talented rider. But when a rider is riding for his career during the tail end of the season, even Checa and Elias make the podium! All kidding aside, just being talented, young, hungry and fast in a world class series isn't always enough. WSBK has so many that they are even seeing the patern of making young guns take a year in WSS. If 125s and 250s end up finding a spot as support races in the Flamini enterprise I just may loose interest in MotoGP all together.

so all you have to do is be familiar with a course (what did he do 2 days of testing?) not the bike, tires, and team, and you can go out and dominate your world class teammates (and some other riders with superior bikes)? it's that easy, huh?

you could read into that, or chalk it up to the fact that he was the only rider on the grid with less than 5000 laps on the bike...








Ben has proved to be a strong rider.  Whether he would be at the top of Motogp seems to depend on a few things.  He has shown he can make some mistakes off the track, (missing track days, deciding not to race Assen....etc). 

If he gets on a decent team, Kevin Schwantz helps him, and he keeps developing, he could well be another American Champion.  He has proven to have the mental strength, cause Mat Mladin is one step down from the mindscrew that Rossi is.  He will try to find ANYWAY to beat you.  Straight up insult you, try to rough you up, not acknowledge you, the list goes on.  None of that phased Ben.  Not too many racers on any level can take the pressure that Ben has not only dealt with but beat, and even started to crush at some points.

Still have to see him without a Support System.  How he would be out there in Europe by himself.  That would determine everything.  Hope he gets a ride in Motogp or World Superbike on a quality team.

The fact that Ben was fast in both the wet and the dry shows that he's got a lot of talent and speed.

Here in the USA the AMA doesn't race at many tracks in the rain, and for good reason.  So for a guy from the AMA to come in and beat both factory riders is quite an achievement.  One of them has the reputation of being a wizard in the rain, too.

I agree, he probably screwed up by not riding Assen.  I agreed with his decision at the time, but in hindsight it may have put him out of contention for the GSV ride.  After all, he was being paid to race in a different championship and to put himself at undue risk on what looked to be a rainy weekend seemed unwise at the time.  Loris Capirossi, being a shrewd old bird, saw the writing on the wall and went out to ride at Assen surely knowing that he was too injured to compete.  That had the effect of blocking Spies - at the very least Ben wouldn't have been as competitive as he would have if he'd have had the opportunity to ride Friday practice.

I've questioned it elsewhere, but I wonder just how serious Suzuki ever were about bringing Spies to MotoGP.  It could have been that team management was making an implicit statement to the current riders that Suzuki had somebody waiting if they didn't start getting results.

Ultimately it's a shame that he apparently won't find a ride in MotoGP next season.  Both for the rider and the fans who will miss out on watching an exciting young talent compete.

That was very well said, almost exactly what I have been thinking.  And now Suzuki just have to look silly for demanding such a price tag for a 3rd bike for a guy who makes them look better than they probably deserve.  Sad for everybody involved, really...

I don't put much credence in the whole "pricing himself out of the market" thing.

It seems like that was a lot of smoke blown by the motorcycle racing press corps, just like Ben's supposed fear of flying keeping him from competing in an international series.

After all, those guys have got to generate copy to fill the magazines and (other) websites.

Dr. Krop can probably answer this better than I can, 'cause I don't have the details handy, but Suzuki was initially demanding so much for a customer franchise fee that everybody walked away from them.  Now, from the outside, that looks more than a bit short-sighted.

As Rusty points out, Suzuki initially gave the green light to a third bike, but only on the condition that the team who ran it coughed up the full cost of running the bike (probably in the region of 3-5 million Euros), rather than just leasing the bike, as HRC does (for nearer the 1 million Euro mark). So it wasn't just Spies asking for a lot of money, Suzuki were pretty good at that sort of thing as well.