Randy de Puniet has been one of the revelations of the 2009 season. The Frenchman has lost his reputation for being the first to hit the gravel trap, and instead become one of the men most likely to get on the podium, despite having only a satellite spec Honda RC212V at his disposal. De Puniet's transformation is in part down to the spec Bridgestone tires, and in part down to a new training regime, as he told MotoMatters.com in an interview earlier this year.
His improvement has clearly paid off. De Puniet was one of the riders being courted by a number of teams, with both the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team expressing an interest as well as his existing LCR Honda team. For De Puniet, the key to the negotations was the level of machinery the teams could provide, the Frenchman growing frustrated with trying to compete on clearly inferior equipment.
De Puniet is to get what he wants. According to the French site Moto Caradisiac (and later confirmed in a press release), LCR Honda announced today that they have signed a new one-year deal with De Puniet. Along with the contract comes an interesting guarantee: LCR Honda will be the first of the teams to make use of the switch in policy by HRC to provide factory-spec equipment to satellite teams at an increased lease price. Under the arrangement, LCR will receive a Honda RC212V which is very close to the factory machines provided to Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa, getting updates to the bike a few races after the Repsol Honda team.
Higher costs mean more sponsorship will be needed, and a combination of De Puniet's excellent results and Lucio Cecchinello's innovative sponsorship model may well be paying off in this regard. With De Puniet already competitive on satellite spec equipment, better equipment should help De Puniet get better results and therefore Cecchinello attract more money.