The last tweaks for the 2011 MotoGP season are being ironed out, with official announcements tidying up the few loose ends dangling from the tapestry of 2011. One of the longer threads left untied was the situation surrounding Andrea Dovizioso and Honda. After HRC signed Casey Stoner to ride for the factory team, Dovizioso looked in danger of being nudged out of the Repsol squad, despite having a guarantee in his contract stating that he would get an automatic ride with the factory team again if he finished in the top 5.
For a long time, it looked like either Andrea Dovizioso or Casey Stoner would be housed in a separate structure, with separate sponsorship and run by Livio Suppo. But Suppo's attempts to persuade Red Bull (who were the prime candidate for title sponsorship) fell on deaf ears, and this plan fell apart. The next option was for Dovizioso to be shifted into the Gresini team with direct support from HRC, but this was a move that Dovizioso fought tooth and nail to prevent.
In the end, Repsol stepped up to the plate and extended their sponsorship, with Honda's Indonesian subsidiary Astra Honda pitching in with further funding, and the factory Repsol Honda team is to be extended to include all three of the riders HRC currently has on a factory contract. Andrea Dovizioso, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner will all be housed within the Repsol Honda team for 2011. The team will share facilities and a garage (or rather, one and a half garages) and be housed together, functioning as a single unit.
With the team structure settled, speculation now turns to the power struggle behind the scenes. Rumors suggest that there is a bitter rivalry being played out between Alberto Puig, who exerts a lot of influence inside the factory team, and Livio Suppo, who has been brought in by Honda's Japanese management to take over management of the team. If Suppo had managed to bring in new, non-Spanish sponsorship to the team, his role would have been strengthened and Puig's would have waned. An expanded commitment from Repsol is an ace in Puig's hand, the Spaniard having very close ties to the Spanish petroleum giant.
Below is the press release announcing the three-man team structure:
Repsol renews its agreement with Honda in MotoGP
In 2011, the Repsol Honda Team will have three of the world’s best riders, Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso and Casey Stoner, and will be a sure candidate for the premier class title.
Repsol has reached an agreement with Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) to continue as the main sponsor of the official team of the Japanese manufacturer in MotoGP and to continue supplying fuel and lubricants to the Repsol Honda Team.
The new two-year contract (for 2011 and 2012) consolidates one of the most robust and lasting associations in the world of top level competition, which dates back to 1995. This collaboration between Repsol and HRC has resulted in 8 World Championship titles, 90 Grand Prix victories and 252 podiums, and has turned the Repsol Honda Team machines into icons that are immediately recognised by motorcycling fans worldwide.
With Repsol as a high value partner again, the multinational company Honda approaches the 2011 season with a very strong team, with the highest aspiration to reclaim the MotoGP world title. Going back to its origins, in 2011, the Repsol Honda Team will present a powerful squad made up of three of the best riders in the world. The Spanish rider Dani Pedrosa and Italian Andrea Dovizioso will be joined by the 2007 MotoGP World Champion, Australian Casey Stoner, who will become part of one of the favourite teams to take the premier class title.
Over the next two years, Repsol will continue to be the official supplier of competition fuel and lubricants to the Repsol Honda Team. The specific fuel that the team uses is developed by the Repsol Technology Centre (RTC), located in Móstoles (Madrid). Repsol, which has been in the world of competition for 40 years – an unbeatable test bench for its products –, has gathered extensive experience in developing and manufacturing fuels and lubricants for the main racing competitions.
Begoña ELICES, Corporate Director for Communications and Chairman's Office at Repsol
"Repsol is extremely satisfied to be able to extend for another two seasons such a successful relationship with HRC, which will reach 18 years and during which we have achieved ninety victories in the premier class of motorcycle racing. The combination of a reference manufacturer like Honda and three riders like Dani, Andrea and Casey, guarantees us a permanent hope for the whole championship as well as a place in the leading positions of the standings.
Competing in the top class is intrinsic to Repsol; it is part of the corporate philosophy and strategy of our company. Top competition gives us the opportunity to be leaders in research and development of new fuels and lubricants while allowing us to maintain a much closer relationship with our customers".
Tetsuo SUZUKI, HRC President
"We are delighted to announce that our valued partners at Repsol will once again join us in our quest for the MotoGP World Championship next year. Honda’s partnership with Repsol has been long and successful and we are very proud to be together again for this challenge into the future.
We are also very pleased to expand the Repsol Honda Team to once again include three riders next year. Our current riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso will be joined by Casey Stoner in Repsol Honda colours to form a truly formidable line-up that we believe can fight for victory at every race and achieve our joint goals: recapturing all three MotoGP World Championship titles".