Simoncelli's Factory Status At Gresini Extended Through 2012

Marco Simoncelli has won the unofficial Battle of the HRC Italians. Today, the San Carlo Gresini team announced that Simoncelli would be staying with the squad for 2012, and would be doing so with a HRC contract and a factory-spec Honda RC213V.

With Honda scaling back the number of factory-supported riders in MotoGP for 2012, the question on everybody's lips had been who of the two current Italian riders HRC would choose to support next year, Andrea Dovizioso or Marco Simoncelli. Dovizioso has comprehensively beaten Simoncelli so far this year, finishing ahead of Simoncelli in 12 of this year's 14 races, and sitting a massive 79 points ahead of Simoncelli in the championship, and was pushing for another extension to his factory contract with Honda. But while Dovizioso has been quietly getting results, Simoncelli has been making headlines, and has gathered a massive fan base in the two years he has been in MotoGP. Simoncelli's popularity - especially in Italy, his home country - has helped Italian snack maker San Carlo raise their profile in their key market, and helped persuade them to stay on as sponsor with the Gresini Honda squad.

There is probably more to this decision than just Simoncelli's marketability, though. The sentiment in the paddock is that Dovizioso is also paying the price for his insistence in staying inside the factory Repsol Honda team in 2011. Under the terms of his 2010 contract, Dovizioso was entitled to a seat in the factory Honda team for 2011, but the Italian's presence became a nuisance once Honda announced the signing of Casey Stoner, and the extension of Dani Pedrosa's contract. Honda was forced to create space inside the factory Honda team to accommodate three riders, a situation which both cost them money and involved some difficult negotiations with title sponsor Repsol. With the likely 2011 World Champion, a proven race winner and a high-profile media star on the books - as well as another potential champion in the shape of Marc Marquez on the way - there was little incentive to keep a modest-but-fast rider, especially one who clung to the terms of his contract, rather than play along with Honda's plan. 

With Simoncelli now in place with San Carlo, Dovizioso looks likely to switch to either LCR Honda or Tech 3 Yamaha, on a satellite ride. At Aragon, Dovizioso said he expected to make a decision in the time between Aragon and Motegi. No doubt his future will be settled at Motegi.

The press release from San Carlo Gresini announcing the deal appears below:


Fausto Gresini is delighted to announce that Marco Simoncelli will once again wear the colours of Team San Carlo Honda Gresini in 2012. The new deal sees the continuation of an all-Italian rider-team project that began last year, when Simoncelli made his debut in the MotoGP class, and has continued with excellent results this season. Next year promises to be a crucial one in terms of Marco's development, as he looks to consolidate his already blossoming relationship with Team San Carlo Honda Gresini and HRC and establish himself as a frontrunner in MotoGP. As always the cornerstone of the arrangement is the trust shown in the talent of Simoncelli by HRC, who have offered a factory contract to the rider as well as a factory Honda RC213V machine and all the technical back-up he requires to compete at the very highest level.

Fausto Gresini "I am really happy to announce that Marco will be back with Team San Carlo Honda Gresini in 2012. Over the past two years together we have been able to appreciate Marco's qualities as a rider, as a man and as an extroverted communicator, which made us keen to continue our collaboration. Obviously in order to make this possible we needed a lot of effort from our sponsors, who have shown such belief in this project and I am grateful to them. HRC are going to offer a general level of support that will be very important as well as making a factory RC213V factory available to Marco. All this gives us great pride and is a testament to the close relationship we have built with the Japanese factory over fifteen fruitful years of partnership. Marco's huge determination will give us all a lot of motivation ahead of what promises to be an exciting new season."

Marco Simoncelli "To be wearing the colours of Team San Carlo Honda Gresini for another year and riding a Honda RC213V gives me a lot of satisfaction. To be kept on as part of project that Honda HRC are so supportive of in collaboration with Team San Carlo Honda Gresini gives me a lot of confidence and all the motivation I need to show that I can be amongst the best in MotoGP again. 2012 will be an important season for me and I want to give all those people who have believed in this project plenty to get excited about."

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This is most certainly a triumph for style over substance. Hopefully, Dovi will get a good ride and continue to cement his reputation as reliable. I suspect Simoncelli will prove to be the next Melandri - a random-number generator for finishes and a sure-fire source of income for c/f retailers and replacement parts manufacturers..

Unless Red Bull are willing to put out some serious cash to get him (Dovizioso) his own team, expect him to be a near-perfect fit for Monster Tech 3 (although, so would Hopkins be).

What will be humorous to watch is a Dovi vs. Limoncello battle through the season, when they are on different bikes.  Expect Herve Poncharal to gloat profusely.

Perhaps also has something to do with who Honda believe can manage a team worthy of full HRC support.

The factory team was always going to downsize for 2012, which meant that Dovi was on notice from day-1 of this season... he is shopping for a satellite ride... somewhere.

San Carlo Gressini have done a passable job and have their established rider.

LCR is the only Honda alternative, and they have not exactly distinguished themselves over the last 2 years.

Dovi may be able to get a factory-spec Honda ride with LCR, but as for full HRC support... I suspect that LCR would struggle to win that argument.

The harsh reality is that Dovizioso has had his big opportunity (2 years on a factory Honda) and has fallen short. It is Stoner's performance (likely world champion is just his first year on the Honda) that has highlighted Dovizioso's limitations. Of course he has done better than Simoncelli overall, but Honda may well see more potential in Simoncelli in the 1000cc class.

Frankly both of them have been disappointments, not really providing the support to Stoner that Honda will have expected. Lorenzo is closer to Stoner than might have been expected partly because those two riders, on what is supposedly the best bike, have not performed as well as they should have. Of course Simoncelli being behind Rossi in the standings is inexcusable, but once again it may be a question of perceived potential on the 1000cc bikes plus marketability.

But Dovizioso has never really been competitive with Stoner this year and that is just not good enough. Riders that don't perform to expectations don't have bargaining power. This is a tough competitive business, and being a nice guy and a steady performer just isn't enough to succeed.

+1 on a fair bit of what you have said, motogpmd.

Does anyone here really think Dovi can challenge for a World Championship?? I don't. At this level he's not one of the aliens.
Conversely, Simo is genuinely quick and is learning to temper his impetuous nature. Once he balances speed and temperament I think he can be a genuine contender.
Honda have played it pretty much as I expected, and I would also suggest that this current contract is possibly Dani's last with Repsol Honda if Marquez goes fast in the Valencia test. Automatic replacement of a spaniard with another spaniard will keep Repsol happy, and they lock in the next 'alien-in-waiting'.

Mind you, Honda doesn't always get it right. They signed a fast young 250 champ in 2005 and he has failed to win a championship for them. A certain Aprilia rider in the same season came second in the championship but crashed a bit. Who knows how many championships Honda might have won if they had signed that kid who came second to Dani........
But 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it.

My prediction is that Simo will finish well ahead of Dovi in next year's championship, and his career arc is likely to rise for at least a few years. Dovi on the other hand, his arc is heading down.

I respect your opinion though personally I don't know if Dovi is already on a descendent path (netting next year he will be on a non-factory bike). The problem with him is ... that he is not going up or improving. His arc is flat at best. Simo could do much better. Better sign a potential first then a guaranteed 3rd/4th.

The first rule of motor racing - beat your teammate.
For all that Ducati has been blamed for wrecking the careers of many a good rider over the last 5 years, the fact is that Stoner's performance has shown up every teammate in every team in that time. Along with Dovi, even Pedrosa's reputation has taken a bit of a battering this season. Marquez must be looming on the horizon very ominously for 2013.

The sentiment in the paddock is that Dovizioso is also paying the price for his insistence in staying inside the factory Repsol Honda team in 2011.

IOW, he 'insisted' that Honda honor his contract.

Although I can't say I blame Honda for making this choice, as you can see why Simoncelli might be the more interesting rider for both them and their sponsors.

But I also think Dovisioso is both a good guy and a very good rider, someone Honda could have and should have treated better.

from outside it looks like Dovi is thinking of ways of keeping his job whilst Sic is focused on finding ways to win races.

if i were looking to recruit an employee I'd go for Dovi without a second thought but but since we are talking racers the job goes straight to Sic.

just my opinion though

In Italy perhaps I don't know. But on the other side of the coin his past is also catching up with him - least not having roughed up both Pedrosa and Lorenzo this year. Simoncelli's profile to my mind comes more from his dirty riding than any strong showing on track - of which there is scant evidence outside of qualifying.

But then ultimately all sport is a gladiatorial contest and villians play their part here too. No such publicity as bad publicity as the old saying goes.

have made a difference if he had not raced under Repsol colours this season. Stoner would still have won races in MotoGP and Marquez in Moto2. And then Honda would most likely have their eyes on keeping Stoner for long enough and getting Marquez step by step to the big class.

Dovi is fast and solid, but it seems Repsol colours demand alien status. And to ride a none Respsol RC213V you need A LOT of money.

on Dovi and Super-Sic comments above, especially the marketability, performance, and future abilities on the 1000cc machines. But Sic just has more pace... he's fast and aggressive on the race-track, more so than Dovi. When Dovi took Hayden's ride, HRC may have thought that he just needed a factory machine to be one of the top 2 with Dani being number 1. Neither has panned out and Repsol wants a spanish rider to represent them... that's what saving Dani now until Marquez moves to MotoGP. Sic has a presence when on track that Dovi doesn't have... although impulsive at times, the other riders know he's a threat. Dovi is a mid-pack rider on the best factory bike on the grid???! Dovi sealed his own fate with HRC during the contract drama. Now Dovi will see how Hayden felt years ago...

Sic finished twice in front of Dovi...Dovi finished 12 times ahead of the guy, on the SAME bike! Compare 3rd with 5 podiums to 8th in the championship with 1 podium, 79 points does that make Sic faster?
Simoncelli is faster in QP, not quite in the race (ok, twice a year).

Seriously, Dovi has 2 more years of experience in MotoGP, alright, then let's compare their rookie years on satellite bike: Dovi (2008) 1 podium, 174 points, 5th, Sic (2010) 0 podium, 125 points, 8th.
In their respective rookie years, Sic struggled much more than Dovi, for their first season on a factory bike Sic struggles more than Dovi did and for the first season they are on the same bike...Sic is way behind.

Come on, even Simoncelli's sophomore year on a factory bike does not equal Dovi's rookie year on a satellite bike (even if Sic scored a podium at every remaining race he would not get as many points as Dovi in his rookie season)!
And that is without even considering the competitiveness of Honda in 2008 and 2011.

In MotoGP Dovi never had a year without a podium and never ranked lower than 6th in the championship while Sic is yet to finish higher than 8th (and is unlikely to finish higher than 7th this year)...

Sic has shown serious pace in QP and serious lack of racecraft and learning abilities in the race after 2 years in MotoGP. At no point did he demonstrate abilities superior to Dovizioso's in a race.

I understand Sic will sell more chips, but that doesn't make him faster than Dovi.

What's even funnier is that they know each other quite well, they're only one year apart and raced against each other since they were kids.
In Grand Prix racing, whether in 125 (2003 Dovi 5th, Sic 21st, 2004 Dovi world champion, Sic 11th), 250 (2006 and 2007, Dovi twice runner-up, Sic twice 10th) or MotoGP (2010 Dovi 5th, Sic 8th, 2011 currently 3rd and 8th), Sic never ever finished higher than Dovi.

those numbers and results up. Now that you have, it really makes HRC's choice all the more puzzling. They must feel safe enough with Stoner and Pedrosa (for 2012) and allow themselves a big hairy italian gamble.

I don't dislike Dovi, but he will never compete against the "Aliens" (hate that phrase)... Simoncelli has shown that he CAN run at that pace, he just needs a bit of work as he's a tad rough around the edges.

I've never seen Dovi running top of the sheets in multiple sessions - it's not been THAT irregular to see Simo as the fastest Honda! When can we say the same about Dovi?

I think Dovi would be a very safe bet for consistency, but I think Simoncelli has more room to improve and has more potential to be at the top compared to Dovi.

Simoncelli is in a slightly unfortunate place because the fans of the riders that he's "wronged" will vote against him and also the "extreme" Rossi haters seem to have jumped on that bandwagon through association which is really disappointing.

Either way though, Simo is very popular here in the UK as well as Italy, so he must be winning people over somehow - ironically he gets more support than Crutchlow!

Personally I am undecided on Simo, I love his laid back approach, but he still has to prove himself in race trim, but I do believe in his potential... he gets the vote from my missus as she thinks he's cute?! Hehe.

Burgess once said that if other riders described someone as dangerous, that was the time to get out the cheque-book.

Simoncelli has shown the talent in the premier class this season, that much is evident. He has been very explosive as times and extremely dangerous but I agree with JB's sentiments and he shows a lot of promise. Between Dovi and Sic, I would have signed Sic if I were HRC. I think they made the right decision.

Sic has been riding a factory spec Honda in a season where Honda has at least been the equivalent of Yamaha if not better at most tracks. He has been a distant 4th of the factory Hondas, next year with Marquez, this could be 5th. Something has to change quickly for his results to improve.