Dorna's Rescue Package: Elias And Aoyama In MotoGP For 2011, Grid Back To 17?

With MotoGP grid sizes currently shrinking almost on a daily basis, judging by the news from Sepang, it was clear that something would have to be done to stem the losses. The latest count was just 15 bikes on the grid in 2011, with Pramac and Suzuki down to one bike each, and Interwetten Honda out altogether.

The latest paddock rumors from Sepang - assembled by our friends over at - suggest that Dorna is stepping in to shore up grid numbers for next year, by providing support in a couple of key situations. The first move is to help get Toni Elias back into MotoGP. The way that Elias has dominated the brand new Moto2 championship, culminating in the 2010 title he secured at Sepang, has generated a huge call for the popular Spaniard to be given a ride in MotoGP. Elias' options looked very good, either taking the second bike at Suzuki, replacing the departing Loris Capirossi, or else taking over Randy de Puniet's seat at LCR Honda, should the Frenchman have plumped for the Suzuki seat before Elias. Once the second bike at Suzuki disappeared - looking more like a racing certainty with every passing day - that plan fell through, leaving Elias to look for a ride in Moto2.

Rumor now has it that Dorna have intervened, promising support to the Pramac Ducati squad for 2011, in exchange for giving Toni Elias a ride in MotoGP for next season. Elias, who spent a year with Pramac (then Alice) Ducati back in 2008, would take the second machine alongside Loris Capirossi, who has already been all but confirmed for 2011, with Dorna footing much of the bill for Elias' promotion. Current Pramac rider Aleix Espargaro would be forced out of the Pramac squad and helped to find a seat in Moto2. The elder of the Flying Espargaro Brothers is already in demand in Moto2, with rumors linking Aleix to both the Aspar and Pons squads.

The other rider Dorna are keen to keep inside the fold is Hiroshi Aoyama. The last ever 250cc World Champion has slipped under the radar a little, after a difficult and injury-ridden start to the year. Aoyama started the year with wrist problems related to RSI, and at Silverstone, suffered a fractured vertebra after a huge cold-tire highside in the chilly English morning air. That accident ruled Aoyama out for six races in the middle of the season, returning at Indianapolis before he was still fully fit. Since his return, Aoyama has continued his quiet progress, only occasionally showing his true potential.

Aoyama is also Japanese, a vital factor for both Dorna and for Honda, who have always supported Japanese riders on the grid. Both parties want to keep Aoyama in the premier class, though neither party wants to foot the entire bill. And so a compromise could be reached by placing the Japanese rider inside the San Carlo Gresini Honda team, with support from both Honda and Dorna.

This solution appears to have been made possible by negotiations within HRC about the factory team. The current state of play is that Andrea Dovizioso will not be farmed out to Gresini, but will remain inside the factory Repsol Honda team. To make this possible, Casey Stoner is to be run in a separate one-man factory Honda team, with separate sponsorship. Red Bull is the name most commonly dropped in this context, but as Red Bull have so far managed to avoid the temptation to take on the title sponsorship of a team, there is reasonable doubt that it will happen now.

The three-man factory team lineup would also diffuse the power struggle going on inside HRC, which pits Pedrosa's manager Alberto Puig against Stoner's former team boss, Livio Suppo. Puig has been pushing HRC to get rid of Suppo, and has been using his leverage with Repsol to encourage the sponsorship deal to be linked to Suppo's position. HRC, meanwhile, hired Suppo to raise sponsorship for the factory Honda team, and end their reliance on Repsol. Two separate teams with Puig and Suppo at the helm of each would create a situation that was acceptable to all, without losing valuable sponsorship. And with Dovi in Repsol, Aoyama can slot into Gresini, with the blessing and support of Honda and Dorna.

With Elias at Pramac and Aoyama at Gresini, the grid would be back up to 17 again. Hardly a well-stocked field, but at least it would be no worse than the current situation. Dorna buys another year of scratching and scraping and kowtowing to the manufacturers, while awaiting the coming of the CRT teams in 2012. With at least 6 extra entries expected in 2012, grids will start to look respectable again.

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HRC, meanwhile, hired Suppo to raise sponsorship for the factory Honda team, and end their reliance on Repsol.

Huh? How does that work? Or better: How does that sit with Repsol? How do they feel about HRC casting about for ways to dilute Repsol's return for the money they pay to HRC? What kind of contract do they have?

Or maybe HRC hired Suppo, who was said to have a very good relationship with Stoner, in order to smooth Stoner's signing?

Anyway, sounds like something of a mess there at Honda. Except for the bike, which definitely seems to be more competitive this year.

...Casey Stoner is to be run in a separate one-man factory Honda team, with separate sponsorship.

This sounds like a reasonable solution. And I'd think a doable one, at least IMO, as after Rossi I regard Stoner as the most marketable, proven winning rider in the field. Assuming he can find a way to stop falling down...

Repsol have been wavering over their sponsorship for the last couple of years (only renewing for a year at a time, Dani not securing a championship etc).
Suppo previously ran the only MotoGP team to run at a profit (thanks to marlboro money picking up most of the bill).
So while the Suppo/Stoner is a nice conspiracy theory (probably with some truth about it), sponsorship is the big issue.

It could even be that Repsol knows all about the motivation behind hiring Suppo, and would welcome Suppo finding another big sponsor to take over so they could bow out gracefully without looking like they pulled the rug out from HRC's feet.

Hmmmmmm..... I would imagine this would be a little worrying to Stoner. The promise of a separate "factory" HRC outfit for Stoner and Suppo would help with the tension but as history has shown, those promises by HRC rarely materialise.

Even though there would be tension with Stoner in the Repsol garage, I think it would be a case of better "keep your enemies close". Even if there is no data sharing, Stoner would at least get (hopefully) the same parts as Pedrosa.

If I was running HRC, Dani would be put into the single bike team and I'd run Dovi & Stoner with Repsol backing..........though without a Spainard for the Repsol money, that will never happen.

I wonder how much Dorna pay Rossi? :-D

Good to hear that Dorna will be subsidizing the grid a little bit, I'm guessing they will be using the money that Suzuki have just surrendered to by themselves out of a breach of contract?

Casey's front end problems dissapeared after he changed both tyre manufacturer and Motorcycle brand, then reappeared in a later version of tyre combined with Ducati. I think the better front end on the Honda will make Casey a force in 2011.

That Bautista's latest form should show Suzuki they aren't that far from the mark.

Cross fingers for Elias and Aoyama to be there in 2011. I like them both a lot.

I think Dorna does very well to back Aoyama and Elias as I think they are both worthy riders for MotoGP.

In my eyes, the key (or difficulty) as always is where the sponsorship money comes from.

What ejected Elias from MotoGP last year was Gresini's new sponsor San Carlo.
The italian snack company rather preferred a full italian squad with Simoncelli and Melandri.

Does Elias have a chance back in the Gresini team for 2011? Surely it would be the most logical move considering he has raced well for them in the past in MotoGP and just won them the Moto2 title this year. Well the line-up is looking like Sic (Italian and HRC) and Aoyama, sponsored by HRC to keep the Japanese in the championship. From a manufacturer and sponsor POV it makes all the sense in the world.

However, Toni is in the same situation he was 3 years ago, fighting for he scraps in the satellite Ducati outfit and he should even say thank you for that.

For me the case in the Repsol Honda team has more to do with Hondas rampant rider signings than Repsols position. If Honda had contract obligations with Dovi and then went on to sign Stoner, they have then obviously put themselves in a pinch. The question is, how much extra money did they ask from Repsol to paint a 3rd bike (whether Stoner or Dovi's was up to HRC)?

I guess too much.

Repsols position with HRC is to be asscociated with the top racing squad in a championship which is huge in Spain. I'm sure Repsol would love to win again, but its fair play if they prefer to win with Dani than with Casey or Dovi. Three bikes is great for Honda, but probably too expensive for Repsol, for a sponsorship they cannot exploit and which dilutes their position with Dani in Spain.

The one to watch out for is Marquez though. Repsol is a secondary sponsor with him, but uses him continuously in communication with Dani. The way it is seen in Spain is he is being cut-out to be his heir. Don't be surprised if his career goes well that he rises to Rpsol Honda quickly (if Repsol sticks around long enough).

Back to Stoner though, I think it is uncomfortable for him to have been signed in with the team situation still unresolved, but if Suppo can bring in Red Bull it will be good for all. Not surprisingly Red Bull is Marquez's main sponsor, so I wouldnt be surprised if their is a Repsol/Red Bull primary secondary sponsor theme starting with Honda.

Was Stoner promised equal equipt to Pedrosa? I guess the question is, when is a Factory bike a factory bike? IMO, while Dani's performance this year has been outstanding, he has yet to complete a full season in the main class without injury. He is fast but fragile. I argue that Stoner is the better rider of the two and whatever small upgrade Pedrosa may see first would a minimal advantage.

I also would argue that Stoner has been "the man" in a passionate italian garage for several years. Having a seperate team for he and Suppo sounds like a good idea. I don't think Puig's ego, heart and very likely chin would survive a complete season under the same roof.

Can't imagine Stoner signing for Honda if full factory support was not guaranteed. And I agree with you, I think Stoner could care less about riding in a single rider team or not. He comes across as a pretty solitary kind of guy. He was alone at LCR and pretty much had to figure out everything himself (with team ofcourse) at Ducati the past four years, too. He'll be just fine.

While Dani is a bit of a flea on the greyhound, Dovi isn't exactly tiny and it was amazing seeing either of the repsols on the straights (from Qatar, even) breeze by the other factories, satellite or not.

If Honda can maintain the corner-exit/straightaway speed magic they had this year, Wow Stoner is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Reallllly looking forward to seeing what Rossi can do on that red bike, too. Even with a small grid, 2011 is going to have some fantastic racing for the MotoGP class (if not fantastic then Chock Full of drama lol!)

.... who thinks both of these riders are better suited to Moto2 and not MotoGP ?

Yes I know they are world champs and bloody good thumbs up to them, but I really think that that the best place for Tiger Toni would be in Moto2, same for Aoyama-san.

In saying that, the MotoGP grid needs filling up. Less then 20 is to be honest a joke.

Lets hope with the new 2012 MotoGP season less then a year away (so to speak ) it can fill the grid up agian.

Good luck to both of them in what ever class they ride in.

If Elias and Aoyama are more suited to moto2, then who would you suggest fill the grid instead? If Elias and Aoyama should be in Moto2 then so should Simoncelli and Bautista (and Espargaro and Kalio). I think that the top 4-6 racers in MotoGP make the rest seem a bit out of place, whether less developed or over the hill. But I still think that all those riders on the grid are just as deserving of their position when compared to all those not on the grid that seem like they could be equally competitive.

What I'd agree with is that Elias and Aoyama would both be very successful in the Moto2 class. But by that sentiment, so could Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner! What is attractive about Moto2 is the grid size and the non-factory racing team ethic. It's all great. But it comes at that cost of the control engine and a bit of a loss of that 'pinnacle' luster of GP racing. I think everyone thus far would agree it's a fair trade at that level.

So what makes you say this? Have you not noticed how the new 250 boys have been getting better and better as the season progresses (except Barbera perhaps, with the curse of satellite ducatis) - and that's despite Hiroshi having been out for a good chunk of it. Did you not notice the great battle going on just a couple of places behind the aliens between Bautista, Simoncelli and Aoyama? We need *more* of that - not less. ;)

I'd like to know where the information than Red Bull was interested in sponsoring a oneman team at all came from. They didn't feel much for paying for a bike for Dovi, and he's been wearing underwear with redbull logo's on it for years.
Is there a reason Marboro would not be interested in Suppo/Stoner/HRC, i'd be surpised if Suppo wouldn't try this...

And Ducati already has Fiat onboard right?

"Is there a reason Marboro would not be interested in Suppo/Stoner/HRC"

Remember how publically pissy the Marlboro peeps were when Stoner had time off last season when he was ill? never gonna happen!

Bravo to the organisers for getting Elias back on the grid. He should have never left, but then he wouldn't be a World Champ today if he didn't.

Regarding the special HRC team around Stoner, Rossifumi did pretty well with the strategy when he came up. Casey should as well. I will second the opinion that it would be better to isolate Pedrosa, but whatever...

I am confused about Suzuki. Will they be down to one bike or still have two? How does the grid stay at 17 if Suzy is down to one?

Loris is back on a Ducati?

Whats silly to me is that Leon Haslam was as fast as the 800 MGP bike at some tracks , on pirellis!
Loris should have been let go a few years ago,

If the *leasing* costs werent so high for the teams, they should be able to buy the bikes outright, then in the next season the trickle down effect would exist

its no coincidence that some of the best racing is when the grids are full of decent privateer or ex-works bikes

1979 for example, or when the Harris and ROC bikes saved the 500 class in the early 90s

I thought I'd post this in the "grid size" themed section.


His recovery seems to be going well and I'm so relieved. He'll arrive Wednesday. Sepang was thrilling, best race I've seen in a while but I missed seeing Dani.

"For me, the World Cup is not over. I want to be second and improve the bike for winter testing,"

Translated link to

If I'm not mistaken, Tobacco advertising is basically done for in world motorsports, with even Marlboro's quite-clever barcode coming under fire earlier this year. Ducati hasn't run the logo on the bike since the first few races of the season (ducati's choice).

They were never a terrible fan of Casey to begin with, but when you can't even show your logo on the bike, forget it! With Rossi bringing Fiat over to Ducati next year, will Marlboro even have a role with them anymore?

Tobacco sponsorship is now illegal almost everywhere in the world. However, the Marlboro - Ducati/Ferrari connection is so strong that they don't need to put the logo on the bike, everyone knows who backs the teams.

Fiat is almost certain to go to Ducati next year, but only in a subsidiary role. Marlboro will continue to be foot the bill for Ducati's MotoGP program - it was Marlboro that had a big hand in bringing this about. 

Thanks for that follow-up post David. I didn't realize that tobacco sponsorship had become illegal 'almost everywhere in the world' ... thought it was more of a USA thing. Personally, I hope you are right that 'everyone knows who backs the teams' so they get the value for their sponsorship because, otherwise, it will go away. And, personally, I don't think Marlboro sponsorship makes people smoke ... it just influences the brand choice for those who choose to smoke.

I hope Red Bull steps up to match what Monster has contributed to MotoGP. We need more of these sponsors to see the value in getting their logos on the bikes and to increase the MotoGP grid. I like that DORNA is realizing this and chipping in to the cause. We definitely need more than a fifteen bike grid in 2011!

Personally I'm really excited that Stoner will have his own team (wish he would have stayed with Ducati though). He's reminded everyone what he is capable of the past couple of races (except for Sepang).
Most excited about Elias back in the GP where he belongs and even more excited he won't have to suffer on a Suzuki ride. I think the Ducati's have come a long way since he rode one last and I think he should be in good hands this coming season. Glad to have you back Toni!