Of the six (or seven, depending on how you count them) MotoGP riders to lose their places in the premier class after the 2009 season, Alex de Angelis and Toni Elias surely deserved it the least. Both men had a difficult early part of the season, left waiting for their Gresini Honda team to find the funds for the upgraded chassis for the team's Honda RC212Vs. Once they received the new parts both Elias and De Angelis made a big leap forward in performance, turning into regular front runners. By then, though it was too late, and the available seats in MotoGP had already filled up.
For a while, it looked like Alex de Angelis would stay in MotoGP, but the negotiations between the Scot Honda team and the government of the Republic of San Marino, the tiny city state foundered on the rock of money, the San Marino tourist board simply unable to stump up the necessary cash to run a full season of MotoGP.
That did not mean that the deal was over, however. Today, the Scot Racing team announced that De Angelis will be racing with the team in Moto2 next season. The tourist board of San Marino will finance the team, stepping into the role of title sponsor, a much more affordable prospect in Moto2 than in MotoGP.
The Scot / De Angelis / San Marino tie-up was almost inevitable. The team is based in the Republic and, so Alex de Angelis assures us in the press release, have their morning coffee at De Angelis' bar in San Marino. The GP209 Moto2 machine which the De Angelis will be riding alongside Niccolo Canepa next season was designed by the team in conjuction with Rapid Inside NCS, an engineering firm from the nearby town of Carpi. The marketing potential of the Scot team and Alex de Angelis is too powerful for San Marino to resist.
De Angelis' former teammate Toni Elias, meanwhile, is getting close to finalizing his future in the Moto2 class. Elias was originally signed to ride the Kalex Moto2 bike for the team run by Sito Pons, but a disagreement over money caused the deal to fall through. According to the official MotoGP.com website, Elias hopes to sign a new deal with the Gresini team, to ride their Moriwaki-framed Moto2 bike for 2010.
Elias' problem is almost certainly a financial one. Fausto Gresini is still looking for a title sponsor for his Moto2 team, something which is proving extremely difficult for almost all the teams in the new class. This is particularly difficult in the case of Elias, as the Spaniard is believed to be making some hefty salary demands. Paddock insiders say that Elias was originally asking 600,000 euros for a season, which would almost certainly make him the best paid rider on the Moto2 grid, but then he is sure to line up as the odds-on favorite to become the new class' first champion.
Whether Elias' demands are acceded to remains to be seen. Riders as talented as Scott Redding and Bradley Smith were being asked to bring upwards of 200,000 euros in sponsorship to any Moto2 deal, so the chances of Elias actually getting over half a million euros seem remote.