Honda plan ‘super team’ for 2011

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Honda is considering assembling a star-studded factory ‘super team’ for 2011 in a desperate attempt to win back the MotoGP crown.

HRC management confirmed recently they are locked in talks with Australian Casey Stoner over a big-money switch from Ducati.

But it has emerged that HRC was not only eyeing Stoner as a potential acquisition to partner Dani Pedrosa.

The Japanese factory is giving serious consideration to a three-pronged factory attack with HRC luring Stoner from Ducati to join Pedrosa and Italian Andrea Dovizioso.

HRC is desperate to snare Stoner on a lucrative deal but has denied already completing the signing of the 24-year-old, who won Ducati’s lone MotoGP title in 2007.

Speculation has been rife since the Spanish GP in Jerez back in May that Stoner will leave Ducati and ride a factory RC212V next season.

But his father and manager Colin Stoner vehemently denied a recent report that a deal was already agreed for around £5m.

The issue is both Pedrosa and Dovizioso have performance clauses in their contract that automatically guarantee them a seat in the Repsol squad if they attain an agreed championship position at a certain stage of the season.

If Pedrosa is in the top three and Dovizioso in the top five around the mid-season stage, both are assured of new contracts. Pedrosa is currently second and Dovizoso third heading to this weekend’s Catalunya race near Barcelona.

But that has not curtailed Honda’s relentless chase of Stoner and now a three-rider factory team is a genuine possibility.

Current title sponsor Repsol are in talks over a new deal and energy drink giant Red Bull may join as an associate sponsor to help bankroll the extra RC212V needed to accommodate Stoner, who has won 20 races for Ducati.

It has also been rumoured that the Repsol line-up could remain the same, with Stoner in is own squad backed by Red Bull.

Part of the deal would also see Honda replace KTM as the supplier to the Red Bull Rookies Cup HRC Vice-President Shuhei Nakamoto said: “We are talking to Casey and also talking to Dani and Andrea.

"We are still talking but we have not yet signed Casey. We are talking with a few companies.

"Repsol and Honda have been together for 16 years and if we can continue with Repsol we are more than happy but at the same time we are talking with other companies and Red Bull is one of those."

Talking about prospect of a three-strong factory squad, Nakamoto said it was possible that Honda could extend its involvement in the premier class to seven bikes.

“If we need it yes. But four or six is better for us. With seven or eight maybe we cannot keep a similar level of performance for all riders. Now six is a little bit tough,“ he said.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt