Toni Elias signs LCR Honda deal

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New Moto2 world champion Toni Elias has signed a deal to join Lucio Cecchinello’s satellite Honda squad in 2011.

It marks a quick return to the premier class for the Spaniard, who claimed a historic first Moto2 title in Sepang earlier this month.

He last raced in MotoGP in 2009 but lost his ride with the San Carlo Gresini Honda outfit at the end of the season.

Unable to find another ride in MotoGP, he reluctantly dropped down to the Moto2 class to campaign a Moriwaki chassis for Fausto Gresini’s Misano-based team.

The former Gresini Honda rider had been expected to return to return to MotoGP with the Pramac Ducati squad he rode for in 2008.

But it emerged in Phillip Island recently that he was the subject of a serious approach from Cecchinello.

A deal was announced in Estoril tonight and Elias said: “I am thrilled to be back in MotoGP and I am happy to race with the LCR Team. I want to thank Lucio and Honda for their trust and I am anxious to return.

"I have known Lucio for a long time as we raced together in the 125cc class from 1999 to 2001; although his Team is not an official one it is very professional and well organized. Being their only rider is a further warranty for me”.

Cecchinello’s decision to hire Elias will see French rider Randy de Puniet sign a contract to partner Loris Capirossi in the Pramac Ducati squad.

Cecchinello said: “First of all I want to thank Randy for his cooperation and for the several successes we have shared in the 250cc class and in the MotoGP class in the last five years together.

"The chance to work with Toni Elias is a big incentive for us because this is a very important moment for presenting to our sponsors and partners a new project.

"The nice thing is that Toni and I raced together in the 125cc class. I was at the end of my career and he was at the beginning.

"I remember he was a very hard rider and very resolute. As time goes by he has improved very much and I think he is a very talented rider with a lot of experience.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt