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Estoril hero Elias keeps Honda seat.
Link to the article
After looking certain to be sacked at the end of this season, Toni Elias' incredible debut win in last Sunday's Portuguese Grand prix has seen him re-signed for the 2007 season.
Having qualified just 11th on the grid, Elias beat five-times reigning MotoGP world champion VALENTINO ROSSI by just 0.002secs at Estoril - marking the 23-year-old Spaniard's first ever MOTOG.P podium, let alone victory, after almost two years in the premier-class.
Significantly, on a day when Dani Pedrosa took out title leading team-mate Nicky Hayden , Elias also 'saved' Honda's championship hopes, since the five extra points he denied Rossi means that Hayden has at least a fighting chance of still winning the crown at the Valencia season finale.
"I'm very happy to have reached this agreement," said Toni. "The renewal of the contract gives me the opportunity to continue the project started this year with Honda and Fausto Gresini. My priority was in fact to work with Honda in the team run by Fausto Gresini, together with my chief mechanic Fabrizio Cecchini. In order to take this decision, I have considered first of all the technical, sports and human factors. I believe this is the best choice for my sports career and I think we have all the elements to make a good preparation during the winter test sessions, in order to grow, gain experience and fight for good results. I'd like to finish the last race of the season with a good performance. But I really look forward to next year, I'm excited to ride the new Honda V4 800cc."
Although team principal Fausto Gresini didn't specifically state that the Estoril win saved Elias' job, it was certainly a major factor.
"I'm very pleased to announce the renewal of the contract with Toni Ellias for the 2007 season," he began. "We have always believed in his potential and we have supported him at the beginning of the year when he made his debut on the Honda RC211V and throughout the whole season. Last Sunday's win at Estoril confirms that Tony is a talented rider with a great potential and enthusiasm. We are happy to continue the project that will see him next year on a Honda V4 800cc. We are motivated to grow and reach together important results. Toni Elias will continue working with the same team, an experienced and motivated staff. I'm happy to line up two young but strong riders for the 2007 season."
Triple 2006 race winner Marco Melandri will remain alongside Elias next season, but title sponsor Fortuna is rumoured to be leaving. Meanwhile - with Repsol Honda again fielding Hayden and Pedrosa in 2007, and Carlos Checa already confirmed as replacing Casey Stoner at Honda LCR - there is now only one existing Honda seat unconfirmed, at the Konica Minolta team.
This looks certain to go to Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano, leaving Makoto Tamada's MotoGP future in serious doubt - unless he can use his Japanese/Bridgestone connections to help secure Nakano's now vacant Team Green ride.
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Last edited by Moeman; 10-21-2006 at 11:16 AM.