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GP Week : Issue 40
HAYATE KAWASAKI Neither a factory nor a truly private team, this newly- renamed squad is the residue of Kawasaki’s decision to pull out of MotoGP in response to the financial crisis. Dorna wouldn’t take no for an answer, however, and nor would the team staff. Between them they persuaded the factory to give support, albeit grudgingly, to a one-rider team. John Hopkins was dropped from the line-up, but new signing Marco Melandri kept on strength. And the team got the ZX-RR that was already being upgraded and developed TECH 3 YAMAHA Barely one step down from a factory team in equipment and attention from Japanese engineers, newly sponsored by Monster, the French-based team also boasts a pair of double World Superbike champions. Colin Edwards is 35, with 102 GPs behind him, but James Toseland (28) has just 18. The two are split also by personal acrimony: James poached Colin’s crew chief at the end of last year; Colin told everyone very loudly how cross he was, and demanded a wall down the middle of the playground … sorry, pit garage. Edwards is an immaculately fast and accurate rider, but has yet to turn lap times into a race win. He’s running out of time, but will be trying hard, if testing performances are anything to go by, although only tenth at Jerez. Toseland will start the season not only lagging on lap times as he struggles with the Bridgestone switch, but with two soberingly huge 160kmh high-sides already this year, at Qatar and Jerez. Luckily not badly hurt, he’ll have to try to chalk them up to experience. SAN CARLOS HONDA Toni Elias is one of a small number of riders who have not only beaten Rossi, but to have rattled him several times with his wild cornering style. And knocked him off once. Erratically brilliant, and vice versa, the talented Spaniard has been rewarded with a factory Honda to mark his return to the highly professional team run by former 125 champion Fausto Gresini. It remains to be seen whether the Gresini team will be as closely factory supported as Tech 3, but in the past it has operated hand in glove with HRC, and good results from Elias (ninth at Jerez) could see it again. Trouble is, like Dovizioso, he’s been having trouble getting used to the peaky factory motor. Gresini frequently repeats his faith in the talent and future 50 of second rider Alex de Angelis, in his second year of the team. And is frequently called on to do so, for the San Marino rider has a propensity for being the first to crash when the opportunity arises, and was 15th at the last tests. for the forthcoming season … with the rather bleak proviso that no further development would be forthcoming. Since the factory, relative newcomers (2002) to modern MotoGP racing, has already been railroaded into back- tracking once, there is understandable optimism in the otherwise rather modest Hayate garage that they may be embarrassed into doing so again … if Melandri can prove himself and his machine worthy of further support. Placing 12th at Jerez tests was a first step on this path, but not a very big one.