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GP Week : Issue 65
De Puniet stays put, Elias linked to FB Corse WITH all the major MotoGP places settled and the choice satellite Yamaha Tech 3 seats taken, much-improved French racer Randy de Puniet has signed up to stay one more year with the privateer LCR Honda team. De Puniet had been a strong candidate for the Tech 3 ride until both places were taken by the Texan pairing of Edwards and Spies, and he had been keeping his options open. At the same time, team owner Lucchio Cecchinello, pioneer of one-event sponsorship packages, was increasingly anxious to keep him on strength, after a dramatic improvement in performance. De Puniet was previously the crasher of the class, but this year has added reliable race finishes to his previously intermittent turn of speed, including a rostrum in the rain at the British GP. He is equal eighth overall with Alex de Angelis, vying for the position of top Honda privateer. Meanwhile Spanish reports link displaced Toni Elias with a possible move to FB Corse, the proposed new Italian team, planning to enter MotoGP next year with its own ex-BMW three-cylinder motor. De Angelis is also a candidate, as is dumped Suzuki stalwart Chris Vermeulen. Few seats remain to be finalised for 2010. Scot Honda is expected to keep Gabor Talmacsi, unless Hiro Aoyama can come up with sponsorship to match the Hungarian's MOL petro-dollars; the second seat at Pramac Ducati is still open. NEXT weekend's meeting of the GP Commission is expected to confirm details of the manufacturers' plan to provide lease engines for private MotoGP teams, driving the final stake into the heart of plans to open the premier class to second-tier production- based machines. "The MSMA [manufacturers' association] had already agreed in principle, but the details were not filled in," said race director Paul Butler, who will attend the GP Commission meeting. He believed that Dorna's conditions had now been fully met. Dorna had proposed the production-based alternative, and required a long-term commitment to supply at an affordable price. "I am expecting to hear that Dorna and the MSMA have agreed, and that Dorna is content," said Butler. The proposal to lease 800cc prototype engines would prevail over Dorna's proposal because it fits within the current rule structure. Opening the class to 1000cc production engines would require rewriting the technical rules, he said. Production-based MotoGP threat fades away Lease engines may come sooner than 2011 14