Gresini is a double 125cc...
Gresini is a double 125cc World Grand Prix champion (1985, 1987) himself, and his title-winning Garelli is displayed proudly in his offices.
Melandri’s MotoGP wins drove the team’s total to 13, where it stood until Toni Elias’ epic win over Rossi in the 2006 Portuguese GP at Estoril. Gresini Racing’s 14 MotoGP wins are by far the most of any satellite team in the MotoGP class. No other satellite team has finished second in the championship — Gresini Racing has done it three times.
When the 250cc class was converted to Moto2 in 2010, Gresini jumped in, despite a lack of sponsorship. His reward was the first ever Moto2 World Championship with Elias. The team continued the Moto2 project in 2011 and will field two riders again in 2012, along with a rider in the new Moto3 class.
“For me it’s an important strategy to have every category,” Gresini said. And, though he doesn’t believe CRT machines will be competitive, he understands why the sub-category was invented.
Kato’s 2003 RC211V sits in...
Kato’s 2003 RC211V sits in the lobby of the Gresini Racing offices, along with other memorabilia such as the fairing from his 2002 bike in the background.
“We need a big change and the reason is to decrease the cost and invest in new and young riders. This is a process. Now we are working in five or six years with the same riders with no change at all. And the manufacturers have to pay the riders and satellite teams pay a lot of money to bring this rider, but they don’t have the possibility to invest in the young rider. The cost of the bike is too much. And the risk is that we don’t have a sponsor to finance this project for young riders because the cost is very, very expensive. And this is the reason it’s clear: it’s necessary to change the system. The manufacturers, for me, don’t have a good focus on the problem. It’s not a problem for the manufacturers but for Dorna.”
He continued by pointing out that each of the manufacturers will field two prototypes in 2012 and 2013, at least, with the option of producing two prototypes to lease for €1 million ($1.3 million), plus more for crash damage. The €1 million lease bike will certainly be lower spec than his current machine, but the lease price is a few million euros less than he’s spending now. He would rather have two prototypes, but, he said, “I don’t have a way and so I changed my way.
Marco Melandri was another...
Marco Melandri was another one of Gresini’s star pupils, with the former 250cc Grand Prix World Champion finishing second in the 2005 MotoGP championship with two victories.
“My team always had two riders in MotoGP. Now I have one CRT or I have only one rider. But it’s a difficult strategy for the team to have only one rider to sell the project for the sponsor. My sponsor (San Carlo) puts in a lot of money.” San Carlo, the leading snack and chips company in Italy, could use that same money for a quicker return or for television advertising, he pointed out. “For this reason for one rider only it’s no good. Good teams have two riders in MotoGP. It’s different than other categories. MotoGP represents the top. For me there’s no way to continue this same system.”
The Gresini Racing team is something of a farm team for HRC. Gresini enjoys working with young riders and riders new to Honda. When Marco Melandri joined the team in 2005, after two years in MotoGP on a Yamaha, he was prevented from seeing his lap times at the first test. Said Gresini, “It’s important to ride, to think about the bike and changing parts and giving his feeling to the team. This is a project that’s too important. Normally it’s a minimum of one year to have a good relationship, to understand the rider and staff.” Melandri, who won the 250cc title in 2002, finished second his first year with the team. It remains his best MotoGP finish.
“Sure, it’s an advantage” to have young riders, Gresini said. “Normally his mentality is much more open compared to the (veteran) rider. You can still teach them everything. This is the key to access to their mind.”
With Simoncelli’s death, Gresini made the decision to replace him with a non-Italian rider. Part of it was circumstantial; Andrea Dovizioso, the highest ranked Italian in the 2011 MotoGP World Championship, had already signed with Monster Yamaha Tech 3. None of the Italians in Moto2 were considered fast enough to graduate to the MotoGP class and many had already signed to stay put. In a strange twist, Gresini was saved from putting a journeyman or worse on the bike by the indecision of Suzuki, which dithered for most of the season about committing to 2012. A little more than a week before Suzuki announced its decision to suspend the team, rider Alvaro Bautista signed with Gresini.
Colin Edwards (left) and Sete...
Colin Edwards (left) and Sete Gibernau (right) hoist team owner Gresini on the podium of the 2004 Qatar Grand Prix, where Gibernau and Edwards finished 1-2.
Gresini didn’t attend the first test in Sepang, which was both Bautista’s first on the RC213V and the first for Showa since being replaced by Öhlins on all Honda machinery at the start of the 2010 season. Gresini wasn’t the only team Showa approached — LCR Honda had an offer, but didn’t want to burden MotoGP rookie Bradl with developing the suspension — but it was the only team to bite. Gresini Racing will use Showa across all platforms. The upside is that Gresini Racing is Showa’s only MotoGP team, the downside is that Bautista has to do all the development. “Alvaro isn’t in a hurry,” Gresini said. “Alvaro is a very intelligent rider. He stays calm. He wants to improve slowly.”
Bautista has an outgoing personality, as did Simoncelli. His nature and willingness to learn makes it easy for the team to make the transition, to concentrate on the task at hand. But for Gresini, it will be some time, if ever, before he gets over Simoncelli’s death.
“All the time I’m working with bikes there’s much love for (motorcycles). Now it’s difficult, it’s different,” he said. “Marco’s death, it changed many things. Now, in that moment, for me it’s no good now. It’s not a big love anymore. The work, I still love it, but to go to the circuit I don’t really feel like it. This is my feeling at the moment. I think it will be necessarily a long process.” SR