Luca Montiron, formerly of Pramac and now managing director of the Konica Minolta Honda team, has revealed that he expects his new team to occupy an existing grid place next season – but will be able to find a new entry if needed.
When the announcement of the new team - which will field double race-winner Makoto Tamada - was made, the question of finding a place on the 2005 MotoGP grid remained unanswered.
Grid places in MotoGP are currently limited to seven 'factory' teams (two for Honda and one each for Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Ducati and Aprilia) and five 'franchised' teams (Team KR, Pons, Tech 3, d'Antin and WCM). KTM had also been due to enter a factory team in 2005.
The second Honda factory team entry is used by Team Gresini. Honda was given the additional entry for helping fill the 2002 premier-class grid with NSR 500s at a time when there was a shortage of machinery due to the debut of the new four-strokes.
Although Max Biaggi's Repsol Honda ride has yet to be officially confirmed, it is surely a formality and so - with the seats at Gresini and Pons already filled - Montiron needs to look beyond the current Honda teams for a grid place.
According to Montiron, the solution is likely to involve taking an existing grid place from a team that drops out of MotoGP before next season.
"Probably I'll take an existing entry seat from (an) actual MotoGP team that should be not participating next season," Montiron told Crash.net
. "In the worst case I'll obtain one additional entry seat from HRC."
Aprilia would be the obvious candidate for leaving the premier-class, but with official confirmation of a MotoGP withdraw still to come it would be risky to rely totally on such a development – particularly as Pramac may yet take over the RS Cube project.
Montiron states that such a 'worst case' scenario - where all the existing grid places remain occupied - would be resolved by obtaining an additional entry from HRC (presumably in a similar situation to Team Gresini).
Other sources have also confirmed that the Konica Minolta Honda team could be viewed as a new HRC entry (and so not need to find an existing grid place), but this possibility has caused surprise since it wasn't widely known that such a third HRC entry was available...