The LCR Honda team has announced that Playboy will be its title sponsor at select events during the 2009 MotoGP season.
Lucio Cecchinello's satellite squad, which will field Randy de Puniet for a second season in 2009, has a history of punching above its weight in terms of attracting sponsors - but the Playboy deal is by far the most significant in the team's short MotoGP history.
The initial agreement with the Italian arm of the Playboy empire will see the bunny logo and branding present as title sponsor on LCR's RC212V during this weekend's Jerez test and then rounds two and three of the world championship, at Motegi (Japan) and back at Jerez (Spain). Playboy will not to be present at the Qatar season-opener on April 12.
After round three, Cecchinello hopes to secure further title sponsorship on a race-by-race basis.
“We have been in touch with Playboy US for a long time and, taking advantage of the opportunity given by the presence of some American top executives part of Hugh Hefner entourage during his latest visit to Europe, we have defined the guidelines of a project allowing us to start negotiations with some of this evergreen brand's global licensees,” said Cecchinello.
“Playboy Italy has positively assessed the project and confirmed the sponsorship for the early stage of the season (MotoGP Championship Launch during the tests in Jerez de la Frontera, GP in Japan and Spain as Title Sponsor, GP in Qatar... unfortunately, we all know the kind of problems for that) linking it to their activities in the view of relaunching the magazine in Italy.
“Currently, there are further ongoing negotiations with licensees in more countries, who have been presented with our 'projects by event' concept, which does not imply any millionaire investments”.
“We are really pleased to have signed this sponsorship agreement”, added Alessandro Ferri, director of Playboy Italia. “The women-motors pair has always been a winning pair for our readership and we are glad to offer it to our readers together with LCR Honda Team”.
LCR Honda entered the MotoGP class with Casey Stoner in 2006, when the future (Ducati) world champion claimed the team's first pole and podium on his way to eighth in the standings.
Carlos Checa finished 14th overall for LCR in 2007, with de Puniet - whose race results were far lower than his practice and qualifying performances - just 15th in 2008.