The San Carlo Honda Gresini team, which has lost out to fellow satellite RCV outfit LCR Honda at the last two rounds, will be aiming to restore its status as Honda's leading 'support' team at this weekend's French Grand Prix.
Despite the addition of a factory bike for Toni Elias, it was customer-spec team-mate Alex de Angelis that led the Gresini charge with sixth at the Qatar season opener.
However, since then the top non-Repsol Honda across the finish line has been the LCR bike of Randy de Puniet, who was eleventh in Japan and an impressive fourth at Jerez.
Meanwhile, ninth for Elias in Spain was Gresini's only top ten finish since Qatar, leaving principal Fausto Gresini - whose team finished second in the MotoGP World Championship in 2003, 2004 and 2005 - 'too angry to comment'.
The Italian is hoping for a revival this weekend, but de Puniet is sure to be fired-up for success at his home track.
"Le Mans has traditionally been a good circuit for our bikes,” said Gresini. “However, so far this season the weak points of our machines are in different areas and we know we have a lot of work to do to make sure we are competitive. We took some small steps forward at Jerez but I was very dissatisfied after the race and I am looking for much more this weekend.”
“Le Mans is a circuit I like and it suits my style because there is a lot of hard braking, but the reality is that if we don't find a good balance for the bike then it doesn't matter how much I like it,” noted Elias.
“After making a great start to the season with sixth place in Qatar we have struggled for set-up at Motegi and Jerez and I've had a couple of crashes, which are never helpful,” admitted de Angelis. “Nevertheless, I don't feel like we are entirely to blame and I have absolute faith in myself and my team that we can get back to the pace we know we are capable of.”
Meanwhile, de Puniet - now seventh in the championship and just six points behind factory Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso (fifth) - is seeking to play down home expectations after his best race result since 2007.
“The Jerez weekend was simply perfect for me and the squad, but we must keep our feet on the ground,” he said. “Racing here in Le Mans is always something special and the fans are very warm with me. But I have to keep my focus and get as consistent as possible. This track is very interesting, I like all the stop-and-go braking points. My bike is quite competitive now but we will probably miss some acceleration at this track.”
“I am very happy about Randy's result in Jerez. It was the real demonstration of Randy's potential and the team made a great work to set-up the RC212V 2009 spec,” said team manager Lucio Cecchinello who, like Gresini, is himself a former grand prix racer. “The rest of the season won't be easy as the factory bikes are very competitive but our target remains the top eight finish.”
If LCR has found the secret to setting up the 2009 Honda for Bridgestone tyres, then they are unlikely to be sharing it.
The top satellite Honda team of 2008, Team Scot, is presently 16th in the championship standings with rookie Yuki Takahashi.