Following a sixth at Laguna Seca, Toni Elias believes it's not too late to turn around his 2009 MotoGP World Championship season.
The San Carlo Honda Gresini rider had been just 0.4sec from fifth in the US GP, and had also battled for a top six placing until the final corner at the previous Assen round, when an overenthusiastic passing attempt resulted in a post race penalty.
“It is important that we have started to find the right way forward at this stage of the season because there is still a long way to go and perhaps if we had taken any longer it would be too late,” admitted Elias, who sits 13th in the championship with his factory spec Honda. “We have had eight tough races but we're starting to find the limits of this bike and we still have nine races left in which to push it to the maximum.”
Elias was the first rider across the line at Laguna Seca with the softer compound rear tyre, and team manager Fausto Gresini hopes they can now find a set-up for the more popular harder option.
“We have made some big steps forward recently with Toni but we know there is much more to come because in Laguna Seca, for example, we were still using the softer tyre whereas our competitors are on the hard rubber,” said Gresini. “It is important for us to transfer his performance to the hard tyre so that he can take that extra step in terms of his pace over race distance and this is our target for the next two races [Sachsenring and Donington Park].”
Both Elias and team-mate Alex de Angelis are under pressure to perform, following the news that 250cc world champion Marco Simoncelli will ride for the team in 2010.
de Angelis, who has a satellite spec RC212V, sits one point and one place behind Elias in the championship - also with a best finish of sixth - and this weekend returns to a track where he claimed a career-best fourth in his rookie season.
"I have had so many good results at Sachsenring in the past, just the kind of results we could do with right now!” he said. “The German Grand Prix is definitely one of my favourites. I have a lot of affection for the Sachsenring circuit because I took my first pole there and I was on the podium every year from 2002 to 2007. The track is very technical, varied and without any long straights so it is important to have a good chassis set-up, more than a powerful engine. We're going through a difficult phase right now but we won't give up."