HRC has hinted it could run a three bikes in 2011 as it looks to add Casey Stoner
to its rider line-up, rather than have him replace anyone.
Honda's confirmation that Stoner will join from Ducati threatens to place pressure on current riders Dani Pedrosa
and Andrea Dovizioso, with the latter Italian seemingly likely to be given any potential boot by virtue of his team-mate's affiliation with title sponsor Repsol.
However, whilst in the process of welcoming Stoner to the team, HRC vice-president Shuhei Nakamoto confirmed it is the company's intentions to retain both of its riders for the foreseeable future.
“In the factory Honda squad we already have two very strong and experienced riders in Dani Pedrosa
and Andrea Dovizioso
who are performing very well and currently hold second and third positions in the 2010 World Championship,” he said. “HRC hopes also to retain these two riders for next year - giving us what would be a truly formidable line-up."
What form this takes remains to be seen, however, with Honda potentially forced into running three factory bikes should Dovizioso fulfil his rumoured 'performance-based' contract. Although he is yet to win this season, the Italian has shown good form with four podium finishes in seven races, while he is currently third in the overall standings.
Energy drinks giants Red Bull is also mooted to be looking to get involved with HRC, a move that could see them join Repsol as a main sponsor or give sole backing to any possible third machine.
At worst, Dovizioso – working on the assumption that it would be he, rather than Honda stalwart Pedrosa, forced to change - could revert back to a satellite Honda team in 2011, but receive backing from HRC, much like Toni Elias
did with Gresini in 2009.
For the moment, Honda is keeping quiet about its future plans, merely stating that it will reveal more details later in the year.