MOTOGP » Toni Elias
Toni Elias joined Alex de Angelis at Honda Gresini in 2009, the team Elias previously rode for in 2006 and 2007, and was aiming to return to race-winning form thanks to the offer of a ‘factory’ RC212V.
Like previous Gresini riders Marco Melandri and Sete Gibernau, Elias came to doubt just how ‘factory’ his bike actually was, but he took a podium at Brno and finished as the top non-factory team RCV rider in seventh overall.
Unfortunately, Elias still lost his seat, with Gresini signing up Melandri and Marco Simoncelli for 2010. Toni was openly frustrated at his lack of MotoGP options and ultimately chose to stay at Gresini, but step down to Moto2 - with the firm aim of returning to MotoGP as soon as possible.
During 2008, Elias had been the only rider other than Casey Stoner to take the Ducati Desmosedici to a podium finish, courtesy of consecutive second and third places at Brno and Misano for the Alice Team.
Those results made Elias the first ever satellite Ducati MotoGP rider to take more than one podium finish, and he finished the season with almost double the points of Stoner's factory team-mate Melandri.
However, Toni's next best race result was only seventh place and, because of that inconsistency, he finished the season 12th in the standings - matching his 2007 ranking.
Elias is well-grounded in motorcycle racing, his grandfather was a road-racer and his dad was a ten times Spanish motocross champion as well as running a bike shop in Manresa, north-west of Barcelona. So there was some degree of inevitability about young Toni's eventual immersion in motorcycle racing.
Elias entered made his full time 125cc World Championship debut in 2000 with Honda, won two races during his second season, then moved swiftly into the 250cc class with Aprilia - and won a race during his debut season.
Toni's second quarter-litre season saw him win five races - more than any other rider - and he also scored five pole positions in a row at the back-end of the season. Had it not been for a last lap crash in Rio, while leading, he might well have been world champion that year, but instead he was ranked third.
Back on a Honda in 2004, he won in Portugal, but never recaptured the form he had shown the previous season. The seven rostrum finishes showed he was more than simply 'on the pace' but the frustration of seeing his fierce rival Dani Pedrosa cruise to the title weighed heavily on him.
After the relative disappointment of that 2004 season, it was easy for Yamaha to prise him away with the lure of a MotoGP ride, especially as Pedrosa was to remain in the quarter-litre class to defend his title.
Elias' aggressive style adapted quickly to the 990cc four-stroke but, in a pattern that was to be repeated in later seasons, Toni was sidelined by injury just as he was getting into his stride - although a sixth place at the penultimate round gave the MotoGP paddock a timely reminder of his talent.
Elias moved to Gresini Honda for 2006, where he was paired with Marco Melandri. Fourth in the season opener suggested it was to be Elias' breakthrough year, but he was still to climb the podium by the time he was injured at Assen just before the midpoint of the season.
Heading into the penultimate round at Portugal and Elias' MotoGP future looked in severe doubt. Toni had only broken the top ten twice since his return from injury six races ago and a new contract for 2007 looked unlikely...
...Until, that is, Elias rode the race of his life at Estoril - charging from 11th on the grid to pass Valentino Rossi for victory on the run to the chequered flag. With Honda's title hope Nicky Hayden taken out by team-mate Pedrosa early in the race, Elias had also deprived Rossi of points that would prove crucial to Hayden's eventual title success.
That ride saved Elias' career and he was duly re-signed by Gresini for 2007, but once again Toni's hopes were blighted by injury - this time a leg breaking accident, once again at Assen. Elias took one podium before the fall (elbowing an angry Rossi out of the way in the process) and then another after his comeback, during a year in which he and Melandri were the only satellite Honda riders to appear on the podium.Career Highlights:
- 1992 : 1st Manresa Pocketbike Cup
- 1993 : 3rd Catalan Pocketbike Championship
- 1994 : 2nd Catalan Pocketbike Championship
- 1995 : 10th Catalan Scooter Championship
- 1996 : 4th Catalan Scooter Championship
- 1997 : 1st ScooterMania Cup
- 1998 : 23rd 125 Spanish Championship Honda
- 1999 : 3rd 125 Spanish Championship Honda
- 2000 : 20th 125 World Championship Honda
- 2001 : 3rd 125 World Championship Honda - race wins 2
- 2002 : 4th 250 World Championship Aprilia - race wins 1
- 2003 : 3rd 250 World Championship Aprilia - race wins 5
- 2004 : 4th 250cc World Championship Honda - race wins 1
- 2005 : 12th MotoGP World Championship Yamaha.
- 2006 : 9th MotoGP World Championship Honda - race wins 1.
- 2007: 12th MotoGP World Championship Honda.
- 2008: 12th MotoGP World Championship Ducati
2009: 7th MotoGP World Championship Honda