by Peter McLaren

In an added twist to the thorny issue of who gets factory Honda machinery, the satellite Camel Honda team has today announced that Max Biaggi will receive Repsol backing for the rest of the season.

As a part of the agreement with the Spanish oil company, which is the title sponsor for the official factory Honda outfit of Nicky Hayden and Alex Barros, the Repsol brand name will be displayed on Biaggi's RC211V for the remaining races of the 2004 season.

"We are very pleased to announce the renewal of the partnership, after many years working together in the past, with Repsol which will guarantee the provision of the highest quality racing products, specifically designed for our RC211V, to cover all our technical requirements," stated Camel Honda team principal Sito Pons.

Repsol already has links with Pons due to their sponsorship of his Formula Nissan team, but the latest deal - which apparently doesn't include Pramac run team-mate Makoto Tamada - is most significant because it appears to partially remove one of the main obstacles between Biaggi and greater HRC support.

Since the Roman is now - even if to a small degree - a 'Repsol rider', the Spanish giant is much less likely to block any moves to increase his HRC backing. Indeed, Repsol could potentially welcome such a development if, as is looking increasingly likely, Barros and Hayden are out of title contention.

Previously it was believed that Repsol would want to protect their position - and investment - with the factory team by opposing any plans to hand the top Camel and Telefonica riders equal HRC treatment.

However, the loss of Valentino Rossi to Yamaha combined with the rise of Biaggi and Sete Gibernau could well make such a position untenable - and the timing of the Biaggi deal, three races into the season, would suggest that Repsol have realised this.

Biaggi is currently second in the title chase, ten points behind world championship leader Gibernau, with the Spaniard - whose team is backed by the rival Castrol brand - having won two races.

Gibernau is already believed to be on Honda's privileged list, due to his excellent early season form, although this has been publicly denied... so far.

Repsol riders Barros and Hayden are currently fourth and seventh in the championship, 28 and 39 points behind Gibernau.

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