JT International and the Honda Pons team have revealed the birth of a new partnership that will see the tobacco giant's Camel brand holding title sponsorship rights of the MotoGP operation for the next three years.

The agreement between one of the most famous cigarette brands and a team with the pedigree of Honda Pons - which has 20 years experience in the world championship - is a relatively unique one in world motorsport, following the exit of tobacco brands in recent years.

The deal will take Camel and Pons up to the internationally agreed date by which tobacco sponsorship is to be stubbed out, in 2006.

"We are extremely excited about the new partnership with Honda Pons," commented Patrick Enright, the brand's commercial vice-president at JTI, "To enter into the MotoGP arena as title sponsor of a team is a significant milestone for Camel, and we are delighted that the Camel brand will be represented around the world by such a prestigious and successful team."

The Pons team, managed by two-time world champion and current IRTA president Sito Pons and headed by technical genius Antonio Cobas, is one of the most successful in MotoGP, finishing as one of the top three outfits in each of the last three seasons and takes up Camel colours after running West sponsorship for the past two years.

"We are delighted to be able to welcome Camel into the world of MotoGP, and are particularly honoured that they have chosen to work with our team for the next three years," Sito said today.

"Right from the beginning, Camel have demonstrated a whole-heated commitment to the new MotoGP project and the passion, enthusiasm and experience they bring is a great plus, not only for our team, but also for the championship as a whole," he added. "Our aim, as always, is to win and now, with Camel's support, we have added the final piece to the jigsaw of what we hope will be a championship-winning combination of riders, team, bike and sponsor."

With the backing of Camel, the signing of 2002 championship runner-up Max Biaggi and third-placed Tohru Ukawa and a supply of the dominant Honda RC211V's, hopes are high for the season ahead.

"We are convinced that the technical expertise and experience of the Camel Pramac Pons team, coupled with the brilliance of born-winners Max Biaggi and Tohru Ukawa, will bring much success both on and off the track to everyone involved in the project," stated Enright.

JTI is one of the top three global tobacco companies, with tobacco sales of $31.4billion in the year ending March 2002. The company owns three of the top five tobacco brands worldwide, including not only Camel, but also Mild Seven, sponsor of the Renault Formula One team.

While this is the Camel's first participation in motorcycle road racing since its association with Honda America in AMA competition, it has had a long time relationship with motorsports, most notably with its involvement in Formula One in the late 1980s and early '90s, with Jordan, Lotus, Benetton and Williams.

The official presentation of the Camel Pramac Pons team will take place at a venue to be confirmed in Barcelona, on the evening of 14 March 2003.

Today's announcement means that Makoto Tamada will be the only rider in Pramac livery this season, while the list of MotoGP teams still searching for a title sponsor is now reduced to Suzuki, Kawasaki [who maintain they're not searching for a sponsor] and the new Harris WCM team.