Fausto Gresini says Qatar marks new start for squad after Marco Simoncelli's death last year
|By Matt Beer||Tuesday, April 3rd 2012, 13:56 GMT|
Gresini Honda team boss Fausto Gresini says the 2012 MotoGP season-opener in Qatar this weekend will mark a new start for his squad after the death of Marco Simoncelli last year.
Simoncelli had been set to stay with the team for a third year, again riding a factory-specification Honda, before he was killed in an accident in the penultimate 2011 grand prix in Malaysia.
Gresini still contested the Valencia season finale in the wake of the tragedy but sees Qatar this weekend as the real start of its new era.
It will field ex-Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista on its MotoGP bike and is also entering a CRT machine for its Moto2 graduate Michele Pirro.
"This is a chance for Alvaro to show his ability but also for us to start looking to the future because Marco's tragedy hit us hard," said Gresini. "Marco is and always will be in our hearts, the pain is still fresh and strong but we decided to carry on, we are doing it with Alvaro and this is the best way.
"It also helps that we have a new challenge in the CRT project with Michele Pirro, making his debut in MotoGP."
Gresini is aiming for a top six finish with Bautista - despite some frustration over testing crashes.
"We want to do well and we think we can because Alvaro has a good bike and every chance of running at the front," he said. "Testing went quite well and we have the potential to be fighting for fourth, fifth or sixth place.
"We suffered at Jerez because of two minor but needless crashes that our engineers have been studying so that we can help Alvaro get his confidence back as soon as possible."
Pirro has had little pre-season running on the CRT FTR-Honda, but Gresini said he was pleased that his team already had a foot in the CRT door even if the early races would be tough.
"It is a completely new project and we are a little behind with it, having done less testing than we would have liked at this stage," Gresini admitted. "Really we have only been out at Jerez but the feedback was good, the bike is sound and the engine is strong.
"There is a lot of work to do and we know it but I am fascinated by the concept of CRT and I am proud of the enthusiasm shown by my guys to get involved. CRT has virtually been forced on us by economic circumstances but I think it will be a successful formula and Team San Carlo Honda Gresini can be a part of that success."