Every Gresini Honda MotoGP rider has been ranked

With the Gresini Racing Team stepping back into the role of MotoGP satellite team for the 2022 season after seven years as a junior partner in Aprilia’s factory effort, it marks an important return to potential glory days for one of the series’ most celebrated independent efforts.

For many years it was the benchmark by which other satellite teams were measured and remains the most successful independent team of four-stroke Grand Prix racing’s first decade, thanks in large part to the illustrious list of names that have claimed Fausto Gresini hired over the years.

And with Enea Bastianini and Fabio Di Giannantonio stripping the covers off their striking new Ducatis for the upcoming season, what better time to look back on this long list of extremely talented riders?

17 Miguel Duhamel

Miguel Duhamel Gresini Honda Laguna Seca MotoGP

Canadian Superbike star Duhamel was thrown into the MotoGP bear pit for a single weekend in 2007, replacing injured Toni Elias at Laguna Seca.

However, the 39-year-old (who had completed a 500cc season a full 15 years earlier) has never really raced, having not found comfort on the Spaniard’s RC213V – not quite what you’d expect from the hugely successful AMA Superbike -racer expected…

16 Bryan Start

Bryan Staring MotoGP crash Gresini Honda

MotoGP’s CRT project to bolster ailing grids eventually paid off – but not for Australian Staring, who was a CRT rider for Gresini when being in that category meant your chances of success were limited at best.

Staring finished his only Grand Prix season with just two points in a year where others, on arguably inferior machines, consistently scored points.

15 Ryuichi Kiyonari

Ryuichi Kiyonari Gresini Honda MotoGP

At just 21 and with no experience on the world stage save for a single WSS podium a few weeks earlier, Kiyonari joined the team and was a replacement for fellow Japanese rider Daijiro Kato after his tragic death at Suzuka in 2003.

The young rider – who went on to become a three-time British Superbike Champion – was against it from the start and never really got to grips with the MotoGP machinery, ending the year 20th overall and with a best performance of just 11th.

14Kousuke Akiyoshi

Kousuke Akiyoshi Gresini Honda MotoGP

All-Japan Superbike star Akiyoshi rode just once for Gresini, replacing Hiroshi Aoyama when he was in turn promoted to Repsol Honda for the 2011 Dutch TT to replace injured Dani Pedrosa.

The Honda test driver didn’t disgrace himself either and finished 13th in Assen.

13 Hiroshi Aoyama

Hiroshi Aoyama Gresini MotoGP Honda

Aoyama’s only year with Gresini in 2011 was a bit disappointing by the team’s standards, although the former 250cc World Champion arguably did nothing wrong.

Consistent all year with just two DNFs, it was just a case of no fireworks from him, with a best of fourth and half his finishes in the top 10.

12 Shinya Nakano

Shinya Nakano Gresini MotoGP Honda

Former Kawasaki factory rider Nakano, who joined the team for a single season in 2008, had a solid if unspectacular time at Gresini.

He finished all but one race in the points but never on the podium and finished the year in a respectable ninth place, his best championship finish of his seven seasons of four-stroke MotoGP racing.

11Michele Pirro

Michele Pirro Gresini Honda MotoGP

Pirro, who is obviously best known as Ducati’s test rider and injury replacement, actually made his MotoGP debut with Gresini after leaving his Moto2 team, with a win just days after the death of Marco Simoncelli, one of many bittersweet moments in the club’s history.

Gresini’s first CRT rider and on an FTR Honda MGP12 that wasn’t quite on par with some of his rivals’ bikes, the Italian nonetheless enjoyed a decent debut year, finishing 15th overall, second in the rookie-of-the- Year standings behind Stefan Bradl and third CRT behind impressive Aprilia pairing Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet.

10 Michael Fabrizio

Michel Fabrizio Gresini Honda MotoGP

Fabrizio was a Superbike rider in 2007 despite an early attempt in MotoGP with the failed WCM Harris team in 2003 and was drafted into Gresini for the German Grand Prix to replace Toni Elias.

It was his second attempt to drive for the team after breaking his collarbone in training while replacing Elias at Donington the year before.

He was finally allowed to race at the Sachsenring – with a solid top 10 result against established works rivals.

9Scott Redding

Scott Redding Gresini Honda MotoGP

Much was expected of 2014’s rookie Redding, although by then it was obvious that Honda’s production RCV1000R racer wasn’t the bike to race, thanks to a dramatically different design philosophy than some of the other machines in the class. But despite this significant disadvantage, the Brit delivered an impressive season for Gresini.

He finished the year in 12th place and impressive with just two clear points, which was enough to put him second in the rookie of the year standings and second in the open class, with him in both cases was only beaten by two different Espargaro brothers, Pol and Aleix.

8 Alex de Angelis

Alex de Angelis Gresini Honda MotoGP

Occasionally overlooked in the grand scheme of MotoGP achievements in the mid-noughties, Sammarinese rider de Angelis has had quite an impressive stint at Gresini over the years. Fourteenth and then eighth in the championship in his two years with the team, he’s only lit up the world once – with an impressive second place finish behind Jorge Lorenzo but ahead of local hero Nicky Hayden at Indianapolis in 2009.

7 Colin Edwards

Colin Edwards Gresini Honda MotoGP

Two-time World Superbike Champion Edwards, who joined the team for his second season in the premier class after a tough rookie year with Aprilia’s bloodthirsty RS Cube, faced high expectations – and while he had an impressive year, he was ultimately beaten by his team-mate Sete Gibernau outshines.

Finishing the season fifth overall and with two podiums was by no means a disappointing year for the Texan – in fact, good enough to earn him as Valentino Rossi’s teammate for 2005.

6 Tony Elias

Toni Elias Gresini Honda MotoGP

Elias spent three seasons with the Gresini team from 2006 to 2009 and may never have fully realized his potential despite the occasional good result. With a best seventh in the championship and four podiums during his time there, he was regularly fast but mostly fought for the top ten, not podiums.

He did, however, do what many on this list tried and failed for Fausto Gresini, and he did it in incredible style, stealing a race win from Rossi. Coming from 11th on the grid to race through the field, he won on the line by just 0.002s, arguably costing Rossi the 2006 crown.

5 Alvaro Bautista

Alvaro Bautista Gresini Honda MotoGP

One of the longest-serving Gresini racers thanks to both his stint on a Honda and his seasons in Aprilia colors, Bautista was the best of the rest at a time when MotoGP was dominated by factory bikes.

The premier class had come a long way from the early days when Gresini’s satellite bikes could fight for wins almost every weekend – but Bautista could still deliver on occasion.

Three podiums in three seasons and top finishes of fifth and sixth in the championship is a notable record at a time when being an independent team had become much more difficult.

4 Marco Simoncelli

Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda MotoGP

Simoncelli was the right character for MotoGP at exactly the right time. Fierce, easygoing, aggressive and hard to hate, the young Italian came to the series with Fausto Gresini to shake things up and they did just that.

Always the center of attention, not only for his on-track antics but also for his fun-loving personality off the bike, it’s no surprise that he quickly became a fan favorite.

And while it took some time for his findings to catch up, he was just beginning to catch on when the unimaginable happened in Sepang in 2011. Just days after his best result of his career at Phillip Island, Simoncelli’s death remains a black mark in the history of the sport and the question of what would have been possible on factory Gresini-colored Hondas for 2012 will sadly remain unanswered.

3 Daijiro Kato

Daijiro Kato Gresini Honda MotoGP

For a team riddled with tragedy throughout its history, the loss of Kato in a crash at his home race in 2003 is perhaps the one that sparked modern MotoGP racing’s greatest what-if. Kato has been a sensation since arriving at Gresini in 2000, finishing first third and then first in the 250cc championship before moving up to the premier class.

Finishing seventh in his first season as a MotoGP rider and almost immediately on the podium, despite starting the season on a two-stroke NSR500 and only moving up to an RC211V halfway through, he started the 2003 Championship with so much potential that we a terrible accident at Suzuka (and a medical reaction that raised serious questions) denied the chance to see it fulfilled.

2 Marco Melandri

Marco Melandri Gresini Honda MotoGP

Second, fourth and fifth in the Championship, against the might of Rossi and the rest of the MotoGP world, on satellite machines, means Melandri’s record remains one of the most impressive of any independent rider in the modern era. A regular rival of his close friend Rossi, he achieved five victories at the peak of team strength in his first three seasons with Gresini.

Perhaps more indicative of his talent and success with the team, he was the only Honda rider alongside Dani Pedrosa to take an 800cc RC212 to the podium in 2007, battling a difficult machine designed specifically for the Spaniard , even if the rest of the season was a bit disappointing compared to the 990s era.

1 set Gibernau

Sete Gibernau Gresini Honda MotoGP

For most of Valentino Rossi’s dominant years, Gibernau was the only man who could consistently challenge him – and one has to remember that Gibernau’s own story would be very different without the all-conquering Italian.

Two-time runner-up in 2003 and 2004, eight-time race winner and regular podium finisher, his record is nothing short of exceptional for a satellite rider.

What stands out even more than this record are the memories of Gibernau and Rossi rolling the dice week after week. Sure, there was always something of a cat playing with a mouse, but at a time when the sport was dominated by one name, the Spaniard was one of the few drivers who could bring a bit of excitement to the races.