until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Could Honda just give up on MotoGP?

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Things have never looked worse for Honda in MotoGP than they do right now.

Three quarters of its contracted riders are looking for a way to break their deals for next season (the only exception, Taka Nakagami, owes his MotoGP career to Honda and wouldn’t get a ride anywhere else now), its sole satellite team is being courted by KTM, and the current RC213V has developed a reputation as a rider-breaker.

Marc Marquez

With all that in mind, it’s not really much of a wonder that people have started to speculate whether Honda even has a future in MotoGP.

But, with racing being a part of the firm’s DNA almost since its very origin, is there really a possibility that we’d see a MotoGP championship without the HRC badge in the near future?

Right now Honda sits fourth in the constructors’ championship, ahead only of Yamaha (and, at least, one place better than last year’s wooden spoon). The factory Repsol Honda team is last in the teams’ championship. It doesn’t have a single top-10 finish in a Sunday race this season. Joan Mir’s 11th at Portimao is as good as it’s got in the actual grands prix.

In the riders’ standings, injuries mean that both Marc Marquez and Mir are having a torrid year, with the six-time world champion in 19th and his 2020-championship winning team-mate all the way down in 26th.

Only Alex Rins, a surprise winner at the Circuit of the Americas on a satellite LCR bike, is inside the top 15 in 13th. And he hasn’t scored since that amazing Austin weekend three months ago.

Rins’ victory is Honda’s only MotoGP win since, quite remarkably, the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix that October, the last time that Marquez stood on the top step of the podium.


Beyond the championship standings, though, there’s another story: the long injury list that has been the result of an RC213V that loves to hurt its riders. Marquez has broken bones twice, first at the opening round at Portimao and again at the Sachsenring – a track where he’d essentially been undefeated before. Mir has missed multiple rounds thanks to his Mugello crash.

And, worst of all, Rins has sat out multiple races and looks set to miss more even despite the series’ five-week summer break after shattering his leg at Mugello last month. He faces an extensive rehabilitation period.

The result of all that is myriad rumours about imminent departures from Honda.

Rins seems all but locked into a switch to Yamaha despite his LCR contract for 2024, with the LCR team itself also reported to be speaking to KTM about ditching Honda all together after nearly two decades together in MotoGP.

Mir is reportedly in talks with Gresini Ducati about doing the same thing, a move that would reunite him with his 2020 championship-winning crew chief Frankie Carchedi.

And Marquez, Honda’s star prize, has refused to deny suggestions that he’s talking to other teams and team boss Alberto Puig has confirmed that Honda wouldn’t hold him against his will if he wants to go.

Marc Marquez

That presents a grim picture for the state of Honda. But is it really enough to break the will of a company whose whole mantra has been racing almost since its creation?

Founded by Soichiro Honda in 1946 and producing its first motorcycle three years later in 1949, it first decided to go racing in 1954 by sending a team to prepare the way for an Isle of Man TT debut, something that finally came in 1959 – an event where it walked away from with the team prize after taking sixth through eighth and 11th in the 125cc class.

Clearly capturing hearts with this unexpected success, it wasn’t long after that Soichiro Honda uttered his famous line: “without racing, there is no Honda”, a mantra that it’s largely lived true to since.

But apart from the (rather untypical for a Japanese brand) romance of its commitment to racing, there’s a more important financial reason why there’s no real reason to worry about Honda replicating Suzuki’s surprise MotoGP departure: the commercial success that it still enjoys, and which is directly linked to its racing pedigree.

Walk through any small town in South East Asia, and you’re all but guaranteed to see a flash of Repsol orange on a small-capacity motorcycle or underbone scooter. Honda sells 19 million motorcycles a year across the globe, dwarfing every other manufacturer by a considerable margin, and while that number might not be linked to racing success, it’s invariably linked to racing heritage.

Rossi's Crossed Up Wheelie, Malaysian Motogp, 2003

There’s a huge brand name recognition that comes from its decades of competition, a history that’s longer in some cases than the very countries in which it records some of its biggest sales.

Honda is racing, and racing is Honda to many millions. While that continues to be so, it’s not going anywhere.

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