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‘Did Honda pick the wrong Suzuki rider?’ is the wrong question

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

When they were team-mates at Suzuki, it’s fair to say that there was always close competition between Alex Rins and 2020 MotoGP world champion Joan Mir.

But, since the pair moved to Honda following the demise of the blue team at the end of 2022, Rins – despite being not at the factory team but satellite outfit LCR – has outscored Mir 47 points to five, prompting some to ask the question: did Honda promote the wrong rider into Repsol Honda colours?

Joan Mir Alex Rins Suzuki MotoGP

You can’t really fault that line of thinking. While Rins has so far managed to deliver Honda’s first non-Marquez victory in five years, Mir has made headlines only by crashing – something that is likely hard for him to take.

Scoring points in just one of the opening three races of the year, he came home a distant 11th at Portimao, with injury ruling him out of even starting at Termas de Rio Hondo and a crash taking him out of last weekend’s race at Austin.

His sprint race form is even worse, with two of his three attempts at the new format ending on the opening lap. All that means he currently sits 19th in the championship, a brutal 16 spots down on Rins.

But while a question of ‘did Honda get it wrong?’ might look salient on paper, history suggests that it might instead be a case of whether Mir picked the right team to be a part of.

Joan Mir Honda crash MotoGP COTA

Sure, Mir has so far had a difficult time as Marc Marquez’s team-mate – but that’s something that hardly comes as a surprise when you look at the previous holders of that seat.

Dani Pedrosa’s form faded away gradually after Marquez replaced Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo was forced to retire due to injury after a poor season, Alex Marquez knew even before racing the bike that he was losing the ride after one year, and Pol Espargaro never showed anything more than flashes of performance in Repsol colours, despite the expectation that the Honda should’ve suited him well.

It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what’s been going on – but one thing doesn’t exactly require a psychology degree to determine: it’s a lot easier mentally on racers to be a part of a satellite team (or, in fact, a part of just about any other team in the paddock) than it is to line up in Repsol Honda colours.

Dani Pedrosa Honda MotoGP crash


Whether it’s the pressure that comes from being Marquez’s team-mate, the atmosphere inside a team run by notoriously hard taskmaster Alberto Puig, the constant compulsion to perform or a combination of those and other factors, it’s difficult to tell without being inside the box – but when you look at the record of other riders to don the orange overalls, it’s quite clear.

It’s also an issue confounded by the amount of testing work being done every weekend by Mir and (when he’s not absent due to injury) Marquez.  The bike is still something of a dog, and Honda’s trying hard to improve it.

That’s not an easy task, and right now it’s involving a lot of race weekend work – work that ironically Rins started out his winning weekend at the Circuit of the Americas by complaining about not being involved enough in. Instead he’s being left largely to his own devices to concentrate on things like, well, winning races.

Would Rins have won in Texas on a Repsol Honda? It’s obviously hard to say, but looking at the precedent of other riders at the team, it’s hard to imagine his weekend there would have gone as straightforwardly.

Alex Rins LCR Honda MotoGP

Would Mir have won on an LCR Honda? Probably not, thanks in large part to Rins’ natural affinity for the COTA circuit.

But Mir, still unable to find a comfortable position on the RC213V, would probably have at least done much less crashing this year were he in a different environment from the one he finds himself in. For instance, it maybe would’ve been easier for him to settle for his position behind Franco Morbidelli in the main COTA race and bring home a top-10 – but he instead crashed in a desperation to pass.

It’s going to take time for Mir to find his feet within the Repsol box, if such a thing is even possible (and history shows it’s no easy feat). While he tries, though, suggesting that he should be replaced by Rins or that Honda made the wrong call is going to do nothing to make the pressure that he faces any easier.

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