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MotoGP

Evasive Marquez now sounds resigned to being stuck at Honda

by Simon Patterson
5 min read

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The first big move of the 2024 MotoGP rider market may have happened just as the summer break ended, with the announcement of Alex Rins’ move from LCR Honda to Yamaha to replace Franco Morbidelli.

But the question most people have really been desperate to get an answer to is what the future holds for six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez.

And though you had to read between the lines at Silverstone on Thursday to get it, there was a tentative answer to that as the paddock reconvened.

A miserable, injury strewn, first part of Marquez and Honda’s 2023 season had ended with yet another missed race at the Dutch TT and the frank but shocking admission from factory team boss Alberto Puig that Honda wouldn’t hold Marquez to his 2024 contract if he wanted out.

“I have to think yes, because we have a contract,” Puig had said when asked if Marquez would still be at Honda next season.

“But on this question, I have to say, I think every person is free to do what they want in life.

“And Honda is not a company that wants to have people that are not happy being in Honda.

“Of course we have a contract with him – but also Honda respects Marc a lot.

“I want to think yes [he’ll be here], based on the contract, but I don’t have a magic ball.”

Despite Marquez having been a Honda rider for his entire MotoGP career so far and all his premier-class successes, and being extremely well paid in his current long-term deal, the first part of 2023 had been so abysmal for both parties that it was no longer a huge surprise that he might consider departing.

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The fresh abuses that the RC213V has delivered to him so far this year, with multiple broken bones leading up to the significant injuries he sustained at the Sachsenring, a track where he was previously unbeaten during his MotoGP tenure, had taken their toll mentally too.

The main fuel for the rumour that kept people talking over the summer holidays was Marquez’s refusal to deny that he was considering a dramatic departure from MotoGP’s most financially lucrative contract ever, instead simply saying that he needed time away from the bike (and the paddock) to clear his head before making any decisions.

And obviously, five weeks later and after a relaxing summer break where he also revealed he found love with new girlfriend Gemma Pinto, the question about what he had decided was thrown to him immediately at Silverstone.

And initially, somewhat dodged. Instead Marquez focused on the rest of 2023.

“In the summer break I had a lot of time to think about it,” Marquez told MotoGP presenter Matt Birt during the pre-event press conference, “and my conclusion is that our approach to the first part of the season was not the correct one.

“We approached it trying to win races, to fight for the title – and we are not ready.

“We need to work together to be ready in the future, and in this second part of the season I need to approach it in another way and try to be more realistic about our performance now.

“We need to work together to improve the project, and project means rider, bike and team. Everyone needs to improve together to be better in the future.”

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However, when pressed by The Race about whether that meant he would remain with his team or not, he clarified the situation to an extent, giving what may extend to the most concrete statement yet confirming his intentions for 2024.

“For next year I have a contract with the Repsol Honda team,” he added, “and my target is to try and keep improving the bike in this second part of this season.

“At the Misano test [in September] we’ll try the new bike and all these things.

“It’s not like I’ve already heard people say – ‘wait for this 2023 season [to end] and next year will be another year.’

“It’s not like this in MotoGP – it’s a constant evolution. If you want to perform well in 2024, you need to start in 2023.

“So we’re working together on the project, and of course in 2024 we need to find the base for me and for Honda, to find the situation to fight for the title. It’s the only target.”

So it seems he’s staying put, and not quite writing off the rest of 2023 in results terms, but using it to do everything he can to make sure Honda is a 2024 title contender – something of a long shot given its current deficits. But it seems he’s decided he still wants to be part of that recovery push.

That does, of course, come in the face of his alternative options seemingly also drying up over the summer break.

Though there’s a bigger 2025 rider line-up shuffle to come as contracts end across the field, his only short-term exit route appeared to be KTM – a company already trying to fit four contracted riders (Brad Binder, Jack Miller, Pol Espargaro, Augusto Fernandez and its Moto2 sensation Pedro Acosta) onto four MotoGP bikes for next season across the works team and Gas Gas branded satellite Tech3.

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But MotoGP organiser Dorna shut down any hopes KTM had of expanding to a six-bike presence for next year, something that would have solved both Marquez’s problem and KTM’s own issue of where to place Acosta.

With that KTM door closed, there’s actually only one option remaining for Marquez.

Whether he likes it or not, it seems that his immediate future involves staying put at Repsol Honda and making the best of it.

For now, at least.

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