until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


A MotoGP champion taking inspiration from Marquez's gamble

by Valentin Khorounzhiy, Simon Patterson
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Less than a year on from taking control of his own destiny by asking Honda to tear up an existing 2024 deal, Marc Marquez has got his gamble to pay off in every way but financially - and that was the one side he was ready and willing to sacrifice, anyway.

But the success of Marquez's on-track adaptation and the roaring success of his off-track manoeuvring to land the best ride in MotoGP for next year isn't context enough.

To really get a feel for the magnitude of the accomplishment, you also need to imagine what would've happened had he just decided to stick it out with Honda, and what his weekends would've looked like in 2024.

Joan Mir, Marquez's former Honda team-mate, knows the answer all too well. And unlike Fabio Quartararo - the Yamaha talisman who decided that a Marquez-esque move was ultimately not for him and that he could afford to wait and see where Yamaha can take him while being handsomely compensated for his patience - Mir sounds like a rider ready and willing to take matters into his own hands.

"I need to have all the options on my table to decide," said Mir after MotoGP's effectively rained-out Mugello test, while acknowledging he will need to have his mind made up by the time MotoGP reconvenes after its current impromptu summer break for the Assen race.

"To say that I know perfectly where I want to go - it's not my case now. My case is not that one. 

"I don't know where I want to go. So I will wait that I have all the offers on the table, and like this I will choose."

Like Marquez and like Quartararo, Mir is a MotoGP world champion. But Mir is no fool and harbours no delusion that he can command the same level of interest as two riders who, despite having not won races since 2021 and 2022 respectively, will comfortably waltz into most people's top five MotoGP performers on the current grid, at worst.

Mir's stock, for his part, was first eaten away at by a crash-riddled final season at Suzuki, then absolutely torpedoed by an awful first campaign with Honda in which both Marquez and former Suzuki team-mate Alex Rins shone way brighter than he ever threatened.

Both departed Honda's ranks in the off-season, and Mir has gathered himself enough to at least mount a credible push for top Honda. But he is still crashing at an unsustainable rate, his DNF total across 44 total starts at Honda now up to - forgive me here, Joan - a frankly putrid 19. 

That does not make for attractive reading to any prospective employer. But, Mir himself argues, nothing Honda riders can accomplish does - given the current state of the RC213V.

"Sometimes doesn't matter- people consider the bike that you use, of course," Mir added. "But one thing that I said [before] is, nobody comes out of Honda in a better way than they went in. 

"When I came to Honda, I had many offers. I could go wherever I want. And now it's not like this. 

"I have to wait for others, who have the priority. Because I have to show them [teams]. And this is a bit the reality. 

"Doesn't matter what you did in the past. Now the others that are doing the results, at the moment, four-five riders have the priority. Then we are behind."

Even Marquez, Mir feels, was having his market value influenced by this - though it's worth noting the market for Marquez during his late-2023 Honda departure was not a fair reflection of the interest he would've garnered as a true free agent earlier in the season.

"Marc also had value when he moved to Gresini. And you know what happened, he went to Gresini. Not to a factory. And his value is bigger than mine!

"And this is the reality. Nowadays MotoGP it's a bit like this."

Last year, Mir's situation was so dire he was genuinely contemplating retirement. Despite speculation, he insists he is not in that position this year.

Part of this, clearly, is because of his true free agent status, which he won't have had last year. Because the way Mir speaks about things - and despite some hints at progress recently, including a new aero package that has helped combat the RC213V's big weakness in turning - he sounds like a rider dreaming of better times in somebody else's colours, rather than a rider who believes he can be the face of a Honda revival.

"I don't think that I will go home. Maybe later, when I have the offers, I will think about it [going home]," he said.

"But if I move from this difficult situation from Honda... once you start to be competitive again, your mind changes completely. If you feel that doing the same thing, you are there where you deserve to be and where your qualities are, everything changes and maybe you want to stay 10 years more. 

"But the thing is to move from this situation."

And if that blueprint sounds familiar, it will not shock you to learn that Mir has been speaking with his former team-mate - whose long-time crew chief Santi Hernandez he currently works with at Honda - about these very topics.

"I spoke many times with Marc about it, how he felt last year and how he feels now," Mir admitted. "And this is a bit... I had an example, a line I can follow or another one, to stay in this situation. So, I don't know."

He sounds like he does know - but it depends on the rival offers. This, in turn, depends very much on the actual shape the MotoGP grid takes next year in terms of bikes (i.e. does Yamaha succeed in luring Pramac away from Ducati), but one theoretical destination that is relatively independent of that is Trackhouse Aprilia.

It is a new team but a team with a good bike, a team run by Mir's former Suzuki boss Davide Brivio and a team that has set its stall out as being on the hunt for experienced MotoGP options, despite being persistently linked to American Moto2 frontrunner Joe Roberts.

"We are discussing with Davide. We are, let's say, super-aligned, Davide and myself," said Aprilia motorsport boss Massimo Rivola when asked about Trackhouse's 2025 line-up.

"And we also have the same feelings about riders. 

"I think Trackhouse has a bright future because they are also moving on the technician market for next year. They will choose the riders - obviously I will say what I think about that. 

"They currently have good riders [in Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez]. Still, I think they didn't show all the potential they have. And when they choose, let's see if they will be [contracted] through us or not."

And when asked about having an American - i.e. Roberts - in Trackhouse's 2025 roster, Rivola had a more telling response: "I don't think that will be the case, since the market can now offer us very good [established] riders. I think in an interview Davide said that it's not the case for Trackhouse to get junior riders to grow for Aprilia Racing, And I agree. 

"I think we should now go into the market - that is quite fast, and we showed that it's fast [by signing Jorge Martin] - and choose the best possible riders for the four bikes."

Mir certainly fits the bill of who Rivola may be talking about - in fact, he may well fit the bill better than any of the other potential outside recruits.

The new Trackhouse team is no Gresini with its track record for MotoGP wins, and the Aprilia bike is no Desmosedici - not yet, anyway. 

But it's the kind of ride that Mir might look at and see as his golden ticket to a fresh start - especially now that his 'advisor' Marquez has parlayed his own fresh start into the best ride on the grid.

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