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MotoGP

Marini's point-less start is exactly what Honda needs

by Simon Patterson
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

So far in the 2024 MotoGP season, new Repsol Honda signing Luca Marini has come under fire for his mediocre results on the RC213V - as the sole full-time rider on the grid yet to score a point.

But while his back-of-the-pack performances so far this year are a far cry from his podium finishes of last season, they need to come in the context of the very different role that the Italian has been hired to do in 2024.

It’s accurate to say that Marini’s season has been far from spectacular. The slowest Honda almost every single weekend and occasionally finding himself in battle with with rival manufacturers' riders after they've remounted their bikes after crashing, Marini's pace this year on average has been nothing like his 2023 form.

That campaign left him an impressive eighth in the final championship standings, comfortably clear of three of his fellow Ducati riders, and thus a reasonable option for Honda once it needed to replace Marc Marquez on short notice.

Luca Marini, VR46 Ducati, MotoGP

No one expected Marini to be eighth in the standings again on the RC213V this year, given just how difficult the bike is. This is, after all, the machine that six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez could only take to a podium finish once last year, eventually ending the year a long way behind Marini in 14th overall.

But also relevant to Marini's point-less start is the year that his team-mate, 2020 world champion Joan Mir, has suffered on the other side of the garage.

Already three times a crasher on Sunday in 2024, last year Mir completed only six of 20 grands prix inside the points. As for the Saturday sprints, a season and a half into MotoGP’s new format Mir has scored just a single point across all of them.

Joan Mir crash, Honda, MotoGP

And it’s in the comparison between Marini's and Mir's finishing record, more than anything else, where the real strength of having the Italian in Honda’s 2024 line-up should be apparent. Sure, he might not have had a high-scoring year so far - but he’s seen every race so far through to completion.

When Honda signed Marini, it knew of the reputation that he brings, too: that of being one of the series’ most intelligent and articulate racers, exactly the sort that you would want to help develop a bike that’s objectively the worst on the MotoGP grid back into something capable of fighting for wins, let alone dominating championships.

Luca Marini, Honda, MotoGP

With Marini, Honda hasn't signed up a race winner. Instead, it's secured the services of a 2024 test rider who is capable of safely gathering as much data as possible every weekend while also making sure that the feedback that the team gets from him is of a high quality.

Simply put, he isn’t a replacement for Marquez. Right now, he is a replacement for 2020 Marquez stand-in Stefan Bradl - who raced for virtually that entire season while keeping up his development duties.

Stefan Bradl, Honda, MotoGP

Honda could, of course, have opted to draft in someone faster or at least more interesting to evaluate (like it did during a second injury hiatus for Marquez in 2022 when World Superbike racer Iker Lecuona took over the reigns) - but it was deemed that the data gathered by Bradl was more important than a futile chase of meaningful on-track success in Marquez's absence.

In a nutshell, Marini isn’t a racer right now - he’s a test rider with a wealth of Ducati experience who has unlimited access to testing time on race weekends, a valuable asset that Honda will undoubtedly do its best to exploit to turn the RC213V into something that's actually capable of chasing anyhting resembling meaningful results.

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