Six-time MotoGP race winner Alex Rins is to join the factory Yamaha team from next year onwards, splitting up with LCR Honda.
Rins, 27, will replace a rider almost exactly 12 months his senior in Franco Morbidelli, and partner Yamaha’s most recent premier-class champion Fabio Quartararo in what Yamaha describes as a “fully qualified and welcome addition”.
A Suzuki mainstay since his arrival in MotoGP in 2017, Rins had been left searching for alternative employment avenues on the grid when the Hamamatsu firm suddenly decided to shutter its programme.
With most of the factory seats locked down and Suzuki team-mate Joan Mir slotting into the Pol Espargaro-vacated slot at the factory Honda team, Rins signed with Honda on a two-year deal to ride for its satellite outfit LCR.
That bore fruit as early as the third round of the 2023 season, as Rins took a remarkable victory at the Circuit of the Americas – one that still leaves him as the sole non-Ducati grand prix winner of the campaign.
But both before and after there were indications that Rins wasn’t fully happy with his role, admitting in the lead-up to COTA that he’d felt underused by Honda and clearly feeling slighted when the Honda chassis built by German manufacturer Kalex arrived mid-season and he was overlooked for any early testing.
More pertinently, he then suffered one of so many Honda rider injuries from this season, his being a particularly nasty leg break at Mugello that continues to keep him out of action – with Rins being replaced by Iker Lecuona at Silverstone this weekend.
And, as it stands, Honda World Superbike rider Lecuona may well be Rins’ full-time replacement in 2024, given its rider options aren’t plentiful and that rumours surround the Honda MotoGP future of other riders in its stable like Marc Marquez and Mir.
Rins’ defection will not come as a huge surprise to LCR, given team owner Lucio Cecchinello had already acknowledged he was aware his rider was in talks with Yamaha.
“We expect Alex to be a great asset,” said Yamaha managing director Lin Jarvis.
“He has vast experience as a MotoGP rider and is known to be a natural talent and a multi-time MotoGP class race winner. He already has experience with two other MotoGP manufacturers and has ridden bikes with similar characteristics to the YZR-M1, which should help him adapt quickly to our bike.
“His win in COTA earlier this year underlines his speed, hunger, and determination to succeed.
“Alex has been away from the MotoGP paddock for a while due to the injury he sustained at Mugello, but we are confident that he should be fully recovered and up to speed for the 2024 season.”