until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Three factors that will save or finish off Marquez-Honda union

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The 2023 MotoGP season hasn’t just been a disaster so far for Marc Marquez and his Repsol Honda team, it’s been so calamitous for both rider and factory that it’s prompted significant speculation that Marquez will walk away from the only MotoGP team he’s ever ridden for with one year still left on his contract.

It’s even a prospect that Marquez himself didn’t move to deny at the last round of the championship in Assen, where he was forced to withdraw thanks to yet another injury sustained on the RC213V.

Instead of dismissing it out of hand, he said when asked by The Race that he needs time to recover physically and mentally from the first half of the season before making any decisions. That wasn’t the outright denial that many expected from him, and it very much served to further fuel the gossip about what the future might hold.

And that’s the right approach too for a number of reasons – most of which relate to the timeline of the next few months as both Marquez and Honda await upcoming developments to see how their paths play out.

The primary one of those reasons is of course the question of what the future of the bike will bring – and that’s something that we (and Marquez himself) won’t know until the middle of September, when a key post-race test at Misano may well be the keystone in deciding his future plans.

It’s expected that at that test we’ll see, like we did last year, Marquez getting his first chance to take to the track on something that is essentially an early preview of the 2024 bike.

Banned under the series’ rules from testing a MotoGP bike at any time except in officially-organised tests, it’s left Honda with a lot of work to do as it tries to claw back its disadvantage, and the Misano outing (replacing what was traditionally a Brno post-race test in the past) will be his first and only opportunity to try the new bike before the end of the current season.

Marc Marquez

Marquez can’t go into that test expecting it to be a fully-refined package but it has to be considerably better than the existing bike.

He has to jump on it and immediately find enough potential to believe that he can improve it into a race winner by the time the start of the 2024 season comes around.

That won’t be a small feat given the disaster that Honda finds itself in right now, but it’s by no means insurmountable – other factories with significantly less budget than the might of HRC have managed to pull it off in the past, after all.

“Well, the timeframe is quite short,” acknowledged team boss Alberto Puig when asked by The Race about how much can be really found in time for the early-September Misano date.

“We are quite back. It’s obvious. There’s no question mark. So to fix it, from now to in two months, frankly speaking I think it will not be an easy task to do.

“It’s clear that if you don’t try things in life, you never know, but it would be very-very optimistic to think that we can have, let’s say, a high-performance bike in two months. But the only thing that we can do, and I know that they’re trying to do, is to try things and to see.”

Secondary to that is whether MotoGP’s other factories accept whatever changes rights holder Dorna is eyeing to the series’ concession points system.

That’s likely to be decided much sooner than Misano, with a meeting potentially taking place at Silverstone in early August, the first race back after the series’ summer break.

Should it go Honda’s (and Dorna’s) way, then it likely means that while not being granted considerable concessions, the team would gain back three very important tools: the ability to test in-season with its racers and the potential to bring updated, non-homologated engines and aerodynamics during the season next year.


In itself, that might not be enough to convince Marquez to stay – but if it comes alongside a successful (or at the very least a hopeful) Misano outing, then it might persuade him that the mountain to be climbed is no longer insurmountable.

There’s also the tertiary consideration of actually finding a space in another manufacturer’s team should he choose to leave Honda – but for a rider of Marc Marquez’s calibre, you’ve got to believe that that problem is the easiest one to overcome should it come to it.

Given the PR value he brings and the almost-guaranteed success on a competitive bike, factories will find a way, even if it comes at the expense of someone already contracted for next year.

What all that means is simple to understand: Honda’s engineers are right now fighting for their lives to build a bike that’s going to do a better job than the current RC213V. Show even moderate improvements, and it’s highly likely that Marc Marquez isn’t going anywhere – but continue to drop the ball, and you’d have to imagine he’ll find that impossible to accept.

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