Everything changed in a few moments, those of the fall of Marc Marquez during the warm-up of Mandalika: from a team in reconstruction, the Repsol Honda team became again a team desperately seeking an alternative, possibly victorious, to the most strong. of the last ten years.
This is going to be a difficult task though because ‘Magic Mark’ alone in MotoGP since 2013 resumed 59 wins, 99 podiums, 62 poles and 59 fastest laps in 142 starts, as well as six world titles.
In recent years, incidentally, HRC has shredded two good riders: Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzonot to mention the short stay of Alex Marquez. Also, if you look at his history, with the exception of Alex Criville in 1999 and Nicky Hayden in 2006, two lucky but well-deserved titles, the Honda showed its true colours, especially in the hands of exceptional drivers: Freddie Spencer for Wayne Gardner’s only title, including Eddie Lawson’smash-and-grab raid in 1989, to the five-year dominance of Mick Doohan so what Valentino Rossi.
After that, there were the years of Casey Stoneranother phenomenon and now Mark Marquez.
Honda has never raised a young champion within its top team. Sometimes, as in the case of Criville, he found himself with a world champion when his real champion was on the verge of passing away, others, as in the case of Nicky, he knew how to take advantage of a series of coincidences , but Doohan, Rossi, Stoner and Marquez – to name only the most recent – were champions who immediately took control of the team.
This has always been the secret: Fast Freddie with Erv Kanemoto, imposed on HRC their vision of what a race bike should be and when Honda gave them the first futuristic NSR with an under-tank engine, they trashed it in an instant to return to the NSR three cylinder.
And what about the arrival of Lawson, still with Erv the wizard, who revolutionized the engine and chassis of Wayne Gardner’s fast but essential motorcycle to then rebuild the vehicle that dominated for five seasons in the hands of Mighty Mick ?
The two ways of Honda: young riders or confirmed champions
For this reason, Honda today has only two lanes ahead of it, now knowing that Marquez, in the best of all possible worlds, is in any case at the end of his career: change strategy and help grow a young rider, or follow the old path and trying to pull another ace out of his sleeve.
In the first case, the path is that of young riders who have not yet fully emerged on the track, the only names being those of Enea Bastianini and jorge martin. The first, currently in the Gresini-Ducati team, is perhaps more reliable, but less explosive; the latter, today with Pramac-Ducati, perhaps even too aggressive. All this with the difficulty of HRC poaching them to Ducati. A task that may be easier when it comes to Jorge, who would find himself in a Catalan team, more complicated for Enea, skilfully assisted by Carlo Pernat who would prefer to see his protege at Ducati and who sees Martin’s opportunity as a chance for Bastianini to finish alongside Bagnaia.
Then there are runners like Raoul Fernandez and Pedro Acostabut we still see them too immature to have the Repsol Honda team on their shoulders.
The Honda siren song is the rustle of the bills
Instead, if the alternative is to aim for a crowned champion, there are only two names on the market: Fabio Quartararo2021 world champion with Yamaha and Joan Mir, the 2020 world champion with Suzuki. Two fast riders who know how to be content with what they get and know how to make the most of the circumstances.
To poach them respectively from Yamaha and Suzuki, however, they will have to deal with their wallets and with politics, as Dorna would no doubt prefer that the official builders not lose their champions.
Honda will be able to seduce both, from an economic point of view, but it will not be an easy task. And even Suzuki, which seems to be the weak link in the chain, can now count on the clever Livio Suppo, who knows the Honda environment well and who has already played it safe by declaring that he wants to reconfirm his current driver duo.
Worst case scenario: the retirement of Marc Marquez
It is therefore a difficult task for Honda, which would become even at the limit of the possible if Marc Marquez decides that the time has come to hang up his helmet. In this case, in fact, in Tokyo, they would find themselves at a crossroads: starting over with Pol Espargarothat the absence of Marquez does not help, because he could stay second with a winning and in-form Marc, or rebuild the whole team from scratch.
This is what happens when the army is led by an aggressive but not very thoughtful manager like Alberto Puig. Who often gets carried away by his character to act on impulse and on the basis of likes and dislikes, rather than reasoning.
But Alberto is a fighter and resilience in the face of adversity can lead to unexpected results. Never write off the colossus Honda. We are about to see a further rise in rider market costs. With all due respect to the managers who decided to solve the problem by banning the “lowering device” from Ducati. A mechanical device. It would be funny…if some managers didn’t make you cry instead.