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Repsol Honda: What does the future hold?

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The Repsol Honda team have unveiled their 2021 Moto GP team. To the surprise of no one, it’s with the same livery and bike as they showcased last year – and indeed as it has been for the last 15. In fairness to them, why fix what isn’t broken? MotoGP’s most successful manufacturer certainly doesn’t have a point to prove when it comes down to performance, having taken 21 world championships; who cares if they’re boringly consistent. So instead of discussing the bike, let’s talk about the riders.

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As I’m sure everyone has heard, Marc Marquez sat out of the entire 2020 season following an injury in the opening race. What at first, seemed like a simple broken arm has turned into a saga of bad decisions and unfortunate incidents. Starting with Marquez being allowed to return to the bike too soon, triggering a reinjuring of the bone, and ultimately requiring 3 surgeries and treatment for an infection. Honda’s premier rider has not had an easy time of it lately and potentially the news could get worse for the number 93.

Marquez aboard his Repsol Honda at Silverstone, 2019

Low expectations for Marquez?

At the team launch, Marquez was clear that he does not expect to be the same rider as we have seen previously. This is the longest time in his career where he has been unable to ride motorcycles. He is clearly worried about the expectation to return as the dominating force he has been in the past. Marquez has lost significant muscle mass on the broken arm, not to mention he is going to have to readjust to speeds of 350 km/h as well as having to contend with an altered state of mind.

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The team has already released a statement that Marquez will not be participating in the Qatar tests. Honda must be wary of the possibility that Marc may not be able to deliver them another title.

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Will Espargaro be able to master the Honda?

So, let’s turn to the other side of the Honda garage. Pol Espargaro has taken a rather large gamble with his career. Espargaro has never had a race win, but as he takes on the factory Honda ride, he knows that wins are expected. Making the jump from the factory KTM team, a partnership since KTM’s inception into Moto GP. It is undeniable that his hard work has turned the Austrian manufacturer into a real contender. KTM took 3 race wins last year (across the factory and satellite teams) as well as 5 podiums, and many have staked their riders to be potential championship challengers. Had Pol remained with them, I honestly believe he would have been a viable contender for 2021. Is a factory Honda ride THAT good to turn down?

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The Honda is notoriously a career-ender. Stoner, Pedrosa and Lorenzo are all legends of the sport, and all of them found themselves retiring due to the difficulties that come with the bike. Espargaro will also have very little time to learn how to master the difficult bike, with only 6 days of tests allotted to the teams due to the ongoing pandemic.

Marquez and Espargaro aboard the 2021 Repsol

If he can master the Honda, he is sure to be thought of as a genius and will undoubtedly be a strong contender for the championship this year. If he can’t… well, I did call it a career-ender.

Will Marquez be fit for 2021?

Big questions still hang over this team, will Marc be able to race? If he is able to race, will he ever be the same? If he can’t what will they do, and who will fill in, Dovi? Will Pol be able to master the bike? Will he get on with the demanding nature of the most successful team in the paddock? This year’s factory Honda team is certainly one that is full of uncertainties, and as always uncertainty makes for greatness from a spectators point of view. Lots of questions; and the answers will be known to us soon. The season testing gets underway on March 6th.

This article was written by the fantastic Rebekah Lee, our resident Motorsport nut and MA Creative writing graduate. She’s been fascinated by all things motorsports since childhood – follow her on Twitter at @bekahjlee