Luca Marini speaks for the first time as a Honda MotoGP rider

Luca Marini has officially begun his time as a factory Honda MotoGP rider, a role in which he believes he will be able to help HRC return to winning ways

Luca Marini, 2023 MotoGP Valencia Test. - Gold and Goose

Luca Marini does not fit the stereotype of a factory Honda MotoGP rider, but his analytical approach to racing is one that is regarded to be of potential benefit to the Japanese manufacturer.

The loss of Marc Marquez has forced Honda to be more aggressive in its development. In Marquez, HRC lost its sole remaining asset that could make it a winning manufacturer in MotoGP, effectively its last hope of being competitive - losing that means the bike must improve, because there is no one left to make up for its engineering shortcomings which have left it incapable of consistently challenging for wins and podiums since 2020. 

It is these shortcomings, most notably rear grip and acceleration, and their persistence over several years, that now force HRC to be more aggressive in its effort to develop the RC213V, while Marquez’ absence provides a relative freedom, because although Marini and his new teammate Joan Mir want to win, they - especially Marini - have more patience than eight-times champion Marquez.

Marini is therefore an important part of Honda’s rebuild, especially as a rider who has come from Ducati, the current dominant manufacturer in MotoGP. Johann Zarco has made the same trip from Bologna to Tokyo, but Marini’s position within the factory team, as opposed to Zarco’s in the satellite LCR team, puts the Italian further up the priority list.

Before Marini had signed for Honda, he had already confirmed himself to continue with the VR46 Ducati team in the summer. It was a baffling decision, in a sense, for Marini to give up the best bike in the championship to race perhaps the most difficult bike. 

On the other hand, Marini’s decision takes him from being a satellite rider on satellite rider pay and with satellite rider development input, to being a factory rider for the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world with all the associated relative benefits of that. And, he does so for the most successful team in MotoGP history.

“It’s the best in the history,” Marini said about his reasoning for joining Honda in an interview published by HRC. “Numbers and statistics speak for themselves.”

Marini acknowledges that the Repsol Honda Team of 2024 is not in the same position as it was when Mick Doohan was dominating in the 1990s, when Marc Marquez was dominating in the 2010s, or even when Marini’s half-brother, Valentino Rossi, was dominating in 2002 and 2003. But, he also sees the potential for the team to return to its former success. “It is a very particular moment now,” Marini said, “but I think we have the power to come back very, very soon. I will try to give all my feedback, my energy to this project and I’m sure that we will find the correct direction [and] we will have the power to stay in the top for many years.”

Marini was able to get his first taste of the Honda RC213V at the first preseason test of 2024 last November in Valencia, which he finished 10th fastest. The sounds coming from Honda after that test were positive, with the aforementioned Joan Mir declaring it was the first time he had tried something from HRC that “really works better,” as reported by Visordown sister publication, since he joined at the end of 2022.

Marini is not getting too far ahead of himself, though. Although he openly admits to targeting podiums and victories with Honda, his initial goal is simply to beat the other Honda riders. 

“I want to start with an open mind,” Marini said, “we need to understand our speed, our potential after the first official test and we need to find our balance, find a way to beat our direct opponents which are my teammates, with the same manufacture, with the same bike – that is the first goal on my side, sure. But also, I want to look forward or to try to find a way to get a podium with this bike or get a victory. I know that maybe will be tough, but we need to look ahead.”

Marini’s next step with Honda will be the Sepang Shakedown, in which both Honda and Yamaha will be able to lap with its race riders as part of the new MotoGP concessions system, which will take place on 3-4 February, ahead of the official Sepang test on 6-8 February.

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