Repsol Honda play down talk of Joan Mir replacing Pol Espargaro for 2023 MotoGP

Repsol Honda insists no decision has been made regarding its 2023 MotoGP line-up amid speculation it has already signed Joan Mir to replace Pol Espargaro

Joan Mir, Pol Espargaro

Repsol Honda has moved to cool reports claiming it has already agreed a deal to sign Joan Mir for the 2023 MotoGP World Championship in place of Pol Espargaro.

The 2020 MotoGP World Champion appears to have emerged as a surprise asset on the 2023 rider market amid speculation Suzuki is on the verge of confirming its withdrawal from the premier series.

While the news hasn’t yet been made official - with an announcement potentially on the way today ahead of this weekend’s French MotoGP at Le Mans - Suzuki’s exit has been verified by multiple credible sources since it was reportedly communicated to the Ecstar team following a day of post-race testing at Jerez on 2 May. 

The revelation means Mir and team-mate Alex Rins find themselves up for grabs for 2023, a development that is expected to shake up a rider market that had been looking somewhat stagnant otherwise.

However, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, Mir is already signed and sealed for next season having reportedly penned a two-year contract with Repsol Honda to race alongside fellow Spaniard Marc Marquez.

While Honda has been quick to deny any decision has been made, Mir’s move to the Japanese manufacturer comes after the firm revealed it has made enquiries about luring him from Suzuki over the winter after its attempts to poach Fabio Quartararo from Yamaha fell flat.

Indeed, should the deal be confirmed it will mark something of a coup for Repsol Honda given Mir was said to be deep into negotiations to renew with Suzuki prior to its bombshell decision.

Mir’s arrival spells bad news for Espargaro, who will be shuffled out of the factory team to make way for his countryman. While the shift to a factory-spec RC213V in the satellite LCR Honda outfit appears logical - most likely to replace Alex Marquez and partner Ai Ogura, who is expected to succeed Takaaki Nakagami - Espargaro might prefer to glance at alternative, albeit few, factory options around him.

As it stands, no factory team has locked in its rider line-up for 2023 but Quartararo is expected t re-sign alongside Franco Morbidelli at Yamaha, while Pecco Bagnaia will be joined by either Jorge Martin or Enea Bastianini at Ducati next year.

Beyond Honda, this leaves KTM - the team from which Espargaro switched to Honda - and Aprilia. While KTM only has just the one factory seat available, the Austrian firm might see the benefit in luring back the rider that spearheaded much of the RC16’s development work since its debut and took the manufacturer to an overall top five finish in the 2020 standings.

Alternatively, Aleix Espargaro could petition Aprilia to take on his brother for a ‘family fuelled’ bid on the RS-GP, though the Italian team is otherwise expected to retain Maverick Vinales.