ALEX MARQUEZ FOR REPSOL HONDA | MotoGP
Five days after losing star rider Jorge Lorenzo, the Repsol Honda team has filled the gap, hoping they may have another
Lorenzo’s ride has gone to six-times MotoGP champion Marc Marquez’s brother Alex, denying the hopes of unemployed double Moto2 champion Johann Zarco, and surprising many to whom a rookie is an awkward fit in the leading factory squad.
The team has a precedent, however. Marc Marquez came in as a rookie in 2013, and won the first of his six titles at his first attempt.
Team manager Alberto Puig confirmed the decision in Valencia on Monday night in Valencia; and on Tuesday morning the 23-year-old newly crowned Moto2 champion will be on track for the first 2020 tests, wearing black leathers and operating out of the satellite LCR team pit, left vacant by the absence of recuperating rider Takaaki Nakagami.
Puig said that any rider who won the Moto2 title deserved to move to MotoGP – a statement that would not have been easy listening for the discarded Zarco, the only double Moto2 champion since the intermediate class went four-stroke. He added that Honda also had an interest in bringing on young riders.
Nor had Marc had any influence on the decision, he insisted. Outsiders should not “consider his surname.” It is however the first time two brothers have raced in a high-level Japanese team, although in 2007 on occasion Kenny Roberts Jr. and Kurtis Roberts rode in Team Roberts; while currently Aleix and Pol Espargaro compete in MotoGP, but for different teams.
The younger brother had only a one-year contract, putting him in line with the rest of the MotoGP pack, all of whom have deals that come to an end after the last race in 2020.
Alex Marquez, three years younger than Marc, has followed in his footsteps, but his path has trailed less glory. While each won the beginners’ title at the third attempt, Marc on a 125 and Alex in Moto3, the older brother had ten race wins and Alex four. Marc won Moto2 in his second year after injury cut short his first attempt while in line for a maiden win; and recorded 16 victories. Alex won in his fifth year, with only three wins in the first four, and five in 2019.
At year’s end also, it was close-run: Alex was only three points clear of challenger Brad Binder.
Comparisons with his older brother are just one burden the likable Alex will have to shoulder.
Meantime, Zarco’s hopes that his generally impressive showing in three races as Nakagami’s substitute might yield a full-time ride have come to naught. He has already expressed little interest in a potential ride with the Reale Avintia Ducati team, which next year will be promoted fro a customer team to satellite status.
Marquez’s unexpected departure from Moto2 leaves a tasty berth in the intermediate class, with the double title-winning EG-VDS squad. Either Zarco or another former champion and team incumbent Tito Rabat could move in from MotoGP; and if the latter, then Zarco might think again about the second-string Ducati team.