When Suzuki surprised the entire MotoGP paddock with the decision to withdraw from the event, it took even Joan Mir a few hours to assimilate that it was not a practical joke. During the weeks of May prior to the fright of the Japanese manufacturer, his only home in the premier class, the 2020 world champion had been negotiating his continuity with the team. Now, a few months later, the Spaniard has been officially announced as Marc Márquez’s new partner at Repsol Honda for the next two seasons.
“You go now and ask any driver if he wants to be a partner of what is surely the best in history”, he said this year after racing at Le Mans, when rumors already placed him in the box next to Cervera, who this week He will get back on a motorcycle after his last operation on the right humerus. “What can be learned from a guy like that is very brutal,” added Mir, who is not intimidated by the challenge that lies ahead of him after a season plagued by adversity. Twelfth in the table and not yet on the podium, the rider will not be able to race this weekend in Misano after suffering a multiple fracture in his right ankle after a hard crash in Austria.
For any pilot, the first opponent to beat is whoever sits on the same mount. Since his 125cc debut in 2008, Marquez has never lost the battle with his teammates, whom he has crushed on most occasions. Only in 2020, when he did not contest any GP due to the crash in Jerez that triggered the ordeal with his arm, was his brother Álex de him able to overtake him on the table. Even in 2021 and 2022, years in which he has not competed at a 100% physical level nor has he contested all the races, he has surpassed his rival on the other side of the garage.
Beyond facing the steamroller of Márquez, Mir must also face the transition to a motorcycle that in recent years has been described as a true beast that is difficult to tame. It will be his first competitive experience with a V-four engine, faster and more powerful on the straights, so he relies on his ability to adapt to try to shorten his acclimatization to his new mount. With Suzuki, until now, he had run with an in-line engine, more agile and with greater speed in the corners. “In 2019, that bike didn’t turn, didn’t brake. I already said that it was very complicated, but since Marc always won…”, Jorge Lorenzo explained a few days ago, who unsuccessfully tried a similar transition, from the DAZN booth.
Although the Palma native, who will turn 25 in September, had already been negotiating with HRC in the past, his initial intention was to renew with the big S brand, as he himself explained in France: “I had already made the decision to continue in Suzuki when I heard about his goodbye.” His agent, Paco Sánchez, has worked since then with a single goal in mind: to dress Mir in the colors of the factory Honda. Although the verbal agreement existed for a long time, Suzuki’s departure caused Japan to seek a definitive deal on the downside, knowing that the 36 had no other options on the table. One of the last stumbling blocks in the negotiations was the difficulty of incorporating people the pilot trusted into a granite team structure.
“What is difficult is to change when one thing has worked for you for a long time,” recognized Alberto Puig himself, Honda’s sports director, in a television special. “Possibilities are being studied, but it’s very complicated to go to someone else’s house and say: ‘Hey, you have to do it this way’… There will be changes, but they are decided in Japan and I, there, it’s complicated”. The Hamamatsu factory continues in low hours and presents its worst World Cup results in more than four decades. Without Márquez, who retired to undergo surgery after running in Mugello, the eighth round of the course, the best result of the brand has been a tenth place for his brother Álex with the satellite team in Catalunya.
After the visit of their flagship during the Austrian GP, several officials pointed out that they must thoroughly review their procedures for the next course. Among other changes that are yet to come, the incorporation of Mir, a good machine developer with championship results and a long way to go, lays a first stone in the transformation they need and that Márquez explicitly requested. Also, it should be said, it opens a plan B in case in 2024 the one from Cervera decides to change the air
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