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There's no hiding behind the facts. In the absence of Marc Marquez, the Repsol Honda Team are struggling. In fact, HRC are struggling in 2020 with the factory on their longest run without a premier class podium since they returned to the sport 38 years ago back in 1982. Certainly makes grim reading for the lead men at Honda but let's take a look at why that might be the case.
Obviously, World Champion Marc Marquez' injury isn't helping matters. The Spaniard has been Repsol Honda's go-to man since jumping up to the premier class, winning six World Championships in seven years and winning an incredible 56 races in that time too. His crash at the Spanish Grand Prix will keep him out for at least another two months, meaning Honda will need to look to one of their three remaining full-time riders to bring the run to an end.
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Probably the most likely of the trio at this moment in time is LCR Honda's Takaaki Nakagami. The Japanese rider saw a debut MotoGP™ podium slip through his fingers on Sunday after the red flag halfway through the Grand Prix of Styria heavily dented his chances.
The former Moto2™ race winner was sat in second at the time, managing the pressure being applied by Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) behind, and looking odds on to convert his debut front row start into a debut top three finish. However, it wasn't to be and the 28-year-old will instead turn his attentions to Misano. The Japanese rider has raised his level in 2020, despite being on last year's Honda, to become the leading Honda man so far and that elusive first podium surely isn't too far away.
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Nakagami's teammate Cal Crutchlow definitely is a podium contender and will no doubt benefit greatly from the upcoming two week break. The Brit looked to be at the sharp end of MotoGP™ once again during the first two days in Jerez, before a crash on Sunday morning ruled him out of the opening round after fracturing his scaphoid. Surgery just two days later was needed and the three-time premier class race winner grit his teeth to bag points at the Andalucia Grand Prix.
Still not 100%, the triple-header will have taken it out of the 34-year-old but he should be nearing full fitness by the time we arrive in San Marino. Furthermore, he's at this moment in time without a confirmed ride in MotoGP™ for 2021, so a strong end to the year is going to be essential as he tries to find a seat and remain in the premier class. Maybe that will be the added impetus needed to bring Honda's streak to an end?
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Finally, rookie Alex Marquez is certainly starting to show progress on the tricky RC213V. The reigning Moto2™ World Champion has yet to crack a one-lap attack with his best qualifying of the year coming last time out in 16th. However, come race day and the Spaniard nearly always finds his rhythm and is able to make up some considerable places; none more so than at the Andalucia Grand Prix where, having qualified 21st, he came across the line in a career-best eighth.
It certainly is a shock to look at the Team Championship and see Repsol Honda sitting rock bottom with 15 points, eight adrift of the next best Aprilia Racing Team Gresini. But when you actually look at the situation maybe it's to be expected. Any team in any sport would suffer if they lost their star man. Barcelona without Messi, the LA Lakers without Lebron or Australia without Steve Smith can all vouch for that. Coupled with the fact they have invested in developing the future, it's simply bad timing. Yes, the RC213V can be a real handful but Honda's worst premier class run in 38 years surely can't last much longer, can it?
6 months ago
6 months ago