There’s no doubt it has been a tough season for the Japanese manufacturers in MotoGP™. Both Yamaha and Honda are iconic within the world of motorcycle racing, with a roll of honour that most could only dream of. Typically, riders who don the leathers of either manufacturer are involved in the title fight, but 2023 has proven a different story.
2021 World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP™) has stood on the podium twice in 2023, while 2020 runner up Franco Morbidelli has yet to crack the top three, with P4 in Argentina his best effort of the season.
Over at Honda, rumours continue to swirl over the future of eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez, with the #93 linked with a switch to Ducati from next season. Marquez has expressed his dissatisfaction with the RC213V on more than one occasion this year, while his Repsol Honda teammate and 2020 World Champion Joan Mir has encountered significant troubles aboard the bike after joining from Suzuki prior to the current campaign.
It has been less than smooth sailing with both constructors navigating choppy waters, but it seemed some of their concerns abated in India. At Honda, Marquez returned to the Sprint podium while Joan Mir easily had the best weekend of his relatively short Honda career so far, qualifying on the second row and finishing fifth on Sunday. At Yamaha, Quartararo got himself onto the box for the second time this year, the other coming at COTA, while Morbidelli continued to be the only rider on the grid to pick up points in every race with a P7.
Perhaps it’s little surprise that the improvements have come after the Misano Test, with the two constructors with the most to prove working hardest. Initial soundings from the riders gave mixed signals, particularly at Honda where Marquez and Mir adopted different stances on the package provided.
Another reason for the change in fortunes may be the stop-start nature of Buddh International Circuit being more favourable to the RC213V and YZR-M1, with Marquez comparing it to COTA, a track that Alex Rins and his LCR Honda machine took the win. Austin also saw Quartararo on the podium with Morbidelli in 8th, his second best result of the year before India.
Rider ability certainly played its part too, with the debut of a new circuit on the calendar seeing everyone start off on equal footing. Conditions may have played into the hands of the beleaguered manufacturers, allowing them to record their most positive weekend in quite some time. The question now is can they capitalise on this uptick in form ahead of a pivotal home Grand Prix at Motegi this weekend?
The eyes of the world will be watching when the Motul Grand Prix of Japan gets underway on Friday 29th!