Honda Riders All Set For MotoGP’s Historic 75th Season
The 2023 MotoGP season represents an important milestone for the sport: this year motorcycling’s World Championship becomes the first global motorsport series to reach its 75th season, one year before Formula 1.
Honda has played a huge part in the history of MotoGP, contesting the World Championships from 1959 to 1967 and from 1982 to the present, which makes 61 years of the 75.
During that time Honda’s never-ending quest for excellence in motorcycle design and performance has made the company the most successful ever known. So far Honda has won a total of more than 800 Grand Prix victories and more than 130 Riders and Constructors World Championships, a truly remarkable achievement.
And 2023 is important for Honda for another very significant reason, because the company celebrates its own 75th anniversary on 24th September. Soichiro Honda founded his great business on that date in 1948. Within a few years his motorcycles were already being raced and they made their World Championship debut just 11 years later at the 1959 Isle of Man TT. Within two years Honda was winning GPs and world titles!
The four riders that have the honour of wearing Honda colours in the 2023 MotoGP World Championship are Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) and Alex Rins (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V).
The three Spaniards and one Japanese, plus the rest of the 22-rider grid, face another new challenge this year, with the introduction of Sprint races on Saturdays, which should inject a new level of excitement into race weekends. These races will be roughly half-distance and count for half points (12 for a win, down to one for ninth place). Therefore there will be 42 races in 2023, which will add significantly to the physical and psychological pressures placed on riders and team staff.
Marquez hopes that 2023 will mark his return to his former glories, which were interrupted by a serious arm injury sustained at the start of the 2020 season, which has hampered him ever since. The Spaniard, who last month celebrated his 30th birthday, used his extraordinary talent to dominate his first seven seasons in MotoGP, winning the 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 riders titles, a stunning achievement at a time when premier-class Grand Prix racing has never been closer.
Four surgeries, including an osteotomy last June, seem to have fixed the arm, so he can ride like before, using his super-physical and aggressive riding technique. Marquez has won 59 MotoGP races, his last at the Emilia Romagna round in October 2021.
Earlier that year Marquez rode his first race at Algarve International Circuit – more commonly known as Portimao – and took a seventh place. Last year he finished sixth at the track.
Marquez has a new team-mate in Mir, who has made good progress adapting to the latest RC213V. Both riders have tested numerous 2023 updates to the machine, including different chassis, aerodynamics packages and electronics strategies, as they prepared for the season during the two 2023 pre-season tests – last month at Sepang, Malaysia, and two weekends ago at Portimao.
Mir – 2020 MotoGP king and 2017 Moto3 World Champion (aboard a Honda NSF250RW) – has dreamed of racing in Repsol Honda’s iconic livery since he was a child, so this will be a momentous weekend for the 25-year-old, born on the Mediterranean island of Majorca. His best result so far at Portimao was a superb third place in the 2012 Portuguese GP
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) commences his seventh season in MotoGP and his seventh with the LCR Honda IDEMITSU squad this weekend. The 31-year-old from Chiba kept improving during pre-season testing, although he is still somewhat constrained by the problematic right-hand injury he suffered during last September’s Aragon Grand Prix.
This weekend, Nakagami hopes to better his previous best result at Portimao, a fifth-place finish at the 2020 Portuguese GP.
Nakagami also has a new team-mate in Alex Rins (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V), the five-times MotoGP race winner, who finished third in the 2014 Moto3 World Championship, riding a Honda NSF250RW.
Like Mir, Rins dedicated his off-season testing programme to getting used to the RC213V, both adapting his riding technique to suit the motorcycle and also adjusting its set-up to work with his style. The 27-year-old Spaniard kept making progress during the three outings – at Valencia, Spain, last November, at Sepang and Portimao – and is confident of a good weekend in Portugal, even though he expects his performances to improve as the season goes on.
Portimao hosted its first MotoGP round at the end of the 2020 season, becoming an instant favourite with riders and teams. The circuit is unique for its dramatically undulating layout, situated in the hillsides north of Portugal’s Algarve coast and the port town of Portimao. The circuit’s up-and-down flow requires a super-physical effort from the riders and a very neutral machine set-up.
The 2023 season features a busy start, with the paddock packing up in a hurry on Sunday night as they head west for the next two races in the Americas. The first of these events takes place next weekend at Termas De Rio Honda, Argentina. Round three happens two weeks after that at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas, USA. Then the paddock returns to Europe for the Spanish GP at Jerez.
MotoGP’s 75th season concludes with the Valencia GP on 25th November, the latest finish in the sport’s history.