Announcement Monday: Petronas Extend Morbidelli For 2 Years, Repsol Honda Sign Pol Espargaro, Alex Marquez To LCR, Crutchlow Out

A bumper crop of announcements this morning, and though the contents had long been expected, there was still room for a surprise. The announcement that Pol Espargaro would be joining Marc Marquez in the Repsol Honda team had been long trailed, but today we got confirmation that the Spaniard had signed a two-year deal with HRC to race in the factory team, forcing Alex Marquez out. You can read about the possible consequences of that move, and what effect it will have on Marc Marquez, here.

Alex Marquez has some consolation for the demotion, in the form of a two-year deal to race inside the LCR Honda team, for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. But this means that Cal Crutchlow has been forced out of LCR, with Honda choosing to retain Takaaki Nakagami instead. Rumors persist that Crutchlow could go to the Aprilia MotoGP squad for next year, and Dorna would like to keep the popular British rider in the series, as contracts with UK broadcaster BT Sport are up for renewal soon.

The final announcement came at Petronas Yamaha. Franco Morbidelli has been kept on for two years, something which Petronas Yamaha team managers told me they were very keen to do. There had been some expectation that Petronas could announce the signing of Valentino Rossi today, but that may have to wait.

The press releases from Honda and from Petronas Yamaha appear below:


HRC sign Pol Espargaro

Honda Racing Corporation are pleased to announce the signing of Pol Espargaro. The former Moto2 World Champion will join the Repsol Honda Team on a two-year contract. He will join eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez aboard the Honda RC213V. Espargaro is one of the most experienced riders on the grid, having raced in the World Championship since 2006 and with 104 premier class Grands Prix contested.


HRC extend agreement with Alex Marquez

Honda Racing Corporation are proud to announce the renewal of Alex Marquez, extending his current agreement until the end of 2022.

During 2020, the former Moto3 and Moto2 World Champion will race in the premier class aboard his Honda RC213V in the Repsol Honda Team.

After winning the title in the middleweight class, Marquez has a whole season ahead to gain experience and make progress in HRC’s long term project, which sees the 24-year old Spanish rider join the LCR Honda Team at the end of 2020.

HRC would like to extend their thanks to Cal Crutchlow for his diligent and tireless work since joining HRC in 2015. With three wins and 12 podiums, the British rider has been a valuable asset on and off track – a constant source of excellent feedback for the engineers and a key part of developing the Honda RC213V in recent years. HRC wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

Alex Marquez 73
Rider – MotoGP

“I am very proud to announce my renewal with Honda Racing Corporation. HRC gave me the opportunity to arrive in MotoGP and I am glad to join the LCR Honda Team at the end of 2020 and compete in a big team with great experience in MotoGP. I want to thank HRC and the LCR Honda Team for their trust in me to be able to continue in the Honda family and I will work hard to prove their confidence with results. Now, I am eager to start the season in Jerez and I am completely focused to give my best this year.”

Yoshishige Nomura
HRC President

"HRC are happy to continue working with Alex Marquez through the learning process in the MotoGP category for the next two seasons. After deep consideration and a thorough analysis of the current situation, we believe Alex has a great opportunity to grow in the premier class with full factory support inside the LCR Honda Team. We believe that by following this path over the next three seasons, we will achieve the results both HRC and Alex look for.”


PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team retains Franco Morbidelli

PETRONAS Yamaha SRT will retain Franco Morbidelli for two years

PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team is pleased to announce that Franco Morbidelli will be retained for the 2021 and 2022 MotoGP seasons.

The Italian rider, who was MotoGP Rookie of the Year in 2018, joined PETRONAS Yamaha SRT in 2019 for the team’s debut MotoGP season.

The year saw Morbidelli make four front row starts and claim seven top-six finishes aboard his Yamaha YZR-M1. In addition to this, Franco was also vital in helping to secure the 2019 Top Independent Team honours for PETRONAS Yamaha SRT, finishing 10th in the riders’ championship with 115 points to his name.

The Malaysian-based team now looks forward to being able to see Franco back in action at the first MotoGP round of 2020 in Jerez (17-19 July).

Razlan Razali
Team Principal

We are delighted to confirm that Franky will continue with us next year. He is an extremely talented rider and a great asset to the team as we look to build on our rookie season. Franky was always in our plans for the future so it is beneficial for us and him to be able to confirm that he will ride for us in 2021 and 2022 now.

Franky has the potential to reach the top step of the podium and this is what we’ll all be working hard to achieve. We have absolute faith in Franky even before this season has started. We are confident that Franky has what it takes to be competitive from Jerez and know that he will develop and mature in all areas through the years ahead. Franky will provide the team with stability and competitiveness and we can’t wait to be back on track!

Franco Morbidelli

I’m very pleased to be renewing with PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team as we had such a great season together last year, working with a great drive to achieve success. I think it’s important for me to continue with the same team, bike and environment going forward as it feels great to work with them. We all work well together and it’s great fun to work with all the PETRONAS SRT crew. I want to thank them for this opportunity that they are giving me as it’s such an honour to ride for them. I will be working hard to give them even more and even better results than we achieved in our first year together. I’m now looking forward to getting racing again to show our potential and I’m just so happy to have the chance to keep on doing what I love to do with a team I love.

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Comments

"Honda Racing Corporation are pleased to announce the signing of Pol Espargaro."
 

"Honda Racing Corporation are proud to announce the renewal of Alex Marquez...😶"

 

One thing that seems to have been forgotten during the whole Pol to Honda saga, is that despite him being given the billing of the second coming of Christ, he has spent his entire career being absolutely drubbed by Marc. Why will it be any different at Honda?

He *did* take four wins off him when MM93 won the Moto2 title in 2012 which was the same as the rest of the field managed. So, a Dovi prequel, really.

... I'm going to give Honda the benefit of the doubt that they know something we don't (Honda having watched all of these riders closely for years, compared data etc.).

Maybe Pol is one of those 'slow burns' that takes time to reach full potential? Time will tell.

Last shoe to drop then is Cal at Aprilia, and we are all done? Dovi has to take that 2yr at Duc. Good for you getting off that bike Cal, it didn't want you on it. Enjoy being treated like royalty in Black, and we get to see you and Aleix push each other. It may be a close match.

Pol was a surprise, so is Cal. The rest wasn't so silly. It is all making sense though, nothing too nutty, right?

Taka got very lucky, and we get our passport bias re-stamped. Honda does well to take Pol, everyone knows what will happen, and KTM will do just fine. Not much to see here.

Not even feeling very interested in any of this now, crates are on the ground in Spain and everything is good again.

GAS

There's only so many times you can say "my ankle really hurts", "this bike is rubbish", and "I want to spend more time with my family" before your team (and bike supplier) think you probably mean it. Especially at 34 years of age (35 when any new contract applies).

Puig, is that you?

What do you think of your bike though?
;)

(Teasing you ibis, and think what you are saying is accurate. But incomplete/partialized from my perspective. And maybe Jorge's? And Nakagami's. And...I don't blame Cal's responses much for the bike, Honda's wise future planning etc).

Occam's Razor is "least complex/complicated." Mine is "least personal/personalized" and for the same reason. Human nature.

Re below, Honda saw no threat from Pol in Orange, that is only Quarty in Blue of late. But spot on, BINDER IS COMING. Orange has a GREAT hand to play for yrs to come in every aspect of their project. The in house chassis/style and WP suspension is the big question mark, and it has been a positive trajectory that impresses.

This has been widely reported. So there has been a change of mind at Honda. But ‘shrink is right, if this means Cal has another year in MotoGP with a different team, or simply retires and is able to walk rather than limp away from racing bikes then I regard that as a good result for him and his family. But in my opinion motorcycle racing will be the poorer without him - the only rider who tells it as he sees it without fear or favour.

Or maybe (maybe!) Honda knows more about the KTM than us and wanted to pull Pol off that bike before he gets ambarassing results.
Ok, it's a big maybe and Binder is coming. You know, the other guy who wins starting from the pitlane...

A friend once told me a story about his time in owner/driver karting. He said "the richest team had the two best engines in the paddock - the best one in the back of their kart and the second one in a box in their garage so no one else could have it".

I think the logic goes like this:

Honda and KTM are not best buddies

KTM have sufficient resources to, with time and the right riders, develop a very strong MotoGP bike although they're not there yet.

Pol is the lead rider and, whilst not consistently, has been showing signs of progress over both one lap pace and some race results which only seemed likely to continue with Dani as part of the KTM stable now.

Honda sign Pol, and the continuity he provided disappears and KTM's progress potentially stalls with a bunch of less experienced riders aboard.

For Pol, he will get better results on the Honda than the KTM so it's a winner for him even though no one will hold a candle to Marc on the same (or maybe any) bike.

For Alex, we obviously haven't seen him at all yet so it's a strange situation but not being under the same roof as his brother may enable more freedom and control on his part (and likewise Marc not having to be accommodating and potentially compromise his own position). It's a shame for Cal to find himself odd man out but let's see what happens.

Honda don't always get things right, but they generally take calculated risks which usually pay off and a rider shuffle to remove the lead rider from a disliked rival manufacturer - even one producing one of the slightly slower bikes - whilst giving your own lineup more longevity looks sensible to me.

Not too cynical, but pretty astute comments. Especially re Alex at LCR.