Rewind to the pre-Marc Marquez injury era and Honda were on top of the world. But how things have changed in three MotoGP seasons for the Japanese marque.
Since 2000 Honda has won 11 premier class titles, the most of any manufacturer, while six of them came courtesy of six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez.
Even in times when they didn’t win such as 2008, 09, 10, 12 and 15, Honda were still a formidable opponent for the likes of Valentino Rossi, and Jorge Lorenzo at Yamaha, but also Casey Stoner when he was with Ducati.
When Marquez joined MotoGP in 2013, the Spaniard took the world championship by storm and elevated Honda to heights that were very hard to beat, and in most seasons impossible to get the better of.
2020 looked like it had the potential to be another stellar season when Marquez showed incredible pace at Jerez – came from the back of the field following an early mistake to challenge for a podium – however, his well-documented crash with four laps to go led to a broken right arm, which in-turn became a moment in Honda’s history that will never be forgotten.
While Marquez returned in 2021 and won three races in superb style, it did little to halt what’s been a rapid decline for Repsol Honda.
The three wins from Marquez are the only MotoGP victories Honda have taken since 2019, and although several riders have flashed potential on the RC213V, results have failed to follow.
Did Honda make a MotoGP bike that only Marquez could compete with?
For so many years Honda produced a bike that only Marquez was consistently fighting at the front with.
Yes, Dani Pedrosa had his fair share of successes, most of which came during their early time as teammates, but as time went on it was apparent that Honda made a bike to suit Marquez and no one else.
Lorenzo struggled mightily during his only season with the team, and so has Pol Espargaro since joining in 2021.
At LCR Honda, Cal Crutchlow was another rider who often delivered good performances, however, he also struggled towards the end of his time with Honda.
Instead of going forward, Honda has seemingly taken steps backwards compared to its competition as Ducati, Yamaha, Suzuki and Aprilia have all moved ahead in recent seasons.
If only KTM could qualify higher up and with more consistency, then there’s a real argument to suggest Honda has the weakest package on the grid.
Most of the improvements that have led to other manufacturer’s overhauling Honda have come since the introduction of ride-height devices and greater downforce in the shape of winglets.
Yamaha facing the same problem as Honda…
While it’s not a situation Yamaha would want to be in, they have appeared to take on the same direction as Honda did for so many years.
That is producing a bike that only one rider is achieving great results with.
That’s not to take anything away from Fabio Quartararo, but Franco Morbidelli and Andrea Dovizioso have not become bad riders overnight, yet both are struggling to score points on a weekly basis, while Quartararo is challenging for wins.
It’s becoming a wider gap than what we sometimes witnessed between Marquez and other Honda riders.
The 2022 RC213V, a bike that was completely revolutionised, was supposed to get Honda back to the front of the grid.
And after a good start to the year in Qatar, performances have since fallen off a cliff, albeit Marquez was still achieving decent results considering his lingering issues which have since resulted in yet another right arm surgery – which took place after Mugello.
There’s no guarantee when or if Honda will regain their status as the best manufacturer in MotoGP, a title that was deserved for so many years given they are statistically the most successful brand ever.
But with huge resources at their disposal and it looking likely that they will sign both Joan Mir and Alex Rins, two of the better riders on the grid to go alongside Marquez when he returns from injury, surely Honda will re-fined their form.