22 October 2015
Honda's route to the Moto3 constructors title
Honda's Moto3 constructors' title is its first in the junior grand prix class since 2001.
While all eyes were on Johann Zarco's Moto2 title victory at Motegi earlier this month, in the Moto3 category Honda was celebrating its first Moto3 constructors' title.
This time, after being equal on points with KTM in 2014 and losing out on count-back of victories over the season, the manufacturer secured the title with ease on home turf at Honda's own track, with three rounds to spare.
The Japanese factory have increased their efforts in Moto3 in a bid to regain the title, their first in the lightweight class since 2001, when they sealed the deal despite Gilera's Manuel Poggiali taking the 125cc championship.
In fact, the then dominant force had taken the 125cc title every year between 1998-2001.
Historically, Honda had a strong standing in what is now considered the junior class of racing, they took their first constructors title in 1961, when Australian Tom Phillis became the first rider to claim a championship title using Japanese machinery. He was also the rider who gave Honda their first win in any class, taking grand prix victory in Barcelona in the first race of the year.
After years in the wilderness with their presence being held by smaller teams who brought their equipment, Honda made a concerted effort to regain the lightweight title, joining with the Monlau/Emilio Alzamora centred Estrella Galicia team and riders, seeing the opportunity to start a clear line to direct talent to the MotoGP team, where Alzamora's most successful rider; Marc Marquez; now sits as a Honda double MotoGP world champion.
Much of the groundwork for their return to the top was completed the previous year when Alex Marquez won in Catalunya, ending KTM's dominant lightweight record of 27 successive wins. The team switched to Honda after too running KTM machinery in 2013. That season not only saw a KTM win every race but hold the top five riders positions in the title standings, with Honda's best rider Jack Miller, in seventh overall.
After joining up with the already successful Estrella Galicia team and their riders Alex Marquez and Alex Rins the 2014 constructors title went right down to the wire.
Heading to Valencia, Honda held the lead in their championship by nine points and had three of the top four riders in the standings on their side: Marquez, Rins and Efren Vazquez.
A finish in the top two positions would have been enough to achieve their goal a year sooner, but with Marquez their best finisher behind Isaac Vinales and race winner Jack Miller, not even the efforts of their Moto3 champion that year were enough - being equal on points but with more victories under their belt lead KTM to their third successive title .
As their MotoGP effort initially found the going tough this season -Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo's Yamaha's are now the only bikes who can mathematically secure the 2015 crown - Honda's Moto3 effort for this year by comparison blew the competition out of the water, with only triple race winner Miguel Oliveira and Romano Fenati denying their talented riders the top spot of the rostrum this season.
They began the season in style with an all Honda podium at the very first round in Qatar (Masbou, Bastianini and Kent) and matched the feat in Austin (Kent, Quartararo and Vazquez) and again in Catalunya when Vazquez and Bastianini followed Kent over the line.
To cement these strong performances Honda have managed to have at least one rider on the podium at ever round so far this year.
It wasn't the main 'factory' effort pulling out the best results either. Championship leader Danny Kent (Leopard) has taken six victories, with Enea Bastianini (Gresini), Alexis Masbou (SaxoPrint-RTG), Livio Loi (RW Racing) and double winner Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) all producing wins.
Their rookie Estrella Galicia 0,0 team of Jorge Navarro and Fabio Quartararo showed much promise too, both taking a pole position and a pair of podium finishes apiece so far.
A repeat performance looks less assured for Honda as their bright young hope Quartararo, brought into the championship at just fifteen as the CEV Spanish championship winner, has moved to the Leopard team, which is switching to KTM.
Honda will thus lose their young protege to their biggest rival, while their most successful rider in 2015; Danny Kent; moves away to Moto2, also with Leopard.
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