Marc Marquez has officially extended his Repsol Honda MotoGP contract until the end of 2018.

Although the announcement is relatively late, given the spate of 2017 deals already announced, in reality it was simply timed to coincide with his home Catalunya round.

Repsol Honda is centred around the young Spaniard, who made history by winning the MotoGP crown at his first two attempts, with any slim chance of Marquez leaving HRC evaporating once Jorge Lorenzo's Ducati deal was announced in mid-April.

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With Ducati putting all its resources into securing Lorenzo, Yamaha became the only race-winning alternative to Honda - but that was a non-starter given Marquez would have been team-mate to Valentino Rossi... Maverick Vinales has subsequently been confirmed in that role.

"I'm very happy to announce this renewal with HRC, especially coinciding with Grand Prix of Catalunya, my home GP, where I have some really good memories. HRC and I have a very strong relationship, and I've always wanted to continue being a part of the Repsol Honda Team," Marquez said.

"In three and a half years together, we've enjoyed some unbelievable moments, with great victories and two world titles, as well as a few challenging moments that I believe are making us stronger.

"We're working very hard this year to regain the title. It's a great honour to be a part of the Honda family, and I'm glad to remain with this special group of people for another two seasons."

Despite battling handling problems throughout 2015, then further electronic and engine struggles during winter testing, Marquez has won two races this year and sits second in the world championship, just ten points from Lorenzo.

Marquez has been partnered by countryman Dani Pedrosa since moving up to the premier-class in 2013. Pedrosa re-signed in the run-up to the previous Mugello round.

"We're honoured to have reached an agreement with Marc for two more years. There's no doubt that he is the present and future of MotoGP!" declared HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto. "We know him well and he knows us well, and we both wanted to continue together; for this reason, we felt no rush for this renewal.

"Marc has grown a lot during almost four years with HRC, and now he's an even more complete rider than in 2014, when he won 10 races in a row. Although he's still very young, we already have a long relationship together, and we know that Marc's experience is very important for helping our engineers to develop our bike."

All six leading factory MotoGP seats - at Repsol Honda, Movistar Yamaha and Ducati - have now been filled for next season.

However the Suzuki, Aprilia and KTM factory teams each have one more rider to name, while the satellite teams - led by Tech 3 and Pramac - also have at least one unconfirmed place.

By Peter McLaren

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The only guy to stand between Rossi and his very good chance at a World Championship next season.