Why a Luca Marini to Repsol Honda move makes sense

Luca Marini looks on the verge of being officially confirmed as Marc Marquez’s replacement at Repsol Honda next season.
Luca Marini, MotoGP, Malaysia MotoGP, 12 November
Luca Marini, MotoGP, Malaysia MotoGP, 12 November

The Italian is the last in a long line of riders linked with the factory RCV seat and is now set to join Johann Zarco is leaving the most dominant bike on the grid, a Ducati Desmosedici, for a machine currently last in the constructers’ standings.

But Marini has never hidden his desire to be a factory MotoGP rider, telling Crash.net at the start of this season: “The goal of every rider is to try to go in a factory team and then try to win with that bike. We need to perform well at the satellite team to achieve this target.”

Marini faced a major roadblock to achieving that factory dream at Ducati, with title contender Jorge Martin and Marini’s multi-race winning team-mate Marco Bezzecchi leading the queue if reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia or Enea Bastianini are replaced. Yamaha race winner Franco Morbidelli is also arriving at Ducati, via Pramac, next season... not to mention a certain Marc Marquez.

Outside of Ducati, Aprilia has a two-plus-two years contract option on RNF riders Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez. KTM has already signed Brad Binder until 2026 and is likely reserving the other future seat for Pedro Acosta.

Yamaha might be a possible option for 2025. But now in his third season of MotoGP, Marini likely feels it’s now or never for the factory chance.

The salary will obviously be much better than at a satellite team and it will also allow Marini to move further out of brother Valentino Rossi’s shadow.

With Honda rumoured to have dropped the single-year offer that cooled interest from other riders, Marini is not only likely to get two years at HRC but will face less opposition than usual for a further renewal due to the normal two-year rider contract cycle running from 2025-2026.

With the imposing figure of eight-time world champion Marquez leaving HRC, Marini will also have a much better opportunity to establish himself within the team and pull bike development in his direction.

Meanwhile, the impact of Honda’s reshuffle of senior management should start to have a meaningful impact from next season, when Honda is also set to benefit from new, to-be-confirmed, technical concessions.

And if it goes wrong at Honda, VR46 would surely welcome Marini back in the future, as they had been prepared to do for fellow Academy rider Morbidelli, if Bezzecchi had chosen Pramac.

An interesting question that remains unanswered is if Marini will simply slot into Marquez’s place, working with Santi Hernandez and a tight-knit crew of mainly Spanish mechanics the #93 is leaving behind.

That same crew ran Marquez during the bitter clashes with Valentino Rossi, but Marini has always steered clear of becoming embroiled in his brother’s battles.

“With Valentino, we don't have a relationship. But with Luca, I always had a very good relationship,” Marquez said.

"I'm happy for him. He's a young rider, so if in the end it will be official [his move to Repsol Honda] he has a good challenge to move from a Ducati, where he is competitive in his brother’s team.”

Marquez’s crew probably feels the same way and would be happy to work with Marini, although there is always the possibility that at least some might swap over to team-mate Joan Mir's side, or that Marini might bring a key staff member or two from VR46.

If the move makes sense for Marini, what about Honda?

The most obvious plus on paper is that Marini is the highest-ranked rider in the world championship (eighth) to show interest in the HRC role - including being four places above Fabio di Giannantonio, riding the same spec GP22 at Gresini, who was favourite for the Repsol seat when only a single year appeared on offer.

Yes, Marini had an agreement with VR46 for next season, announced in early September. But while other rumoured Repsol contenders with a more impressive CV would have needed a messy contract extraction, something Honda would be desperate to avoid, VR46 was sure to happily release Marini from his 2024 commitments.

Team director Uccio Salucci told Crash.net earlier this year that VR46’s main purpose is to provide a springboard for Academy riders to reach factory MotoGP teams, rather than keep hold of them.

“For sure, we do our team for our riders, and I sincerely hope [Marini and Bezzecchi] go into a factory team. Ducati, or another,” he said.

Underlining the seamless nature of a Marini switch is that the rider management side of VR46 would have been negotiating the HRC deal for him. And Rossi, as the overall boss, would naturally want what’s best for his brother.

While marketable and articulate with the media, Marini’s technical skills and attention to detail are sure to be highly regarded by Honda engineers.

At 26, Marini brings a good mix of youth and (Ducati) experience. The six-time winner and title runner-up in Moto2 has taken his first MotoGP pole and podium (1 x GP, 2 x Sprint) this season.

Can Marini do a Dovi?

In some ways, there are parallels between a Marini-Repsol Honda move and a previous big career choice by another quietly spoken (and often underrated) Italian; Andrea Dovizioso.

Dovi left Tech3 Yamaha after a successful season to join the struggling factory Ducati team, after Rossi’s departure, in 2013.

Dovizioso went on to play a key role in the rebuilding of the Ducati project, taking the Desmosedici from a podium-less MotoGP low to race wins and title contender (against Marc Marquez) from 2017-2019, outperforming some prestigious team-mates along the way.

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