Suppo: Honda didn’t listen to Pedrosa, Crutchlow - 'focused on Marc winning'

Honda’s MotoGP problems began several years before Marc Marquez’s 2020 arm injuries, according to former team manager Livio Suppo.
Marquez, Pedrosa, Argentinian MotoGP
Marquez, Pedrosa, Argentinian MotoGP

Although Marquez won consecutive MotoGP titles from 2016-2019, adding to his two earlier world championships, race victories for fellow Honda riders dried up by early 2018.

Marquez’s arm injury then led to a winless 2020 campaign before the Spanish star fought back with three victories in-between further surgery in 2021.

That success suggested the worst was over for Honda, but it proved a false dawn.

The competitiveness of the RCV continued to decline, despite Marquez’s improving physical condition, and he didn’t win a race in either 2022 or 2023. The #93 has quit Honda to join Gresini Ducati this season.

Alex Rins saved Honda from another winless campaign with a shock victory at COTA last year but signed for Yamaha during the summer break. Honda went on to finish fifth and last in the 2023 constructors’ standings.

“I don't know if we have time enough to speak about it now!” began Suppo, when quizzed on the reasons for Honda’s current MotoGP difficulties during an exclusive interview with

“First of all, it's difficult to speak about problems when you are not [directly] involved.

“I was involved [at Honda] until the end of 2017. And then in 2018, basically it was the same exact team I left, with Dani and Marc. And still it was a reasonably good season for Dani, even if he was not able to win races.”

Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Dutch MotoGP
Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Dutch MotoGP

However, Pedrosa and Crutchlow were warning Honda about growing problems with the bike.

“You will remember some interviews by Cal, that were not so nice about the bike!” Suppo said.

“But Dani was also complaining - not in public, but in the technical meetings - that the bike was becoming more and more difficult to ride.”

But with Marquez romping to the 2018 title with nine wins, then 12 wins and another crown in 2019, their words seemed to fall on deaf ears.

“Of course, the talent of Marc was a big help. And so probably one of the mistakes was at that time for Honda not to listen to riders like Cal and Dani,” Suppo continued.

“They didn't care too much about the result of the other riders, they were just focused on Marc winning, winning, winning. And this was probably the biggest mistake.

“And then when they realised it, which happened basically together with the accident of Marc [in 2020], it was too late.

“But that's why I don't think only Jerez 2020 is the main reason why Honda was struggling so much in the last few years.

"It’s a combination of things.”

When Pedrosa and Crutchlow retired, at the end of 2018 and 2020 respectively, they were promptly snapped up for MotoGP testing duties… by rival factories.

“I was very surprised when I understood that [Honda] didn't offer or didn't find a solution to have Dani on board as a test rider,” Suppo said. “Because it was clear to everybody that Dani has a great sensitivity [on the bike].”

Pedrosa remains with KTM, where he came close to podium finishes as a wild-card at Misano last season, while Crutchlow is the official test and replacement rider for Yamaha.

Nakamoto and Suppo, Australian MotoGP Race
Nakamoto and Suppo, Australian MotoGP Race

Nakamoto’s retirement hastened Suppo’s HRC exit

After running Ducati’s MotoGP team from 2003-2009, highlighted by Casey Stoner’s 2007 title victory, Suppo was poached by Shuhei Nakamoto to join HRC for 2010.

Stoner was reunited with Suppo at Repsol Honda the following year and immediately won his second MotoGP crown and HRC’s first since Nicky Hayden in 2006.

Marquez took over Stoner’s seat in 2013, when the Australian retired and Suppo had celebrated a total of six MotoGP titles by the time he suddenly announced he was leaving Honda, a day after Marquez’s fourth premier-class crown, in November of 2017.


“Not only one reason, but for sure I was - after many, many years of doing always the same things - I needed a break. But on top of that there was the retirement of Nakamoto-san,” Suppo explained.

“Nakamoto-san did his last race in Austin 2017. Because in Japan at 60 years old they have to [retire]. And after his retirement, it was clear to me that the new president would have preferred to work with people that he knows before.

“This is something quite normal in any big company. And basically I had one more year contract with Honda, but I spoke with Nomura, who at the time was the [HRC] president.

“I said, ‘Nomura-san, I'm 53, I have more than 20 years’ experience. If you think I can be useful, I'm more than happy to respect my contract. But, if you think you would prefer to do things differently, no problem’.

“And so, at the end in Valencia [2017], on Sunday, he told me, ‘OK, if you prefer to leave. We will respect the contract until the end. So basically one more year. But you are free to leave’.

“I think that for me was the best because, with my character, to remain there without having the power to take any decision, just to take the money, was something I cannot do.”

Suppo later returned as Suzuki team manager for what would be the factory's final 2022 MotoGP season.

Alex Rins’ emotional wins at Phillip Island and Valencia also made Suppo the only team manager of the MotoGP era to oversee victories for three different factories.

Suppo, Nakamoto, Repsol Honda Team, 2014 World Champion, Japanese MotoGP Race
Suppo, Nakamoto, Repsol Honda Team, 2014 World Champion, Japanese MotoGP…

'We chat at least one or two times a month'

As with Filippo Preziosi of Ducati, Suppo still keeps in regular contact with his former boss Nakamoto.

"With Nakamoto, we chat at least one or two times a month," Suppo said. "When Nakamoto was 60 something already, a couple of years ago, he decided to open a tennis school. Tennis is his passion and so now he has a tennis school close to his home in Saitama.

"I've been there when I went to Motegi last year. I was one night with him, his wife and ex-Bridgestone [MotoGP boss] Yamada-san.

"We had dinner and remembered the old times. Then I stayed one night in Tokyo and went the day after to Motegi.

"So with Nakamoto we are friends, also like with Filippo."

Suppo and Preziosi, San Marino MotoGP
Suppo and Preziosi, San Marino MotoGP

Preziosi led the technical side of Ducati's MotoGP project from its 2003 debut until the end of 2012, overcoming a serious accident that left him confined to a wheelchair.

"With Filippo, we shared such a long time and such a big experience both in terms of job and life," Suppo said. "When I met Filippo the first time was 1999 and he had his accident at the end of 2000. Something that that really changed his life and I have a huge admiration for the way that Filippo is living with this.

"I have a huge respect for Filippo, he is one of the most intelligent people I've ever met and also one of the stronger characters in terms of never give up attitude.

"At the moment, he's doing a lot of things he likes. He goes skiing, scuba diving. He's doing a life that is normal even if, of course, for him it is much more difficult.

"This increased, yet again, my respect for him."

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