Rumours of the surprise move were first reported by David Emmett of, with subsequently naming Kawauchi.

As technical manager for Suzuki, Kawauchi’s GSX-RR won seven races and the 2020 world championship (Joan Mir) from its 2014 debut until the factory’s shock exit at the end of last season.

Prominent Japanese staff changing manufacturers is extremely rare, with the last such move by a MotoGP technical manager being Ichiro Yoda, from Yamaha to Kawasaki, during 2004.

However, with Suzuki not only ripping up the remainder of its five-year MotoGP contract but effectively pulling out of all its factory racing endeavours, should the rumours prove true it would arguably be a case of Suzuki leaving Kawauchi rather than the other way around.

Kawauchi would also rejoin Mir and five-time race winner Alex Rins, who have both secured Honda MotoGP seats following Suzuki’s exit.

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Famous for hugging his clipboard throughout the on-track action, Kawauchi is tipped to take the place of Takeo Yokoyama, technical director for the RC213V project since 2018.

The highlight of Yokoyama’s time in charge was Marc Marquez’s 2019 campaign, when the Spaniard finished first or second in 18 of the 19 rounds (12 wins) and set a new all-time points record of 420.

But everything changed for HRC when Marquez broke his arm after a spectacular charge through the field at the Covid-delayed Jerez season opener in July 2020.

It marked the start of three seasons of misery for the Spanish star and, consequently, rock-bottom results for HRC, which couldn’t kick its dependency on Marquez for results.

While Marquez underwent four rounds of surgery to cure infection and restore a natural range of movement in his arm - plus two episodes of diplopia (double vision) – the other Honda riders produced a combined four podiums in three seasons.

In between his operations, Marquez managed to end the factory’s losing streak with three wins during 2021.

However, a major re-design to enhance rear grip for the 2022 RCV backfired.

After initial success in the form of a podium for Pol Espargaro in Qatar, the bike lost performance - and remained at odds with Marquez’s natural ‘front-end’ style.

The factory hit a symbolic low at the Sachsenring when, in Marquez’s absence, Honda failed to score a single point in a grand prix race for the first time since 1982.

While Marquez returned for the final six races, taking his only podium of the season at Phillip Island, the RCV remained winless for the second time in three years while Honda sank to sixth and last in the constructors’ standings.

As such, Yokoyama’s future was being called into question by the closing stages of the season, when Honda also broke with its proud ‘in-house’ tradition by hiring Kalex to create an alternative aluminium swingarm.

If it wasn’t already, Yokoyama’s fate was perhaps sealed when Marquez was left underwhelmed by the 2023 prototype brought to last November’s Valencia test:

“Not a big difference…. We need more if we want to fight for a championship. With the [bike] that we received here - we will not fight for a championship," he said.

Should Kawauchi’s arrival be confirmed by HRC, he should get his first chance to work with Marquez and Honda during the official Sepang test from February 10-12.