In a Friday interview with Spanish broadcaster DAZN at the Malaysian MotoGP, Repsol Honda team manager Alberto Puig shut down speculation that Moto2 star Fermin Aldeguer might take over Marc Marquez’s vacant seat.
“It's 100% false,” Puig said.
But no sooner had one rider rumour apparently been put to bed than another was ignited, with Puig saying ex-HRC rider Pol Espargaro was “a real possibility” for the seat.
Espargaro claimed two podiums during a pair of often frustrating seasons at Repsol Honda before returning to KTM via the Tech3 GASGAS project this year.
But after being convinced to hand his full-time ride to Moto2 champion elect Pedro Acosta for next season, Espargaro is one of the few experienced MotoGP riders on the current grid that might be available for 2024.
However, while thanking Puig, the #44 made clear he intends to stay with KTM.
“I'm really grateful to Alberto. And for a manufacturer to want you back, for whatever reasons or conditions, is something nice,” Espargaro told MotoGP.com.
“It means that the job done there was not too bad and the relationship with them is good.
“I had talks for sure with Alberto. We had a talk about the contracts and all this, but also on the other hand, I'm tied with my contract with KTM and also my relationship with KTM is very nice. I'm very comfortable where I am, also looking to the future.
“Maybe I would like to continue [full-time racing in 2024], but the situation is like this and I take it with responsibility knowing that 2025 is open again.
“I want to really give a hand to this manufacturer, the Pierer Mobility Group, to make them grow, to be world champion one day, hopefully very soon.
“That’s my position right now.”
The Spaniard, who was badly injured in the Portimao season-opener and didn’t return until after the summer break, added his decision came down to: “My loyalty, my relationship with KTM and also the future work that is in front of us. I have quite a lot to give still to them and I think they can give me quite a lot more still.
"I think for both parties working together for the future, it's pretty interesting.
“So I felt that somehow this decision is the most intelligent, even if I’d like to keep riding [full time] because I feel fast.
"I need actually this winter to come back to my normal level, because I think I'm having quite a lot of [physical] problems with my body and my confidence that I need to build up again.
“But as I said, 2025 is a new year and we will see what happens, but at the moment my heart is orange, white and red.”
With Espargaro and Aldeguer apparently out of the running, Fabio di Giannantonio remains the favourite to effectively swap places with Marquez for 2024, but with Luca Marini lurking in the background, expressing interest in a factory role while confirming he has a contract to stay at VR46.
Reacting to the Repsol Honda rumours before Espargaro’s denial, Tech3 GASGAS team boss Herve Poncharal had told Dorna’s Jack Appleyard:
“Honestly, if you look at what’s happening in the paddock for the past few weeks, nothing is impossible.
“[But] from what I know Pol’s visited the [Pierer Mobility] head office, met the management and when I spoke with him about the meeting, he was quite pleased with what he’s been offered as a 2024 program.
“I think Pol would be happy to finish his career with Pierer Mobility, work as a test and substitute rider, then stay as an ambassador for the future. But we also know they all have the fire to go [full-time] racing.
“But regarding GASGAS Tech3 we know our riders next year are Augusto Fernandez and Pedro Acosta.”
Repsol Honda is believed to be offering only a one-year deal for the ex-Marquez seat, with most MotoGP rider contracts expiring at the end of next season.