MotoGP: More On Marc Marquez Switching From Honda To Ducati

MotoGP: More On Marc Marquez Switching From Honda To Ducati

© 2023, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. From a press release issued By Dorna:

“It’ll be good for the sport”: Marquez’ move to Gresini dominates headlines on Thursday

It’s OFFICIAL! Hear from Bagnaia, Martin, Marc Marquez, Alex Marquez, Augusto Fernandez, Bastianini and Acosta about the big moves and more

Thursday, 12 October 2023

It was truly a bombshell Thursday, no matter the maelstrom of talk and rumours stretching back weeks or even months. Now it’s official, signed, sealed and delivered: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) will race with Gresini Racing MotoGP™ next year, and that stole quite a few headlines in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) already did that a few days prior as he’s confirmed as moving up to GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 next year, and he’ll be alongside Augusto Fernandez.

Last but absolutely not least, the title fight rolls on, with just three points separating Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) from Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing). Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) is also en route, but he’ll be on site from Friday looking to get the OK to head out on track. 

The first Press Conference saw Championship leader Bagnaia joined by Martin and Marc Marquez, before Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), returning from injury and straight into the eye of the storm ahead of his new teammate joining in 2024, was joined by Augusto Fernandez, Acosta and Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team), the Beast also back in action after missing three races.

Here are some quotes from a jam-packed Thursday!

FRANCESCO BAGNAIA: 

“I feel good honestly. All the races ahead of us are good for us.I love the layout here. Last year I was competitive all weekend apart from in the race when I started to struggle with the grip that was very, very high. I think we can do something good. Already in Japan we found our feeling and I was very competitive. Sunday was different but I feel that right now we are back to our potential.

 

Defending World Champion Francesco Bagnaia (right) greets Jorge Martin (left), his greatest title challenger at the moment. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Defending World Champion Francesco Bagnaia (right) greets Jorge Martin (left), his greatest title challenger at the moment. Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

Do you like the track?

“I think this layout suits my riding style well. Last year I was very competitive. I just missed the Q2 because of yellow flags in FP2. Saturday morning it was raining so it was difficult to be on top, but then I did the Q1, I was top six in qualifying and the pace was quite fast, so I think we can be competitive this year. The tyres are better for me, I prefer the tyres that they bring. It will be interesting. The fight will be intense.

JORGE MARTIN: 

Is the plan to carry on as you’re going?

“This mentality is what has brought me here for sure, we are so close now in the battle. Its a championship of six races now almost, but I think my mentality will be the same. It will be to win races and to be competitive because everything that comes will be good. For sure we will try to win it, but my target at the beginning of the season was to be in the top three and this is almost done so the rest will be good and yeah, hopefully, we can keep the momentum and be in the same form and win some races.”

 

Jorge Martin. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Jorge Martin. Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

Is this a good track for you?

“Yeah, I mean last season I enjoyed it quite a lot in the testing and also in the race weekend. Even if the conditions were difficult, I was competitive. I missed out on pole position due to a mistake at Turn 1. I feel strong. Maybe last season, in terms of pace, it wasn’t my best race, but you know this season is completely different and I can be competitive for sure.”

MARC MARQUEZ:

“It has been a super difficult decision, the toughest decision of my career because to break 11 years of relationship with Honda, a very successful relationship was super difficult. Yes, last week was hard on the emotional side because all my staff, friends and family are there inside that box. But sometimes you need to leave your comfort zone. And yeah, my comfort zone was Honda, but yeah, it’s true that it’s been a while and I’m suffering a lot. I’m not enjoying it, so I made a change to enjoy my racing again because if I’m not there’s no point in continuing my racing and continuing my career, and what I want is more and more racing in my career. The first target will be to try to enjoy it. So, for that reason I chose the Gresini team because it’s a big family. They have the best bike on the grid and my brother is there. So yeah, it will be a big challenge for me and a big challenge for the Gresini team, but they’ve already done very good results with Alex my brother and with Enea Bastianini in the past. But it’s what I say, it will be a big change in every aspect and what I’m looking for is to enjoy it, and to smile in the helmet. If I smile, everything will come.”

 

Marc Marquez. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Marc Marquez. Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

Explain when you started to think of a change…

“I mean, it’s true that in the first part of the season, I was competitive but not in a good way. I was taking a lot of risks and in the second part of the season I started with a different approach and now I’m taking risks, but not the same as in the first part of the season. I’ve had many injuries. It’s been difficult, but when you’re injured and you’re in a difficult moment, then you can’t make decisions. That’s what I learned in the past. There you have to be patient. But then in the second part of the season, of course, we’ve had some nice talks with Honda. Race by race it was super difficult because every weekend my mentality was changing a bit, with a lot of doubts. But at the same time, I had contact with the Gresini team and I told them I won’t go forward with any contract, just if you want to wait for me, wait for me, but I can’t promise anything. My decision was last Tuesday after the Japan GP. It’s what I’ve said, I need to go out of my comfort zone. The easiest way was to stay at Honda with the situation under control, the bike under control, my team there, and a big salary, so that was the easy solution. But then if I want to take care of myself and my career. I need to find a new challenge and the new challenge and best place was the Gresini team in 2024.”

Were there other options?

“Yeah. Actually one year off was one of the possibilities. Like I said, racing without enjoying has no meaning. I’ve enjoyed many things in the past, but I want to fight in the present. It doesn’t matter if you have one or eight World Championships, you have to fight for the present. This was my target. But yeah, I had different options. I won’t say because I respect all those teams and all those options. The ones that were waiting for me were the Gresini team. They took a gamble because I didn’t promise anything, but then last Tuesday I decided on the night and then on Wednesday I had the phone call in Japan, which we thought was the best option for the project because I believe that they need time, they need to put all the budget on the bike. A manufacturer or brand has a lot of time, but athletes, we don’t have a lot of time. If you lose a year, that’s one year less that you have in your career. So yeah, look, I’m looking forward to finishing these last few races well with Honda because it has been 11 years where we have we won six World Championships. We will discover how the future will be with a new team and the new bike.”

Can you confirm if anyone moving with you?

“We’re still in discussions, because just this morning we signed the MOU with Gresini. Like I said on Wednesday, we started to talk with Gresini about the contract because before I didn’t want to have any distractions and I didn’t want to have any option B because my main priority was Honda. One of the big reasons, or the biggest doubts was all my team. But it’s true that in the end I’ve spoken about it with my team, I spoke with all of them and in the end they are my friends and they’ve advised me in a friendly way, not in a team way. So this was a talk that has helped me a lot to make decisions and then I was looking for myself. Yeah, I am trying to bring at least one mechanic that I think won’t be a problem, but I can’t bring all the team for two reasons: One, I will not destroy the Repsol Honda Team because we’re in October. And reason two I won’t destroy the Gresini team because they are a family where they already have their mechanics. So I have taken that decision, so I must adapt.”

ALEX MARQUEZ: 

“I’m really happy to be back here again. I missed the team, I’ve missed the atmosphere in MotoGP. It’s not easy to watch the races on TV at home. I’ve enjoyed especially the Motegi races, but it’s time to come back. I know that I’ve arrived here at this track a bit on the limit of my physical condition. But I’m fit, but I will try to be realistic in every moment about how the pain is, I’ve already spoken with the doctors. If this pain is too high, I need to stop and wait until Australia, but my objective is to make the whole weekend. I want to get back into the rhythm and to be prepared for the next couple of races. I know that I’m far from 100% physically. I haven’t been able to train for two weeks I will try, as always in our situation, to give 100%.”

 

Alex Marquez. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Alex Marquez. Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

What do you think will be positive result?

“It’s an important GP for the team, we have a lot of Indonesian sponsors but for me I wouldn’t put any objectives whilst in our position. It’s true that if I arrived here 100% that our ambition would be to fight for the podium, and to be as far ahead as we can, but we’re not in that position unfortunately. It’s good to be here and to be getting back into the rhythm. So we’ll go practice by practice and see how our level is.”

Reaction to Marc joining the team:

“Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see him on a Ducati. I was expecting a faster teammate, but not quite that fast! It will be fun and I’m really happy for the team. They really deserve to have a rider like him. Also for Marc because he deserves to enjoy his riding again. I won’t say that he didn’t ask me about my opinion but I gave him my opinion as a brother not as a rider or as a Gresini Ducati rider, more like as a brother because I know that what he has experienced since 2020, and he is suffering quite a lot in his situation up until now, so it’s time for him to make a change.This is his decision and for me it’s positive because I will have a really fast teammate and eight-time World Champion and I can learn a lot from that situation.”

Do you think he’ll fight for wins straight away?

“It’s too early to say. Normally we’ve seen in the past that when Honda riders arrive to Ducati, they’ve found it quite easy to adapt to that bike. It was also, in my case, but he’s been riding the same bike for the past eleven years, so for sure we’ll have many things that he has to change. But yeah, he has an incredible talent. He will be fast from the first moments. But to be able to know if he can fight for the championship or wins, it’s too early to know. We still have all the winter, all the pre-season ahead of us, so we’ll see how everything goes. But for me, personally, I think it will be a really good opportunity for me to assess my level and learn from a really good rider on the grid.”

AUGUSTO FERNANDEZ: 

“For sure it is a relief to get the confirmation but also very happy to stay one more year with the same team, with the same people and the same bike because I feel like we’re building something great and I’m closer to being competitive in this class every time. To have another year with the same bike, people, same everything is what I needed so I’m very happy.”

 

Augusto Fernandez (left) with his soon-to-be-teammate Pedro Acosta (right). Photo courtesy Dorna.
Augusto Fernandez (left) with his soon-to-be-teammate Pedro Acosta (right). Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

Chance to be a Test Rider as part of the discussions? What was discussed?

“I didn’t have any other offer. We didn’t discuss any other thing with them, but everybody needed that confirmation. Happy that the news is out and happy to have another year!”

On working with Pedro:

“I’m really happy for him and for sure he deserves this place. We know how talented he is and I expect him to be a pain in the ass from Day 1, like he was in Moto2™! He was faster than everyone in the first Test in Moto2™ so I expect him to be fast from the beginning!”

ENEA BASTIANINI: 

“I’m really happy to be here again after these injuries. My body is not at 100%, but maybe it will be ready to make the race. It will be very difficult because here in Indonesia because it’s so hot, but let’s see, I’m really happy and ready to enjoy my Ducati in every session and to see how I feel on my return.”

 

Enea Bastianini. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Enea Bastianini. Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

Have you had any track time?

“No, tomorrow will be the first time for me to get back on a bike. I haven’t done any training on a Panigale or any bike before coming here because I think it won’t be a problem for me to be able to ride. I’m very excited. I remember last year I was very competitive here. During the race it was raining and I didn’t have the opportunity to go on the podium because I needed to improve in the rain, but let’s see how the weekend goes!”

Basically a testing weekend?

“Yeah, it was really important for me to test things, but I haven’t had an opportunity to test new things on the new bike because I had the crash and I didn’t make the test. I need kilometers to get my confidence back. This 2023 bike is more difficult than the 2022 one to arrive at a good level. Some riders like we’ve seen with Pecco and Jorge have incredible pace in every race and the potential of bike is very high, but I need more time, and more kilometres to arrive at that level.”

A reaction to the MM93 news:

“Well, he will be fast. I know this. I remember last year when I spoke with Nadia about Alex, I said he’d be fast from the start and we’ve seen from the first race, and the second he had opportunity to go on the podium. Marc is a good talent. He’s an incredible talent in MotoGP. And for me, he will be a problem from the first race!”

PEDRO ACOSTA: 

“At the end we are confirmed! It was a long way until it was but we are here and everything is done. Now I just need to focus on Moto2™ and try to end the Championship in the best way possible, and then focus on MotoGP™. In the end, it’s amazing to be in the box with Augusto. We shared a lot of good memories in Moto2™ and why not learn a lot from him in my first year in MotoGP™!”

 

Pedro Acosta. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Pedro Acosta. Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

Has it been distracting? Were there options?

“I said from the beginning that I believed in KTM. They really pushed to give me the best thing. Now, I think it is time to learn and try to be focused on the important things. It’s true I wasn’t really focused on that because in the end I have one of the best managers in the paddock who was fighting for me, so it wasn’t my job. I was just trying to focus on doing a good job in Moto2 because in Moto3 I lost a little bit of focus at the end of the season because of that, and I learned from the past.”

What are you most looking forward to?

“No challenge at the moment. First, we must end the Moto2 season in the best way and then we can think about other things. In the end, I know that I have fast riders in the KTM family. Brad is usually fighting for victories, Jack is fighting for podiums and Augusto is finishing in the top 10. It’s going to be difficult to fight with them in the beginning but we’ll try.”

And on the Moto2™ Championship:

We have to know when it is not possible to win, we have to take the maximum of every moment. This was the mentality from the beginning of the season. Last year, maybe I lost the Championship in the beginning because I had six zero pointers in the first seven races, which is a lot. This year I learned from him (Augusto) that maybe if I don’t get stressed, then I can arrive further!”

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