Johann Zarco’s dramatic 2019 MotoGP season took another twist this week, as LCR Honda announced he would be joining the team for the final three races of the year.
After announcing his renewal with the team for 2020, LCR also confirmed Takaaki Nakagami will be undergoing an operation on a shoulder injury after his home race of the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.
Zarco, who was dumped from KTM’s line-up following the Misano race - having already asked to get out of his two-year deal with the team in Austria amid a difficult campaign – will take over Nakagami’s 2018-spec RC213V.
On the face of it, this is Honda and LCR looking at the best available option to them to do a good job replacing Nakagami.
However, this move is also being seen as Honda’s way of evaluating Zarco – who it wanted for its 2019 line-up originally – as a potential replacement for the struggling Jorge Lorenzo next year.
Motorsport.com’s global MotoGP editor Oriol Puigdemont and Autosport’s Motorcycle Racing Correspondent discuss the thinking behind this in the latest edition of the Tank Slappers podcast and ponder Zarco’s hopes of realistically making it onto the grid full-time next year.
They also ask if Zarco will force more performance out of Lorenzo, and indeed if Honda has brought Zarco in to put pressure on Lorenzo and perhaps force him to decide to call time on his HRC career a year early.
Today, Lewis and Uri look at the career of Marc Marquez who has won eight grand prix world titles after clinching his sixth MotoGP world championship in Thailand.
The Honda rider has re-written the rulebook on what a fast rider is supposed to be ever since he stepped onto the scene, and has been a near-unstoppable force across the last decade through all three classes of the World Championship.
In MotoGP, he has romped to success largely on bikes not capable in any other rider’s hands of doing so in MotoGP’s most competitive era – with 2019 arguably his toughest challenge yet.
Now joining nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi (seven 500cc/MotGP) and 15-time world champion Giacomo Agostini (eight 500cc) as the only six-time premier class title winners, the question has been raised: is Marquez the greatest rider of all time?
Uri joins the podcast from Thailand to reflect, with co-host Lewis, on the first session today.
In the latter stages of Friday’s first practice, Marc Marquez suffered a violent highside, which demolished his RC213V and left him unable to breathe for five seconds afterwards.
Has that crash has left Marquez rattled ahead of his first match point?
Jorge Lorenzo has dismissed the idea of quitting Honda's MotoGP team a year early in the same way Johann Zarco has done with KTM, despite saying he is "not happy".
Lorenzo has endured a similarly miserable time in his debut Honda season, with the triple MotoGP world champion yet to register a top 10 finish in a year marred by difficulties in adapting to the RC213V from the Ducati he previously rode and numerous injury setbacks.
We are now one month down the road from KTM's shock announcement that Johann Zarco will be leaving the team at the end of the year, but we still no closer to knowing who his replacement will be for the 2020 MotoGP season. However an unlikely candidate from the World Superbike paddock has emerged as a potential favourite for the seat in the form of ex-MotoGP rider Alvaro Bautista. Before we into his potential deal in World Superbikes next year, Bautista is not a bad option due to his experience in MotoGP.