As the 2019 MotoGP season is fast approaching, one by one, all the teams are presenting their new liveries for their machines along with their riders. The Repsol Honda event in Madrid was one such event. Only that the event was extra special because former World Champions Mick Doohan and Alex Criville joined Marquez and Lorenzo at the event, which also marked 25 years of collaboration between Repsol and Honda. The Repsol and Honda deal will be until 2020. The bike continues with its orange-white-red livery which has been around since 1995.
With Lorenzo departing from Ducati to join Honda, many experts think that this might be the best team; stronger than yesteryear greats like Giacomo Agostini and Mike Hailwood. Apart from Agostini’s dominance on the MV Agusta, Repsol Honda gave a stiff competition in 1997 when Mick Doohan Alex Crivillé and Tady Okada won all 15 races.
After the shock announcement by Dani Pedrosa on his retirement after 2018 season, Jorge Lorenzo joined Honda for 2019 season. There are rumours that he was axed by Ducati but since there is no official confirmation, we cannot comment on it. On his chances at the Repsol Honda team, Lorenzo said: “It’s early to say how I will adapt to the Honda, even in the tests in Valencia I wasn’t ready and not at full fitness after my foot and hand injuries. I like the bike a lot, it’s agile and it’s fast – I appreciate these qualities. We still have to improve but being in such a successful team is a great honour.”
The announcement of Lorenzo joining Honda came soon after his first win for Ducati, at Mugello. In the process, he became the sixth man in MotoGP to win races on more than one bike, following 44 wins for Yamaha. The numbers too look great – between Marquez and Lorenzo, both of them share a total of 11 Championships, 130 victories and 255 podiums between them. Many of these have been fought against eachother. Another interesting statistic is that these two are the only ones crowned champions after 2011 – Lorenzo in 2012 and 2015, and Marquez in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
But it’s a shame that these two riders are not in fully fit for this season’s battle. Marquez has dislocated his left shoulder multiple times last year owing to some crashes. In December last year, he had undergone surgery for the same and is now in rehab. As a result, his winter wasn’t eventful either. “It’s been the most boring winter of my life, not even touching my bike after hours of recovery. I’m excited for the season to start”, said Marquez.
In October 2018 at the Thailand GP, Lorenzo suffered a crash injuring his wrist. In his first pre-season outing this year, he suffered a scaphoid injury as he misjudged the surface and crashed again, further putting pressure on his scaphoid and making the injury worse. According to the doctors who treated him, it will take three to four months to get his full strength back. As a result, he will miss the Sepang test in the first week of February and return to the second and final pre-season tests at Qatar in the last week of February. “I wish I could be here in perfect health but we have to accept things as they come. I won’t be in Sepang but you can count on me in Qatar”, said Lorenzo.
Despite the injuries plaguing Marquez and Lorenzo, there’s no doubt that both men will be gunning for the Championship crown. It will be interesting to watch the rivalry between the ex-Ducati rider and the reigning king of MotoGP riding for the same team and their rivalry on track. It is also a ripe chance for Ducati to push harder, get some victories in their bag and gain momentum at the beginning of the season. Now begins the wait for March 10 when the lights go out.