The factory Honda MotoGP outfit has finally confirmed Pol Espargaro’s signing from KTM to replace Alex Marquez for 2021, with the ’19 Moto2 world champion moving to LCR instead.
Espargaro has been expected to defect from the factory KTM squad he has competed with since the Austrian manufacturer joined the premier class ahead of the ’17 campaign to Honda for a while, despite HRC’s new signing Alex Marquez having not even raced for the team yet.
Espargaro will join HRC on a two year deal, making sure he will partner reigning world champion Marc Marquez until at least the end of ’22.
Marquez will instead switch to the factory-supported LCR team-also until the end of ’22- taking over the effective third factory bike currently contested by Cal Crutchlow, who now finds himself out in the cold.
Honda gave their best wishes to the Brit-who has so far secured three wins with LCR across his five years with the organisation- in a short statement that confirmed Marquez would take his place at the Italian team.
“HRC would like to extend their thanks to Cal Crutchlow for his diligent and tireless work since joining HRC in 2015.
“With three wins and 12 podiums, the British rider has been a valuable asset on and off track – a constant source of excellent feedback for the engineers and a key part of developing the Honda RC213V in recent years. HRC wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”
With Crutchlow having already ruled out a switch back to the World Superbike championship he competed in ahead of his MotoGP graduation back in ’10, his only two options seem to be a move to Aprilia to replace the banned Andrea Iannone or retirement.
Espargaro meanwhile has so far managed just a sole premier class rostrum-a fine wet weather performance to secure his and KTM’s first at the ‘18 Valencia finale- with a best championship result of sixth, claimed in his rookie MotoGP campaign with the Tech 3 Yamaha team in ’14.
The Spaniard’s aggressive riding style has allowed him to rise head and shoulders above his KTM compatriots across the past few years, and with the Honda RC213-V demanding a similar style, it is expected that he should fare better than the likes of Jorge Lorenzo’s horror ’19 effort for example.
Marquez meanwhile finally secured the Moto2 title last year on his fifth attempt with the front-running Marc VDS squad to go along with his ’14 Moto3 world title, securing himself the second factory Honda seat alongside brother Marc to replace the out-going Jorge Lorenzo.
He now finds himself shuffled out of the team though having only completed a pre-season testing programme with them, although moving to LCR should theoretically allow Marquez to continue learning his premier-class craft in a less pressurised environment.