The Japanese manufacturer finally confirmed on Monday that it is recruiting Pol Espargaro from KTM to join Marc Marquez in its works team line-up for 2021 and ’22.
The move comes at the expense of Marquez’s younger brother Alex, who was handed the ride vacated by the retiring Jorge Lorenzo at the end of last season but will instead step down to LCR for the next two seasons after his rookie campaign.
Although demoting the reigning Moto2 champion before he has even had chance to make his first start in the premier class has been criticized as harsh in certain quarters, Puig is adamant that the LCR move will benefit all parties concerned.
“We were aware that for a rookie, depending on what your career has been like, Repsol Honda is sometimes not the best place to start,” said Puig, “in the sense that you have a lot of pressure and you have to get results from day one.
“Racing alongside a person like Marc Marquez, whether he is your brother or not, is difficult for anyone.
“We care a lot about Alex Marquez’s future and that’s why we have decided that being a factory rider, which he will be, and riding the same bike, he’s going to make progress with a little more comfort than if he were at Repsol Honda, where the situation is difficult.
Alex Marquez, Repsol Honda Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
“We have considered that, with his age, he should be trained, we should follow him very closely, because he is a rider that interests us, but at the same time take on in the [factory] team a more experienced rider, with more years of racing, as Pol Espargaro has, who is more seasoned and can go out to fight from next year directly from a more established position.
“We believe that this roster of riders, as we have thought, is what benefits us all by far. It’s the most logical thing and what we’re going to do.”
Alex Marquez will replace Cal Crutchlow at LCR for the 2021 season, with the Briton now forced to look outside the Honda fold to continue his career in MotoGP.
Puig said that the option of slotting Marquez in at LCR for this season was not considered because of the disruption it would have created for the Monegasque team, which has a complex funding arrangement with numerous smaller sponsors.
“At that time we didn’t want to interfere with Lucio Cecchinello’s team by taking their rider,” said Puig, “because we would have dismantled the structure and for us LCR is a very important team, which gives us a lot of service and helps us a lot.”
While Crutchlow has been linked to a possible move to Aprilia next season, Puig clarified that the Briton has the opportunity to join Honda’s World Superbike team next year.
“There’s always a chance for him if he wants to contemplate this option, with our new bike, because also the target of Honda in WSBK is to get the title in the near future,” he said.
Leon Haslam, Team HRC, Alvaro Bautista, Team HRC
Photo by: Honda