Joan Mir has confirmed he has entered negotiations with Repsol Honda about a move for the 2023 MotoGP World Championship from the departing Suzuki factory team.
The 2020 MotoGP World Champion – together with team-mate Alex Rins – have become unwitting free agents on the MotoGP rider market after it emerged Suzuki planned to exit MotoGP at the end of the season.
With the series set to lose one of its most competitive manufacturer entries, it means the rider market – which appeared destined to remain fairly stagnant for the next cycle of two-year deals in 2023 and 2024 – has been blown open with the addition of Mir and Rins, two of MotoGP’s highest-calibre riders.
With the Spanish pair claiming they were close to agreeing to an extension to their Suzuki deals prior to the firm’s bombshell, the shift has revived the possibility of Mir making a switch to Repsol Honda, having originally turned the team’s advances down over the winter.
While he stopped short of saying a deal had been reached – as had been rumored in the Italian press – he revealed talks have indeed started to partner Marc Marquez for 2023.
“From Jerez, we were officially on the market,” added Mir. “We were in negotiations with Suzuki before everything that happened. Now, for sure, my manager will have more work than he expected. He is speaking with Honda, with different manufacturers, to try to fix my future. But it’s not easy.
“Am I in a hurry? No, not especially. If you ask every rider in the paddock, they’ll say that they’d prefer to have their future fixed than not.
“Everyone is the same on that. As soon as we have something it will be better for me, for everyone.”
Could Alex Rins be forced out of MotoGP?
While Mir’s MotoGP future looks relatively safe, the same cannot be said for team-mate Rins, despite the three-time race winner enjoying a revival of fortunes in 2022 following a disappointing, error-strewn campaign in 2021.
Revealing he cried upon hearing of Suzuki’s impending exit, Rins admits he is yet to start talks with any teams for 2023.
Unfortunately for him, his options – at least on the factory side – appear fairly slim. With Honda eyeing Mir and Ducati set to fill its remaining works ride internally, it leaves just Yamaha, KTM and Aprilia as options.
While Fabio Quartararo is close to agreeing a new Yamaha deal alongside the already confirmed Franco Morbidelli, the Italian’s lackluster form since returning from a knee injury has raised speculation his seat is under threat despite being under contract.
KTM, meanwhile, has remained quiet on the rider front but while Indonesia MotoGP race winner Miguel Oliveira might have earned a stay of execution in normal circumstances thanks to his long-time association with the Austrian brand, his inconsistent form coupled with the fresh rider market options could see him on his way out.
As for Aprilia, the Italian manufacturer – so often shunned as a less competitive option – has emerged as one of the more attractive prospects on the back of Aleix Espargaro’s fine form in 2022.
Having only bagged big name signing Maverick Vinales mid-way through 2021, Aprilia would have been keen to retain the eight-time race winner beyond 2022. However, the Spaniard hasn’t sparkled on the RS-GP since his arrival, which may promptly a change of heart, though the firm could gain some leverage should it follow through on talk it could add a second satellite team under the steer of Leopard Racing.
Beyond the factory teams, Pramac Ducati is expected to gain the two riders that will likely miss out on the factory seat out of Jack Miller, Enea Bastianini and Jorge Martin. And while it doesn’t receive quite as much support as Pramac, the Gresini Racing squad remains a very competitive option using year-old machinery.
Alternatively, if Rins finds no room at the MotoGP inn for 2023, he could be seen as a major coup for a WorldSBK team, namely one like Kawasaki, which is expected to consider a replacement for Alex Lowes at the end of the season, or potentially rivals Ducati.
What about Pol Espargaro?
While Espargaro was at pains to stress that Mir’s ‘confirmed’ deal with Honda was simply ‘fake news’, all signs point towards him being out of the factory squad for 2023.
Nevertheless, he could be sweetened with a deal to shift to a pseudo-factory role at the sister LCR Honda squad to replace the out-of-form Alex Marquez, with Moto2 standout Ai Ogura most likely partnering him in place of Takaaki Nakagami.
Alternatively, his brother could petition Aprilia to accommodate a formidable all-Espargaro line-up at Aprilia, or he could return to complete some unfinished business with the KTM factory squad he raced with for four seasons prior to his switch to Honda.