Repsol Honda come into 2017 with an unchanged line-up for the fifth consecutive season, with the Spanish duo of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa. The Factory HRC effort this year sees a bike that once again has proved difficult in testing, with only Phillip Island showing signs of a bike capable of riding at the front. Then again, one of their riders is Marc Marquez, so anything is possible.
The 5-time champion put common sense before tradition last year, putting points before victories and finishing all the races prior to taking his title victory in Japan. Of his 55 wins so far, some of his best came last year, with a splendid ride in Austin and a mesmerising tactical victory in Germany. At just 24, he has already rocked the MotoGP paddock with his sheer class, speed and radical style, revolutionising the way a rider treats a bike. But the question is how much long can he keep doing it. Countless times last year saw Marc almost bin the Honda, most notably the penultimate corner at Brno in Free Practice. Will Marc make it six titles come the end of the season?
Alongside Marquez is Dani Pedrosa, who is becoming known as the perfect number two rider. The Catalan rider took one victory on his way to 6th overall, his lowest finish in his GP career since his debut in the paddock back in 2001. His victory in Misano was however a demonstration that the diminutive 31-year-old Spaniard has, on his day, some real shine about him. An injury during the Japanese Grand Prix meant that he didn’t score points in the final four rounds, finishing just 14 points ahead of Cal Crutchlow overall. Just three podiums for Dani last year is awful considering he’s a factory rider, meaning 2017 is a big year for him to prove his worth.
The Honda itself is down on power in comparison with Ducati and Yamaha. 230HP might seem a lot to us not sat on the thing but at circuits like Mugello, Losail and Catalunya, it may be more noticeable. Its lightweight carbon-fibre body frame does however mean that the bike relatively light and along with Marquez and Pedrosa, that could prove vital.
As far as circuits are concerned, COTA is a circuit the team is yet to fail to take the win at. Losail has been a mixed bag for the squad, not taking a win there since 2014. Argentina has seen Marquez win two out of three races there. The only track the team is yet to take a podium at is the Red Bull Ring, but after just one year of the circuit returning, that may not mean a great deal.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko