Honda takes the covers off its 2021 MotoGP challenger

HRC’s 2021 factory launch event signalled Marquez’s first public appearance in Repsol colours since aborting his comeback from a broken arm during last July’s Andalusian Grand Prix.

Marquez will be joined by 2013 Moto2 world champion Espargaro, who joins from a four-year stint with KTM from 2017-2020 and marks HRC’s third different factory team rider in as many years.

Honda reported two weeks ago that Marquez’s arm is finally starting to show signs of healing following a third operation on it in December.

Marquez’s slow recovery time following a second operation in August – caused by an undiagnosed infection in his arm – ultimately ruled him out of the entire 2020 season.

Despite his recovery moving in the right direction, Marquez is unlikely to be present at next month’s Qatar tests and races.

“Expectations from Honda are always that we try to do our best, which means trying to win the title or whatever we can win,” Honda boss Alberto Puig said.

“This has been the DNA of this company and this brand for many years in racing.

“Our duty, our target, is to try and achieve it.

“We understand that we have competitors who also always want to do the same but as a starting point, our target is to get the title and to improve our bikes and to be stronger every day in our jobs.”

In his absence, Honda registered its first winless MotoGP campaign since it returned to the premier class full-time in 1982.

HRC would still manage two podiums, courtesy of Alex Marquez, who scored back-to-back second-place finishes in France and the first Aragon race.

Honda test rider Stefan Bradl rode in place of Marquez from the Czech GP onwards, managing a best result of seventh at the season finale in Portugal.

Despite speculation linking ex-Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso to a return to Honda in place of Marquez while he continues his recovery, Bradl is now likely to deputise for Marquez again if necessary.

Alex Marquez has been moved to the LCR squad for 2021 after penning a new two-year Honda deal, with the team unveiling its new livery last week as well as that for team-mate Takaaki Nakagami.

Pramac will be the next team to launch its 2021 season on Thursday, followed by Valentino Rossi who will be making his first appearance as a Petronas SRT rider at its presentation on 1 March.

Reigning world champions Suzuki will launch its season on the opening day of pre-season testing on 6 March, while Aprilia is yet to confirm its launch plans.


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