After the first four races of the 2021 MotoGP season, Honda’s performance can be viewed in nothing other than a very negative light. If we put Marc Marquez’s return aside, the rider having completed only two races after months away from the tracks and still not in ideal physical shape, the Tokyo manufacturer scored no significant results in Qatar or Portugal, while Jerez finally brought something better, at the hands of its least valued rider.
At Jerez de la Frontera, it was Japanese rider Takaaki Nakagami who ‘saved’ Honda with an impressive fourth-place finish, the rider coming close to the podium and demonstrating a solidity that we hadn’t yet seen from any of the RC213V riders so far this season.
Light at the end of the tunnel?
If we look at the championship standings, we see that the Japanese is the highest scoring Honda rider, despite only lying in eleventh place (with 19 points to the 17 of Pol Espargaró). He is also riding a less advanced bike than those of the factory riders and his more esteemed LCR team-mate Alex Marquez, currently a distant relative of the rider we saw in the second half of last season.
Now in his fourth season in the reigning class, perhaps it’s time for Honda to focus on Taka in order to make the bike more rideable. It would be a big responsibility for a rider who’s not yet proved to be a MotoGP winner, sure, but judging by the results, he is perhaps the only rider (Marc aside) able to tame a “monster” like the RC213V at such a difficult time.
The next races will provide more of an answer but, for now, and as strange as it might seem talking about the world’s most powerful brand, Takaaki represents a reference point from which to start and at least glimpse the famous light at the end of a tunnel that, right now, looks very dark for Honda.
Translated by Heather Watson