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MotoGP Malaysian GP

Valentino Rossi MotoGP protege Marini in talks to replace Marquez at Honda

Autosport has learned Valentino Rossi protege Luca Marini is in discussions with Honda about replacing Marc Marquez for MotoGP 2024, with Fermin Aldeguer in talks to race for VR46.

Luca Marini, VR46 Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

During the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend, Honda team boss Alberto Puig told DAZN that there were three riders who were candidates to take the factory HRC spot being vacated by eight-time world champion Marquez.

Current Gresini rider Fabio Di Giannantonio – who Marquez will replace – was one of them, alongside ex-Honda rider Pol Espargaro and VR46 Ducati’s Marini.

Espargaro ruled himself out of this on Friday, telling the media at Sepang that he had held talks with Puig but had decided to remain with KTM as a test rider next season.

As Autosport has learned, contacts between Gianluca Falcioni, the Marini’s agent, and Puig intensified this Saturday in the Sepang paddock, after several meetings between the Spanish executive and the Japanese Honda officials, who had travelled to Malaysia.

Marini remained cagey on the subject when Autosport asked him about it on Friday in Malaysia.

Asked by Autosport if he’s held talks with Honda, he said: “Well, now, no, in this moment. Today, Friday.”

When pressed if these had happened at some point, he added: “Ah, this is… you need to talk with my manager.”

Marini did not deny that joining Honda appealed to him, despite already being contracted to VR46 for 2024 on the grid’s best bike.

“Yeah, you have the best bike, but going in a factory team and develop your own bike and talk with the engineers and follow a direction – your direction – everybody together, is a completely different thing,” he said when asked by Autosport if it made sense moving to Honda, from a competitive standpoint.

“I know that my package now is fantastic, the team is working very well, and Ducati is a fantastic bike performing well every time in every situation, every condition.

“But also, as a rider, I have dreams to achieve and to ride and work for a factory team is something really incredible, in my opinion.

"But it needs to be the correct project, the correct situation.”

Luca Marini, VR46 Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Luca Marini, VR46 Racing Team

He added on Friday: "The problem, in today's MotoGP is that, in one year, with only five days of pre-season testing, there is no time for anything.

“My goal is to reach a factory structure and develop a bike, but it is essential to do it with the right opportunity.

“Doing just one year, in any MotoGP team is very risky for any rider.

“The Ducati is scary, it's a bike that allows you to go fast. But, I have to say, developing a bike like you like would be a very nice thing to do.”

VR46 team boss Uccio Salucci said on the matter: “I would prefer him to stay with us, but I would also be happy if he left, because the goal of the Academy [the VR46 rider training school] is to help our guys to reach an official team.”

Autosport understands that 18-year-old Moto2 star Fermin Aldeguer has been chosen by VR46 as its favourite option to replace Marini.

Aldeguer – who was linked to a Honda switch for next year, but this was denied by Puig earlier this weekend – has made contact with VR46 team bosses on Saturday at Sepang.

Marini’s decision to join Honda may come as a surprise, but it is thought that stepping out from his brother Valentino Rossi’s team is a way for Marini to show that he is not simply protected by the nine-time grand prix world champion.

A Marini switch to Honda would also reignite Rossi links to the Japanese marque 20 years on from him leaving the brand he won the first of his three MotoGP titles with.

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