Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

Global Global
Opinion
MotoGP Americas GP

How Alex Rins' Austin MotoGP win will change his role at Honda

OPINION: Alex Rins started the Americas Grand Prix weekend stating he felt underutilised by Honda and ended it as the Japanese manufacturer’s first MotoGP winner not called Marc Marquez since 2018. Now with silverware to back up his belief, his responsibility within the Honda operation is set to step up

Alex Rins, Team LCR Honda

Three days after demanding more attention from Honda regarding the development of its 2023 bike, Alex Rins brought out his best in Austin to take a resounding victory that will undoubtedly lead the Japanese marque to give him more prominence.

No matter how well the Spaniard had done in the past at the Circuit of the Americas, where he had won in all three categories that make up the world championship, absolutely no one would have predicted that Rins would be able to put together the best weekend of this season for Honda.

His slot on the first row of the grid, achieved on Saturday morning, was followed by second place in the sprint race and he finished the job on Sunday with a determined victory. Until then, no rider other than Marc Marquez had been able to climb onto the top step of the podium for Honda since Cal Crutchlow did so at the 2018 Argentine Grand Prix. The feat allowed the LCR team to get its 100th podium in the best way imaginable.

Numbers aside, Rins' performance was exuberant enough to push Francesco Bagnaia to the edge, forcing the reigning champion to make a mistake that ended with him on the ground, clearing the way for the Honda.

Such a performance never goes unnoticed for a manufacturer, and all the more so when it is going through a period as turbulent as the one Honda is experiencing. Its last win came courtesy of Marquez at Misano in 2021, another race outcome coincidentally preceded by a crash from Bagnaia. The number of absentees due to injury and Marquez's convalescence, combined with the apparent disorientation of the technical division at HRC, led to a sense of anxiety settling in at the official Repsol-backed team, although that uneasiness affected the satellite squad too.

In fact, last Thursday, Rins wanted to vindicate himself by declaring that he felt "untapped" by Honda, which, in his view, has to date not used him as much as it should. What happened in Texas will not only have a soothing and revitalising effect on the Japanese company, but it will also reposition Rins and amplify his voice.

Rins felt Honda wasn't using him enough to help on the 2023 bike development

Rins felt Honda wasn't using him enough to help on the 2023 bike development

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

"Let no one forget that Alex's contract is with HRC, and that HRC listens to all its riders," Honda's team manager Alberto Puig said in a telephone conversation with Motorsport.com. "That said, when you win, and more so in the way he did this Sunday, it is obvious that he is listened to more."

Just after the podium ceremony, this writer went in search of Shinichi Kokubu, the highest authority at Honda's technical team, to ask him directly what impact the win was going to have on Rins' short- and medium-term future.

"This year we have modified the strategy, and we have strengthened the operational side and the development side," said Kokubu. "What we intend to do is to give specific responsibilities to each rider."

"We have those parts that he hasn't tested, but it was us, together with Honda, who put the brakes on his desire to test components. What we want to do is avoid running the risk of making a mistake in the chosen path" Lucio Cecchinello

In reference to the reshuffle of its organisational structure, with Ken Kawauchi's arrival as technical director in placie of Takeo Yokoyama and the reinforcement of the test team with the figure of Ramon Aurin, Kokubu added: "We are in a period of change."

From all of the above, it can be assumed that Rins' position will gain strength to be placed more or less to the same extent that Crutchlow had until his 2020 swansong at LCR, a team which is along with Pramac the most efficient satellite structures in the paddock.

Since Crutchlow linked directly with HRC in 2017, the Coventry rider's contributions increased to the point of becoming a relevant cog within the bike development machine. In the last two years following Crutchlow's departure for Yamaha, the synergies between Repsol Honda, LCR and the Honda test team have not worked as they did in the past, when in addition to Marquez the likes of Dani Pedrosa and Crutchlow were victory contenders. Replicating that scenario is what the Tokyo executives are looking for.

Rins was able to compare his current bike to the chassis Marquez was using, but was denied the chassis Mir had run in Argentina

Rins was able to compare his current bike to the chassis Marquez was using, but was denied the chassis Mir had run in Argentina

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

"A good way to understand how Alex's victory came about is precisely in his complaints on Thursday, in which he lamented feeling underutilised," LCR team boss Lucio Cecchinello told Motorsport.com. "Actually that's only partially true. We have those parts that he hasn't tested, but it was us, together with Honda, who put the brakes on his desire to test components. What we want to do is avoid running the risk of making a mistake in the chosen path."

Both Rins and Cecchinello are referring to a particular chassis that he wanted to test in Argentina, and was denied. There, in Termas de Rio Hondo, the former Suzuki rider had the chassis he had already used in the Portugal opener, and another one, available due to Marquez's absence through injury. After riding both chassis, Rins suggested that they let him go out on track with a third one, the one used by Joan Mir, and Honda said no.

"Alex didn't want to wait," added Cecchinello. "But we had set ourselves a slower programme, with only two different chassis, in order to have a clearer picture, transfer the best possible information to the factory and continue with the development of the bike. This victory leads us to believe that the plan is working. 

Read Also:

"It has been a total vindication, both for Alex and for the brand. Honda had been waiting for a long time to get a victory as solid as this one, achieved by someone other than Marc Marquez.

"The win in Austin was a tremendous display of riding by Alex. So, hats off to him. But it's also clear that he didn't do it alone, but on a bike that has been questioned for a long time."

Will Rins and Honda be able to build on his Austin breakthrough?

Will Rins and Honda be able to build on his Austin breakthrough?

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Be part of Motorsport community

Join the conversation
Previous article Miller “felt victory was on offer” before his COTA MotoGP race crash
Next article Aprilia “not in control” of bike issue that took two riders out of Americas MotoGP

Top Comments

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

Global Global