Espargaro admits Honda 2024 approach but will remain KTM MotoGP test rider

Espargaro raced with Honda in 2021 and 2022 having spent four seasons with KTM prior, before returning to the Austrian marque this year with the GasGas-branded Tech3 outfit.

FEATURE: What compels a MotoGP rider to return to something that almost killed them?

The eight-time podium finisher has lost his race seat at Tech3 for 2024 in favour of Moto2 champion-elect Pedro Acosta, with Espargaro signing on as a KTM test rider.

On Friday at the Malaysian Grand Prix, Honda team boss Alberto Puig told DAZN that Espargaro was a real option to replace Marc Marquez in 2024, along with Luca Marini and Fabio Di Giannantonio.

Honda is keen to offer only a one-year deal to keep its options open for 2025, which ruled out previous favourite Miguel Oliveira.

Espargaro confirmed as much, but insists he will remain a KTM test rider – which will also involve wildcard outings – in 2024.

“I already have a good relationship with Alberto from the past,” Espargaro said when asked by if he was considering returning to Honda.

“I think he’s a good guy and he’s doing his job well. Honda is in a very difficult situation because of Marc.

Pol Espargaro, Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Pol Espargaro, Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing

“All the riders are contracted to a factory, so let’s say the best riders or riders with more options have contracts for next year. So, the situation is critical for them.

“That’s not to blame Honda, it’s just a hard situation. Yeah, I spoke with Alberto to see how was the situation.

“But then I also had a chat with the Pierer Mobility Group [KTM] guys, my bosses, and we realised for the both parties it was better to stay with this project, till we see this project a world champion.

“The contract runs out next year, so I will be free, so we’ll need to discuss with KTM if something comes.

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“But at the moment I’m pleased where I am. I really thank Honda, because to leave and then get a call to come back, this means that the job done was not too bad and the relationship with them has always been good, even if the results were tough.

“I’m pleased with that, that means a lot to me. But my future is different.”

Espargaro’s Honda links were surprising given his struggles with the marque, with the Spaniard admitting at the end of last year that he only felt like a factory HRC rider for one year.

Despite this, Espargaro says he felt he was “a good option” for Honda for 2024.

“I mean, Honda’s problem is for one year and it’s clear, because Marc leaves in the middle of the contract,” he added when asked if the offer of a two-year deal would have tempted him.

“So, they are in trouble with that and they need one guy for one year. And if they need to choose one guy with experience, that knows other bikes and how to improve the bike.

“I feel I was a good option for that project, but as I said I really want to see myself in a few years… maybe, I don’t know, I would go to Honda and the results are good.

“You never know, Honda is Honda. And then I stay 25, 26, you never know.

“But I really believe after this winter I’m going to be back with a good level. But it is what it is. But I choose to stay and I respect so much Honda. I respect Alberto, he’s done a good job.”

Espargaro insists he feels like he belongs on the MotoGP grid, but conceded that his current physical and mental limitations following his massive crash in Portugal which ruled him out for half a season means the KTM role is perhaps more “what I need”.

He also noted KTM is still keen to add two more bikes to the grid for 2025, but says this is not something he is fully focused on in terms of his own future.

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