Honda recently announced that Marc Márquez has agreed to remain among its ranks in MotoGP for two more years following the completion of his current contract. That means the Catalan rider and Honda will continue together at least through the end of 2020.
Márquez explained that talks had been going on for months, but that he preferred to wait to see how the 2018 preseason began before making a final decision. “I’ve always said that staying here was my priority, but I wanted to see the work the engineers did this winter and how we are starting everything. I’m very happy with how the new bike is performing, so I decided to close this issue and get one more thing out of my head.”
Márquez admitted he had been approached by other brands. “There were contacts, but those contacts didn’t materialize in concrete offers; we never sat down at the table and talked about details.”
Márquez was less clear when questioned about Honda’s “generosity.” In a prepared statement, he professed there is a confidentiality clause in the contract to avoid actually answering that question, but with a smile closed the matter by saying, “I’m happy with both the technical aspect of the new bike and with the ‘professional’ aspect.”
How much did Honda spend to make a rider who has already won four MotoGP titles, including the last two, “happy”? The rumored number oscillates between 12.5 million and 15 million euros (about $15 million and $18 million at current exchange rates). If true, Márquez would be the highest-paid rider in the sport. And who would argue he isn’t worth every penny?
Márquez may earn the highest salary, but Valentino Rossi is most likely the best-paid MotoGP rider. Here’s the backstory: At the end of 2012, following a frustrating experience at Ducati, Rossi wanted to return to Yamaha. At first, to avoid tension with Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha was reluctant to accept the return of its prodigal son. But Rossi, without a better option, persisted. His former team finally opened the door but not before imposing hard economic conditions.
In response, Rossi’s management made a masterful move. That season, the fairings on the factory bikes carried only the names “Yamaha” and “ENEOS,” the latter being a Japanese oil company. Rossi’s people proposed they would provide sponsors in exchange for a percentage of that backing. Because part of something is always better than nothing, Yamaha accepted. Rossi made a lot of money from that deal, I was told at the time by a company insider. As far as I know, this agreement is still in place.