In this article: Does the excitement and technological advancement of MotorGP help bike sales?
At the age of 26, Marc Marquez emphatically won his sixth MotoGP world championship with four races to spare. While those statistics revealed a dominant display for the 2019 Repsol Honda Team, it doesn’t get close to describing the season-long action, excitement and high intensity drama that Moto GP has produced over the years since, between its strong cast of official and satellite teams and riders. It has consistently delivered the sort of racing superlatives that Liberty Media and the global procession of Formula One can only dream of.
Yet while motorsport has always been a great platform for manufacturers to reach potential customers, the digital and social metrics behind MotoGP have revealed that not every fan has a desire to ride a motorcycle. Many, it appears, are just there to appreciate the racing and who can blame them? So does the old adage of ‘Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday’ hold true? Marquez may have spent his entire MotoGP career with Honda, but do his list of successes make you more inclined to go and buy that Repsol-branded Fireblade?
Well, if a customer wants to ride their hero’s MotoGP bike (and have a spare £162k) Honda will sell them a highly limited, road-legal version of the motorcycle that Marc raced to win the 2013 and 2014 World Championships. Regrettably, Honda is yet to perform the same magic on Max Verstappen’s RB15 Formula One car.
Money to burn
The Honda RC213V-S (S stands for street) may not share the MotoGP bike’s sophisticated pneumatic valves or clutchless gearbox, but it features the same factory swingarm, crank cases, Marchesini wheels, carbonfibre bodywork and just adds lights, number plate and a service book. While most race-inspired superbikes are designed in the studio, there’s no denying this particular model was born in the GP paddock.
Yet when Soichiro Honda first stepped foot onto the Isle of Man 100-years ago, commerce didn’t even come into it. “The reason we got into motorsports in the first place was the declaration from Soichiro to prove the company’s engineering prowess on the world stage,” explains Honda Motorsport’s Carmine Moscaritolo. “Motorsport success today does influence customers in the consideration phase, particularly for the more sporty models, but it’s difficult to quantify the company’s precise return on investment in racing.”
Technology trickle down
Fortunately, you don’t have to know a collector or venture into the six-figure stratosphere to experience the trickle-down effect of software and chassis goodies that have been created, developed and proven on track. The latest suite of aero accoutrements, quickshifters, launch control, anti-wheelie control and slide control not only feature on the latest 200bhp superbikes, but the low marginal cost of software, means these systems can be enjoyed on all manner of motorcycles. Even the commuter friendly Honda Forza 300 scooter has traction control.
According to the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA), UK motorcycle registrations remain robust with a 1.7% year-to-date increase, but this isn’t down to the racing talents of Marc Marquez, Jonny Rea or Peter Hickman. “The UK industry has evolved into two distinct markets,” explains the MCIA’s Nick Broomhall. “The first involves older enthusiasts, who are supporting the continued growth in both retro and adventure bikes, while the second concerns the desire for affordable, practical offerings that serve both commuting and the so-called gig economy.” This may go some way to explain why last month’s most popular bikes included the Deliveroo-friendly Honda PCX125 and the globe-busting retirement presents that are the BMW R1250 GS and GS Adventure. There may not be a race-inspired sports bike in there, but it’s clear this category continues to shift the technology needle that helps make us all faster, safer riders, and sprinkles a little bit of magic into the salesroom.