VALENCIA, Nov 27 — Honda announced on Monday it had signed Italian Luca Marini, the half-brother of MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi, to a two-year deal with its factory team.

Marini, 26, will take over from Marc Marquez, the six-time world champion who is leaving Honda a year early to join his brother at Ducati satellite team Gresini Racing.

After making his MotoGP debut in 2021, Marini earned his first two podium finishes this season — in the United States and Qatar — as he came eighth overall riding for VR46, the Ducati satellite team owned by Rossi.

He also finished in the top three in four sprint races and twice took pole position.

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Marini will get a first outing on his new Japanese bike at the post-season tests in Valencia on Tuesday.

He will pair up at Honda with 2020 world champion Joan Mir, who endured a disastrous past season in which he finished 22nd after scoring only 26 points.

Honda finished bottom of the constructors’ standings this season, just as they did in 2022.

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Frenchman Johann Zarco, who rode for Ducati-Pramac the past three seasons, will also join Honda in 2024 after signing a two-year deal with its LCR satellite team.

Marini’s spot in the VR46 garage will be filled by compatriot Fabio Di Giannantonio, who has penned a one-year contract.

Di Giannantonio found himself without a ride for 2024 after last month’s announcement that Marquez was moving to Gresini.

The 25-year-old Di Giannantonio ended the season strongly, claiming third place in Australia and then securing his first MotoGP victory in Qatar. — AFP