In this long winter, Honda is trying to close the gap with its rivals, but Marc Marquez is not yet where he would like to be. The Catalan is not giving up however and continues to work full-on to regain ground in view of the first race in Portimao, which at present could see the eight-time world champion still far from the top positions.
"Today we only completed 25 laps in the dry, but they were enough to test the three black bikes we have in the garage" said the 29-year-old at the end of the second day of testing, complicated by the arrival of the rain. "It's a bit difficult because you get on a different bike with different components each time you go out, but it's the work to be done in the pre-season and someone has to do it at Honda - he added – Today, the Repsol coloured bike wasn’t in the box because it was the '22 bike and we concentrated on the three different black bikes. We tried all three bikes, already one we discard and tomorrow we need to continue working. I will not say which, but maybe tomorrow it’s not in the box!”
Time is starting to run out, but there is still a lot of work to do: “Tomorrow we only have one day. You need to make some priorities and the bikes I feel better on, I will chose to keep working on tomorrow - commented Marc – There was one bike that was quite different and that bike I don’t feel a real good potential, but it has some interesting things. So now they must analyse and they have one month to continue in one way or the other way.”
Is the plan to have only one bike to work with in Portimao, or will the final decision be made on the last day of the last test?
“The final decision will be the last day of the last test. We have many things, small and big, and it’s easy to lose the way. We are comparing back-to-back to be very precise and not lose the way. The team is doing a great job on both the Japanese and European sides, because they have organized the things we have to test very well. We’re still far from the top guys, this is obvious. I had said today was time to try things and tomorrow to concentrate on the rhythm and small details. But we couldn’t so tomorrow we’ll continue testing and continue with the three different bikes. I’ll say my comments, but Honda will decide either with both bikes, or maybe in one direction, I don’t know. “
Do you hope the bike will be good enough to make the Top 5 in Portimao?
“Malaysia is one of my worst circuits in terms of results, riding style… but we are far. I believe we can improve a bit, but the bike must make a step. We’re not at the level to fight in the top 5, we are far. But I believe in Honda and still they have one month. They already said in the schedule after Valencia that Malaysia will be one step and Portimao we’ll try to do another step. Sometimes in the computer is one thing, the reality another… But we want to push and I want to believe. We’re only in the second day of the 2023 season.”
Have you tried the fairing with ground effect? How does it differ from the one used last year?
“I tried it, but I can't say because the whole bike is different. It has to be ridden in a different way, it curves in a different way, so we didn't do an in-depth analysis on the fairing alone".
At the engine level, what are the differences compared to 2022 and how many different specifications do you have here?
“I rode using only the new engine. The old one was on the bike with the Repsol livery and was basically a little slower in terms of top speed, but very similar in terms of acceleration and corner entry".
What is the improvement you would like to get with the components you are testing?
“Still I’m struggling for my riding style with the front. But more than the front I’m looking for the connection with the gas on the exit of the corner. It’s there where the Ducati is making a lot of difference, exiting the corner in the acceleration from last corner, the first metres. Then the engine is powerful. The top speed and the engine is there. But we arrive late to the top speed because the acceleration is not weak, it’s just we don’t have traction. I’m looking a bit in all areas but those are two areas where I’m checking more deeply. It’s true we don’t play with set up at the moment. Just riding with the same set up and trying the new things.”
Do you need more horsepower to improve?
“We have enough horsepower. Now we need to look how to be efficient. This is the most important. The horsepower is there. Now we need to understand why we have the horsepower but we can’t use. In my opinion it's more a matter of rear grip than the character of the engine, but it's difficult to say. If you improve your cornering speed, you also make progress coming out of curves, but the most important thing is that Ken, coming from Suzuki, has some new ideas. It's true that the engine had a different philosophy and the electronics are also different, but today Rins and Mir tried to ride with different electronics and it seems they went better. When you use the same bike for a long time, in the end you can get stuck on old beliefs, so you have to try new ideas and adapt, if necessary".
Has anything changed with the arrival of Ken Kawauchi and the departure of Takeo Yokoyama?
“It's changing a little bit, but it hasn't changed overnight. We are trying things that didn't work very well last year, but if the new technical director wants to see what happens with his own eyes, I accept this job and the fact that he wants to have this information. I'm very grateful to Takeo, but in a big company like Honda there are sometimes decisions you don't have control over. I stay focused on my work and on giving 100% on the track".