In these tests, Marc Marquez has sometimes seemed like a guinea pig at Sepang. Ken Kawauchi, arrived from Suzuki, wants to clarify his ideas on what is happening in Honda and the way to do this is to use the Spanish rider for some experiments. The last one was to have him go out for a couple of laps without any aerodynamic appendages on his RC123V. “Did you see me? I thought it was very hot at the time and that there was nobody on the track” laughed Marc.
Why such an extreme experiment?
“As I said yesterday, Kawauchi, the new Technical Manager, has arrived at HRC and he wants to understands many things about concept of the bike. This makes life very difficult for a rider at a test! The person at Honda with the most experience is me, so they chose me to try all these experimental things. Just to understand, it's not the path we're going to take. I don’t know why but they want to know. They have their reason. I was not asking, I was just riding. It was time to put new tires on and I did it anyway. Sometimes as a rider it is important to give feedback. But only feedback. Don’t infect the engineers with your ideas about chassis, concept, and all these things.”
What is it like to ride without wings?
"The balance changes completely, the bike becomes more physical, it moves from all sides, but it was useful for the engineers. This was the most striking test, but we have done many other less visible ones these days. Now they have all the information and I hope they will bring something new to Portimao."
What is the balance of these three days?
“Always you want more, more, more. But I must congratulate the team for organising in a very good way. Physically I feel really good and, for me, this is the most important thing. I understand when I want to be fast, when I want to be slower. In the past two years this was impossible because my physical condition was not good. We started the test with four bikes, then three bikes, today two bikes, and in the afternoon just one bike. I have decided ‘this is the bike’. But it isn’t the bike I need to win the championship. I need another step.”
How did you make your choice?
“I felt more potential with one bike than the other, to do different things. From a riding style, the one that I chose, I feel better with. I don’t know if it is the same one that Mir is using".
Has the fairing with the step been definitively discarded?
“I tried it but with a different bike, all the aerodynamics were different. I discarded that bike, but not the fairing".
At Portimao, do you expect to have 3 more bikes in the pits again?
“We don’t have time to bring three bikes. It is important to choose one direction, one bike. It is the same as the Valencia bike, same concept, same problems. Now is the time to fix problems. I don’t know how. I just give my comments. This afternoon I was more consistent with my times, but then we started experimenting again and I forgot about the pace. When I was able to ride well, the times weren't bad but still far from those of the top 5".
Are you feeling confident?
“I told the engineers we need more but I felt a reaction. Honestly, I am happier about my physical condition than the bike. There is one body, many motorcycles”.
What do you need to go faster now?
“Solve the same problems we suffered from in the past year. The engine is fine, the top speed is good but it takes too long to reach it and on European tracks, with shorter straights, things will get complicated. Even in demanding braking situations we need to improve the bike".
This morning there were 3 Honda engineers watching you braking into the first corner…
"Basically in that braking I lose a tenth and a half or two from Ducati, even if we have other strong points. The Ducati is the best bike, I lose less compared to the others, but we need to improve".
You're doing your best to help Honda, but how do you control your anxiety when you see your rivals keep improving and you're trying old solutions?
“When you are realistic, it becomes easier to control anxiety. In the afternoon everyone used the soft tires to set the time and mine remained in the boxes because I had to try other things. In the tests in Malaysia it always seems that there are 8 riders who can win the title, then in the race in October they are not even in the top 5. We have to improve, now we can be in the top 5 but I want more. You build the base in the tests, also because with the new format this year it will be very difficult to test anything in the race weekend".