"Glory" repeats like a mantra as the song chosen by Honda as the background for the presentation video of the RC213V 2023, the new bike required to redeem the honour of the Japanese manufacturer, in the hands of Marc Marquez and Joan Mir. From the bosses to the riders, the stakes are high for every member of the Repsol team. Especially for the 25-year-old born in Palma de Mallorca, ready to reinvent his career after Suzuki's farewell and to demonstrate that he has what it takes to fight again for the championship.
"I can't afford not to be in front, because that's my goal and that of the team," said Joan on the side-lines to the presentation. “The fear of failure is always present, not just in this team. But I am confident in my abilities and those of the team, and I believe we will have a competitive bike. Once we're on top, it's up to us to manage it. I have confidence in what I can do."
There is no lack of tension but the pressure does not scare the Majorcan, who wants to put the difficulties of last season behind him and return to the podium that has eluded him since the 2021 Aragon GP.
“It's a new chapter in my career. It's the second stage since my arrival in MotoGP and it's super decisive. If it doesn't work, we'll have to think again, but I think I'm in a good moment to face this challenge and I can't wait to do it - commented Mir - Pressure is something a sportsman always has to live with. Being in a team like this adds pressure, but if you have that winning mentality where you put the pressure on yourself what’s outside doesn't affect you. Last year I missed having that positive pressure that fighting for the championship gives you”.
The 2020 World Champion is convinced of his means and those of Honda, which has worked hard during the winter to try to restore competitiveness to a bike that put Marc Marquez himself in difficulty.
“I haven't detected any problems of confidence with the rear. For me, what we need to work on is acceleration. It's one of our weaknesses and I think we can improve a lot, even with the electronics. I need time to understand it better and be faster" explained the Iberian, who continued his process of adapting to his new bike in Sepang, finishing the three days in 12th place, just over a tenth from his teammate.
“The tests are very important, above all because we have less and less time. In Portimao I hope I can continue to evolve as a rider and continue to understand this bike. At Sepang we reached an acceptable level, but it could change at other circuits - admitted Joan - Expectations are high. You always want to be as fast as possible. I don't know if I'll be able to fight for the podium from the very first races, but I'll do my best."
The confrontation with Marc Marquez will be one of the biggest challenges that the 25-year-old will have to face; he will have to improve the performance achieved by Pol Espargaró and Alex Marquez, who both failed to exceed the 113 points scored by the eight times world champion, conquering respectively 56 and 50 world championship points.
“I didn't stop to think about what didn't work with Pol or Alex - said the two-time world champion - Every rider is different and that doesn't mean he's better or worse. It's clear that arriving in a team with a teammate like Marquez is more complicated, but it's a major challenge for me. I arrive at a good moment in my career and wearing these colours has always been a dream for me”.
Encouraging signs, however, already arrived in the winter tests, in which the Majorcan and the Catalan provided the team with consistent indications.
“In Sepang it was an important challenge. In addition to having to adapt to a different bike, I also had to give development guidelines. The feedback you can give isn't 100% real, so we focused on getting good lap times - he explained - The guidelines I gave coincide with Marc's comments and this is very important, because if what you ask is different than what your teammate wants it can be a bit confusing”.
The awareness of working with well-known faces such as Alex Rins and Ken Kawauchi, the new technical director of the Repsol team, also increases the confidence of the two-time world champion.
“Everyone has something different to put on the table and I've worked with Ken before. He has a very methodical and structured way of working and I think he can bring some interesting things. He led Suzuki to success without having the means of Honda ”said the 25-year-old, who then expressed his opinion on the situation that the championship is going through between declining audiences, aerodynamic development and the introduction of the new format with the sprint race on Saturday.
“The Covid issue did not help the ratings. But the fact that there are now 12 riders who can win a Grand Prix makes it more difficult to have heroes. The wings make the bikes a bit 'easier' and this helps more riders to win - he said - The introduction of sprint races will change the focus of the weekend a bit. Until now, Friday was a day to find the feeling, while now it will become a day to qualify for Q2. I can't wait, but until I try it I won't know if I'll like it”.