Stefan Bradl has been busy at Jerez testing the Honda RCV213, crossing his trajectories on the track with those of the SBKs. In recent seasons the German was supposed to 'only' take on the role of tester for HRC, but with all the riders ending up in the infirmary, he found himself all too often on the starting grid both in Repsol and LCR colours. A real wildcard for Honda, which certainly finds itself in a complex condition to say the least as 2024 approaches. Stefan, as always very kind, agreed to talk to us about many topics in the Jerez paddock.
Marc Marquez is leaving for Ducati and Gresini, and the name of his replacement has not yet been made known. Fabio Di Giannantonio seemed to be the favourite, after the negotiations with Oliveira have effectively come to an end or perhaps not even started, as Rivola underlined. Yet Alberto Puig would have spoken of at least two riders active in MotoGP as contenders for Marc's seat in 2024. Perhaps it is Stefan himself who suggests who the other name is besides that of Diggia. An avenue that seemed closed, but perhaps is actually still on the table.
"Di Giannantonio might arrive and in my opinion it would be a good thing, because he is young and doesn't have too much experience in MotoGP. Maybe he will find himself on a more difficult bike, but he won't think about it too much. He will just be focused on going fast. On the other hand a rider like Zarco for example, has a lot of experience in MotoGP and can bring it from Ducati to us, but his habit of using another bike can also be a limit. Then also the fact that Marc left us with another year to go on his contract doesn't make things easy, because all the other big names in MotoGP have contracts until the end of 2024. It's not easy for Honda to have lost Marc now."
You're on the track together with the SBKs. Is this a problem during testing?
"It often happens that we find the SBKs on the track while we test the MotoGPs. Of course, the weather didn't help us, but I must say that it very often happens that we find the derivatives on the same test days that we do. The difference in speed is not even a lot, so it's not a problem to avoid difficult situations. Also because in winter the MotoGPs have more difficulty in bringing out the performance and advantage of the bikes at low temperatures, while the SBKs have tyres that work very well even when it's cold. So sometimes you even get into small battles and it's fun to follow riders who race with bikes from another category."
Do you see a clear change in mentality on HRC's part, are you confident?
"I think that in the current MotoGP the regulations are very stringent, so it is not allowed to make such radical changes on the bikes. Everyone goes to the limit and today this limit is very strict. In Honda there have been some important changes regarding the people, others will come. HRC is a huge company, let's see how it goes with the new people that are there and the new ideas. Then we know that there are big changes on the horizon, Marc is about to leave, a new rider will arrive. We are still working calmly, our testing program is designed to take the bike to a higher level. But it is clear that it would be a miracle to be able to fight for the title in 2024. It will take time, and the rules will perhaps change. I know perhaps concessions will arrive and this could be an advantage for Honda and Yamaha."
How do you see this idea of concessions?
"All the manufacturers are sitting around a table to talk about it. If you give concessions to a manufacturer who is now behind, maybe some will agree. But there are those who say 'Honda has won for many years, now you want to help them? ' It's a delicate topic and there's a lot of politics behind it. In any case, we are doing our job as best we can and if we start working in a chaotic way, nothing will come. The best way to deal with the situation is to stay calm, follow our own path and try to understand what we can do."
Did you ever feel like you were in the running to get back into racing 100%, perhaps right after Marc's announcement?
"Yes, I often still feel like a real rider. We talked about it a lot with Honda, but there is also a test program to carry out, there is a lot of work to do. I feel good in this role and it is necessary to have a project. I could have gotten on the race bike for a year, but then they would have looked for another rider. And who would have replaced me in the test team? Even finding a fast test rider, with experience and who understands what happens on the bike, It's not easy at all. I'm pretty sure I'll remain the Honda tester also for 2024".