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Stefan Bradl: "Honda has a decent MotoGP budget and needs a new success story"

SECOND PART "this is the positive side which is important if we want to catch up with Ducati and the others in the near future. You can compare our situation with Mercedes in Formula One. If the vehicle is not competitive you will not get the best driver on the market."

MotoGP: Stefan Bradl:

The Repsol Honda Factory team has not won a race since Marc Márquez celebrated his 59th MotoGP win at Misano in October 2021. Test rider Stefan Bradl has tested a huge number of chassis updates during the last few years, many new aero body versions and quite a few new electronic set ups. But the results did not improve.

The current world championship positions of the HRC riders (18th Joan Mir, 19th Johann Zarco, and 21st Nakagami) speak volumes. Luca Marini has not yet scored a single point in 14 races for the famous Repsol Honda squad. For the Mooney VR46 Ducati team of Valentino Rossi the young Italian has managed four podiums spots and 8th place overall in the championship standings.

Honda MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl, who will get married to long time girl friend Jana on August 9th, will check out some technical upgrades at Valencia by end of June and has been granted four further wild cards entries (after Jerez and Barcelona) for Sachsenring, Spielberg, Misano and Valencia.

HRC has signed Aleix Espargaró (he contested the MotoGP World Championship for Aprilia Racing for eight years) as test rider for 2025. Honda wants to split the workload between Aleix and Stefan Bradl (34), Moto2 World Champion of 2011, who is serving his seventh year as Honda tester and will stay for another two years.
Stefan Bradl explained two years ago that the Honda RC213V is not able to exploit fresh new soft Michelin rubber to the full potential. "While the competition takes 100 percent of the rear grip of the Michelins, we can only use 80 percent. For that reason we suffer in fast single laps on Friday in qualifying, which leads to mediocre grid positions and hurts our chances in the races", he said in 2022.

But in 2022 Marc Márquez missed ten Grands Prix due to his fourth operation on his right arm and Honda ended up in sixth and last place of the constructor’s championship. Last year they improved to fifth – but only because Suzuki had pulled out.

Despite the new concessions Honda has made no steps in 2024. Stefan Bradl supplies reasons, point by point.

Marc Márquez has a very unique riding style. But no other rider could feel comfortable with the bike set up he preferred. Now Marc has left HRC but the problems remained. Can you describe the existing weak points of the RC213V?

"Because of the winglets it has become even more difficult to find the right balance for the bikes which would allow us to use the tyres to the maximum - said Stefan Bradl - Our bike has lost it’s strong points in this area. Our biggest weakness is the missing traction on the rear. This leaves us only one chance – we have to make up time by overloading the front. But because of all the wings you do not feel the front tyre as well as in past years when aerodynamics did not play such a big role in MotoGP. Because of the turbulence and all the dirty air created by the riders in front of you lose more and more feeling for the front.
The bikes are dictating the speed you can ride at because of the new aero bodies, and the devices have much more influence than before. Therefore it became more and more difficult for a rider to make the difference."

Repsol Honda has not won a race since Misano in October 2021. And so far there is no light at the end of the tunnel in sight. Even top riders like Jorge Lorenzo, Pol Espargaró, Joan Mir and Johann Zarco could and cannot achieve decent results. The Frenchman rode for Yamaha, KTM and Ducati. Can Zarco now help to improve the RC213V?

"All the contracted riders play a role in development. Also LCR now is more involved in finding better solutions. All four Honda GP riders are treated the same when it comes to voicing their opinions. The engineers listen to all four of them. HRC is trying very hard to supply all four riders with the same material and latest technical updates. But HRC is giving some directions to each rider because they want so speed up the process of improving the results. The work is split between the two teams and all four pilots. The cooperation within both teams has improved. But us riders can only give a certain feedback and explain where we find weak points. Zarco and Nakagami can deliver information to the Japanese who by the end of the day have the job to draw the right conclusions and find solutions which allow us to go faster on the racetrack".  

Honda ran into trouble after 2019 because Ducati, Aprilia and later KTM created much better aerodynamics, and realised in time how important the various devices are. It took Honda some time to admit that the RC213V lost most of it strong points, because Marc Márquez still scored a podium in 2023 and started from pole in Portugal last year. But Honda have only copied the aerodynamics of the winning brands.

"Every manufacturer is trying different aero solutions. You need different ones for different racetracks."

Do you expect Honda to fight for top ten results in qualifying and races later in the 2024 season? Because they need to attract top riders in the long run again.

"Yes, we have to improve our material. At the moment it is not good enough. You can compare our situation with Mercedes in Formula One. If the vehicle is not competitive you will not get the best driver on the market. I imagine at Red Bull Racing there were a few top drivers standing in line before they signed up Perez again. At Mercedes on the other side they cannot get the champions they would want to hire after Hamilton decided to leave. The positive side: Honda has a decent MotoGP budget, which is important if we want to catch up with Ducati and the others in the near future. It seems clear for me that Honda wants to see improved results. Because the most successful manufacturer in GP history needs a new success story in the near future. Our tragedy now lasts for three years. In 2027 we shall have new technical regulations and 850 cc instead of 1000 cc plus 100 percent of bio fuel. But I am convinced Honda wants get closer to the front within the current rules also – and then launch another great attack for 2027. This is my personal opinion. The Japanese are a very quiet humans, they are very patient. But they are also proud – and therefore a company like Honda always has the intention to set something big in motion".

HERE THE FIRST PART OF THE INTERVIEW

 

 

 

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