Malaysian MotoGP: Marc Marquez: Honda ‘character’ in 2022 worse, but lap time better | MotoGP

With the RCV’s weaknesses made apparent by Marquez’s injuries since 2020, Honda has radically revamped this year’s machine to try and improve rear grip.

Marc Marquez described the bike as “so different from previous years, it’s almost like I’ve changed manufacturers”.

The first results, fast winter tests and a podium with Pol Espargaro in Qatar, were promising, but such form proved to be the exception rather than the norm.

“It’s hard to understand because the bike we’re using now is the one that worked perfectly in Qatar and the preseason,” Espargaro had said after finishing ninth at the first European round in Portimao.

“In the pre-season we were fastest over one lap, but we were also by far the fastest in terms of rhythm. So we didn’t change the bike because the bike was great. We just added some small details that don’t make this big change and now we are suffering.

“Everyone’s feelings were right [in the pre-season] apart from some minor issues in the front but no one complained about the rear. Now we have serious problems and we don’t know how to solve them.

“Marc started in Malaysia [tests] with the old one [2021 bike] then he jumped on the new one and for him the new one was obviously much faster. So he chose this bike just as much as he chose us.”

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Things would get worse for Espargaro, who hasn’t finished in the top ten since Portimao, while Marquez – after missing the mid-stage of the season due to fourth arm surgery – finally took a podium finish at Phillip Island.

Marquez: ‘Lap time better, driving style worse’

While Marquez agrees he was faster on the 2022 bike during back-to-back winter runs – with the caveat ‘be careful because preseason has a lot of rubber on the track’ – nearly ten months later he describes still it as a bike that “confuses me a bit” because it’s hard to predict how it will perform from track to track.

Some may think that Marquez would just like to step back to the kind of “front-end” friendly bike that worked so spectacularly for him in the past, but the eight-time world champion is open-minded enough to know that times have changed:

“I want a winning bike. But maybe the Marquez style motorcycle, the older style of the bike, wouldn’t work now… Before the bikes were very low and short, now they get big [long] and long.”

On his return to Sepang for last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix, Marquez explained how he is trying to combine the strengths of the temperamental 2022 machine with the comfort he felt on the previous models.

“It’s more the character of the bike. A lot has changed this year and for my riding style I think it’s worse,” he said. “But it’s true that for performance, for lap time, this 2022 bike was better [than the 2021].

“I feel more uncomfortable, but the lap time was coming up, so that’s why we chose this way.

“Now we have to understand because I still have the feeling – in Phillip Island I did a good race, but the engine vibrated too much and did some things that made the bike harder to ride.”

The 29-year-old, who dropped from the front row to seventh in the Malaysian MotoGP race, added:

“You always want more torque and more spin, but one of the most important things or what we’re trying to understand is the way you should ride the bike.

“It feels like a heavy bike. But we need to understand why I feel all that sluggishness on the bike and that’s what I would like to improve.

“Because on circuits where you don’t change direction much, where you have to stop a lot, you can more or less handle it. Like Phillip Island. Or Qatar.

“But as soon as you have to stop the bike a lot on the [lean] corner, I have more trouble with that.”

‘You can’t do anything with little grip’

While engine modifications are not allowed during the season, Marquez and Honda tried several chassis (including the aluminum Kalex swingarm) and aerodynamic changes.

“It’s more or less a comparable bike [from the pre-season], the only changes are the aerodynamics and the swingarm. But the swingarm is not a big difference. For example, in Thailand FP1, I was fastest with the carbon,” said Marquez.

“We must understand the way” [forward] because this is a bike that once we have little grip, which is normally my strong point, you can’t do anything with this bike.”

“We have to be consistent, like Ducati”

“I always say that we have to find an engine that can be consistent across a championship on all tracks. Like Ducati did,” Marquez added.

“In the past they were very strong on some tracks and had a lot of trouble on others. But now they are constant and fast on all tracks.

“So we have to find a compromise, we’re working on it and Honda is working on this a lot.”

Marquez, who expects a better weekend in the counterclockwise Valencia final, isn’t sure yet if he’ll get a full bike for 2023 to try in the post-race test.

During that test, ex-Suzuki MotoGP riders Joan Mir and Alex Rins HRC will also give their first impressions of the RCV’s relative strengths and weaknesses.

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