Why Was Marc Marquez Slower At Jerez Than At Austin? Marquez Explains

Marc Marquez entered MotoGP surrounded by hype and with high expectations. After a wet test at Valencia, where he showed he was fast, but not quite how fast, the Spaniard went to Sepang, where he posted very good times in a private test. At the full Sepang MotoGP tests, Marquez was genuinely impressive, never finishing outside the top 4. 

At Austin, Marquez stunned observers. The young Spaniard, still only a rookie in the MotoGP class, with only a few days on a MotoGP bike under his belt, dominated at the Austin test, topping the timesheets on all three days of the private test. It was not as if he didn't have any competition at the circuit: both the factory Yamaha and Honda teams were at the Austin test, and Marquez beat Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi to set the fastest time.

So it was something of a surprise when Marquez failed to duplicate his impressive pace in Malaysia and Texas when MotoGP rolled up at Jerez for the final test of the season. Though Marquez was 3rd fastest in the wet, once conditions improved - though they were never perfect - the Repsol Honda rookie got left behind a little, finishing the second day in 7th spot, nearly 1.2 seconds behind fastest man Valentino Rossi, and 5th spot on day three, 0.6 behind Cal Crutchlow. Marquez left the three day test as 6th overall, six tenths behind the fastest man of the test Cal Crutchlow, and over a tenth behind Stefan Bradl, his main rival during the 2011 Moto2 season.

So what happened? Where did Marc Marquez' speed suddenly disappear to? When asked by reporters on Sunday, the Spaniard had a few explanations. "Today was difficult," Marquez acknowledged, "but I think it's normal. It was the first time in dry conditions on this track." Jerez was a track where Marquez had had to spend time learning to adapt his lines, he said. "In the beginning, I struggled a little bit to find the best line with a MotoGP bike, because I had the riding style of Moto2. Step by step I learned the lines, and then was a little bit better, but I just did 35 laps, and we need to work a lot with the set up of the bike."

What were the differences between the Moto2 and MotoGP lines? "Maybe with Moto2, you use more lean angle all the time. With MotoGP, in the beginning I used that line, and also because the grip of the track was not so good, I was sliding too much, and was maybe taking too many risks and I was not fast," Marquez said. His manager and mentor Emilio Alzamora had helped him adapt his style, working through one section at a time. "With Emilio, who was by the track and with data we saw that we changed my style corner by corner. First we concentrated in the first part, then the second part. Trying to be more smooth too, because maybe with the gas, when the grip of the track is not so good, if you are too aggressive, it's worse," Marquez explained.

Adapting to the Bridgestone tires, and their exceptional levels of grip in the wet, had also taken time, Marquez said. "It's different because with Bridgestone tires also you can push a lot, you can have a lot of confidence in the tire because the grip is so high. Also on corner exit the grip is better, but you know that if you make a mistake the electronics side is working, for a rider is much safer." There was much more work to do, though. "In wet conditions I improve a lot, but OK, I did one fast lap but the consistency was not so good. But for the first time in wet conditions, especially the tires are the biggest difference from Moto2."

But why was Marquez so fast in Austin, but nowhere near as competitive at Jerez? The answer, according to Marquez is simple: data. At a new track like Austin, everyone starts on a level playing field, whereas at Jerez, where MotoGP has tested so many times, the MotoGP regulars have a massive amount of set up data to fall back on. "Maybe Austin was new for everybody and nobody had the set up for last year," Marquez ventured. "Here, you know, yes it's true the bike changes a little bit from last year, but more or less everybody knows the set up or they have a base. But we didn't have a base." The nature of the track was also a factor, he explained. "It's the first time that we rode at a circuit like this, because in Malaysia and Austin it's completely different. This one [Jerez] is much smaller, and also, you know, the corners are more round and this is a little bit more difficult for a rookie rider." That will be a problem he faces all year, given that he will have to spend the first day of practice learning MotoGP lines around tracks. "But you know, it's the thing that this year we will have this problems on Friday."

 
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DE, are there any concerns within his team and hope on the part of other teams that his extreme lean angle will be bad for tire life?
Wondering if Bridgestone sees MM as a development rider given how long and fast he is at max lean.

Any chance he becomes a Gary McCoy and over rides the rubber first few races?

Total votes: 224

I would venture to say that Marquez does not lean the bike anymore than any other top rider... he just hangs off more. And if he does lean the bike more, it is a very small increment from the average.

His body position and style, especially his arms, gives the perception he is leaning the bike more. But, if you look at photos of the top guys at full lean, and compare the distance of the end of the clip-on is from the ground. Or even the foot pegs. I think you'll see not much of a difference between the riders.

But, all that being said, he sure does have a great style!

Total votes: 239

Great to read about a rider who is prepared to work hard and change his style to suit his new bike's different characteristics. This kid may win a couple of races in his rookie year, but Jorge will be hard to beat for the championship.

Total votes: 237

This time last year when Bradl was 1.2 seconds behind the leader in a RACE everyone was raving what a talent he was!

Marquez finishes 1.2s behind the leader in testing during his first visit to the circuit on a GP bike and all of us collectively ask what went wrong?!

Just goes to show what sort of expectations and pressure everyone is putting on him! It almost looks like unless he challenges for the championship this year his debut season will be seen as a disappointment by many!!

Not criticizing anybody, but I think we need to cut him some slack! As prodigious a talent as he is, he is still a rookie and still learning. He is gonna have his off days throughout the season and fans must resist the temptation to seek answers and explanations for every off day from him!

Total votes: 208

Much comment has been passed - and let's not be coy here, some of it driven by those who seek to justify a feeling that Rossi should be dominant back on the Yamaha without reasonable regard for the fact that he is recovering from the Ducati shambles - that the Hondas have suddenly taken another great leap forward in competitiveness. That is rationalisation of hopes and expectations rather more than reasonable extrapolation of reality, and does neither Rossi nor Marquez - in particular - any justice.

In past years it was a sine qua non that there were some tracks that suited particular brands more than others. Qatar, Phillip Island and Aragon became 'Ducati' tracks in Stoner's time at Ducati, for example. Subsequent events changed that perception, but it still remains that certain tracks can best be exploited by a combination of bike qualities and rider styles.

Rather than concentrate on either Marquez or Rossi's test achievements, the best constant here is Lorenzo. He is quietly getting on with the business of dialing-in race-pace; he has the experience and the confidence to not need the few fast laps, he is looking at the races and the championship holistically (a quality that Rossi has excelled in for many, many years). Marquez, by comparison, is learning the limits of his new bike and himself - that will always require pushing the limits. One-lap blistering times is an obvious product of that particular journey.

At some tracks, the Hondas will be the best platform - but by no means at all. At some tracks, the rider may excel - witness P.I 2007 onwards. Marquez is, by any standards, in the class of potentially outstanding rookie riders that includes Rossi, Pedrosa and Lorenzo (and had Stoner a competitive bike and team in his rookie year, it is arguable, also him). Yes, the bike is a factor - but nothing that has come out of testing that I have seen says the Honda is necessarily the top dog for this year.

What Marquez has so far managed to show is mainly a product of his capability. One difficult track for him does not signify a major chink in his armour - at least, yet.

Total votes: 236

Stoner not an outstanding rookie because of his bike? Didn't he get pole in his second race, and a couple of podiums?
If I recall correctly he impressed more than Pedrosa that year.
Otherwise I agree with your comments, cut the kid some slack, could just be a weak track/rider combination for him.

Total votes: 193

Caseys 2006 LCR Honda come 2nd in the WC the season before with Marco Melandri on it.. Check Casey's engineer at the time I think he's with Jorge now. Casey had an ultra competitive package in 2006 no question, and did a great job on it. However Dani scored a 100 points more than Casey in 2006 so not quite.
Marquez? he's a rookie when all is said and done. He's up against a handful of riders who all looked as good if not better than him coming up through the lower classes.. He has massive potential but that alone is not enough... I suspect he'll have a few tracks where he's off the pace this year and a few others where he's a real handful.. Will he have a better first season than Rossi's 2nd on a 500 two stroke?? Highly unlikely..

Total votes: 208