2015 Le Mans MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Why The Honda Is The Third-Best Bike In MotoGP, And Wins vs Titles In Moto3

Something always happens at Le Mans. Something happens at every MotoGP race, of course, but Le Mans seems to always have more than its fair share of happenings. Unlikely events, weird crashes, high drama. Marco Simoncelli taking out Dani Pedrosa. Casey Stoner announcing his retirement. Things that nobody had seen coming emerge from the shadows. News that was half suspected is suddenly thrust into the limelight. Something always happens at Le Mans.

This year, it was the turn of Honda to make the headlines, not something you want to do at Le Mans. The weakness of the bike was finally exposed, with three factory Hondas all crashing out, and the fourth one looking likely to do the same at any moment. Dani Pedrosa and Scott Redding suffered identical crashes, losing the front early in the race. Cal Crutchlow's crash was different. He made a mistake when his foot slipped off the peg, grabbing the front brake harder than he meant to and locking the front as he turned in to La Chapelle, the long downhill right hander. But up until that moment, he had been struggling with exactly the same lack of front end grip on corner entry. Marc Márquez' spectacular and wild first few laps saw him running off the track just about everywhere, as he tried to brake hard and enter the corner, but ended up running wide.

At last there was confirmation of something which all of the Honda riders had been saying since last year. Cal Crutchlow's first reaction when he got off the RC213V was "I'll tell you what, it's a hard bike to ride." Scott Redding said much the same. "It's a difficult bike to ride, a lot more difficult than the Open Honda." Such statements were met with outright skepticism by most observers. After all, this was the same bike on which Marc Márquez had won the first ten races of the season, before going on to wrap up his second title in a row virtually unchallenged.

That was probably part of the problem. The Honda was nowhere near as good as Marc Márquez was making it look. "In my opinion, the talent of Marc hides some limits of the Honda," said Andrea Dovizioso in the post-race press conference. "He's the only one able to go fast, also last year, but especially this year. I believe Honda in this moment doesn't have a perfect balance."

Sound familiar? Once upon a time, there was a manufacturer whose MotoGP bike got worse each year, as the engineering team failed to listen to the complaints of the riders. There can't be much wrong with the bike, they reasoned. After all, their rider won a championship on it and was still winning races, right? In 2015, history is repeating itself. The engineers are chasing the limits shown by the data, while ignoring the urgent message coming from the riders. What we once used to refer to as Stoner Syndrome – a bike being made to look much better than it really is by the sheer talent of the rider winning on it – we can now rename Márquez' Condition. This is not a new phenomenon. Back when Wayne Rainey was winning title after title on the Yamaha YZR500, all the while complaining about what a terrible bike it was, his team manager Kenny Roberts kept telling him that until he stopped winning, Yamaha's engineers weren't going to take a blind bit of notice.

The 2015 Honda is nowhere near as bad as the 2009 Ducati was, but it is clearly inferior to the current iterations of the Yamaha and Ducati. The 2015 RC213V is the third best bike on the grid, by some margin. When it is working right, it brakes deeper and turns better than any bike on the grid. When it isn't, it's impossible to stop and the front wants to wash out or run wide. The trouble is, the bike's sweet spot is now so narrow that you can easily miss it. A change in temperature, misjudging weight distribution or geometry, and the front has no feedback and riders have no confidence. That may have been a factor at Le Mans, with track temperatures on race day hitting 32°, rather than the 17° during qualifying. The Honda lacks grip on corner exit, wanting to spin and slide out of the corner. Try to compensate by moving the weight rearward and you lose any feeling from the front.

Honda already knew they were in a bit of bother at the end of 2014. "Our bike this year was more difficult to ride than the bike of 2013," said Shuhei Nakamoto, vice president of HRC. "We want to make it easier, like the Yamaha." They had changed the engine character to give it more torque. "We try to find the torque to ride easy but the result was opposite. The riders say we have too much torque." They tried a new chassis at Valencia last year, which both Márquez and Dani Pedrosa said they didn't like. So Honda brought three new chassis to the first test of 2015 at Sepang, from which Márquez and Pedrosa picked their favorite.

At Le Mans, Márquez had already gone back to an older chassis, one which both Repsol Honda riders had rejected at the Sepang tests. That meant that he and Pedrosa were using completely different chassis. The problem was that both men were still suffering exactly the same problem: a lack of feeling in the front end, and an inability to enter the corners, especially early in the race with a full tank of fuel. There is clearly something fundamentally wrong with the balance of the bike, and that is a deeply worrying predicament which HRC finds itself in.

Marc Márquez said after the race that he was fighting more with his bike than with his rivals. What was particularly perplexing was that he had set an incredibly strong pace during the morning warm up, easily matching the race pace which Jorge Lorenzo had set throughout practice. But Márquez arrived on the grid, the feeling from the front of the bike that had allowed him to be so fast in the morning had disappeared. It was apparent right from the start: Márquez entered the first chicane way too fast, unable to stop the bike in time, running wide and giving up all the places he gained.

It was a pattern which repeated itself throughout the race. As Márquez struggled to keep up with the riders he was with, he would end up braking too deep and running wide, looking as out of control on the bike as he had in his first MotoGP races, when Emilio Alzamora described his riding as "the bike rides him."

Márquez' struggle with the RC213V ended up providing some spectacular entertainment. In the final third of the race, the battle between a winged Andrea Iannone and Bradley Smith trying to make a clean pass on a faster bike allowed Márquez to catch the pair. Just as Smith lined up an immaculate pass on Iannone, sliding inside at the chicane, he was mugged by a wild Márquez, allowing both the Honda and the Ducati to get by again. There then unfolded a brilliant few laps of no holds barred passing, with neither Márquez nor Iannone prepared to take prisoners. Any time one of the pair got past, the other struck straight back, apparently prepared to take almost any risk to get in front of the other again.

It was scintillating to watch, but it was something of a forced spectacle. Andrea Iannone was by this time riding with one arm, as he had no more strength in the left shoulder he had dislocated, and the arm pump from trying to compensate with his right arm meant he had no feeling in his throttle and brake hand. Unable to judge braking properly, Iannone was riding well over his limit – "150%" was his own calculation, using that peculiar form of racer mathematics – unwilling to let Márquez finish ahead of him. For his part, Márquez was battling a bike that wouldn't brake properly, and he couldn't get to turn in. The resultant battle was sublime to watch, but it was more a duel of errors than of razor sharp precision.

That is not to take anything away from Andrea Iannone. For the Ducati man to even finish the race was a miracle. Around the halfway mark, after he had lost touch with the leaders, Iannone had given serious consideration to pulling in and retiring. He gave himself a couple of slow laps to recover, and when he was caught by Smith and Márquez, the battle stoked up the fire in his belly enough to camouflage the pain from his shoulder, and from the right arm compensating for his shoulder. To finish in fifth is a testament to Iannone's courage, and his determination. It was a ride well above and beyond the call of duty.

Part of the problem which Honda faces is not so much of their own making, but has been forced upon them by their rivals. Márquez rode to a distant fourth place in almost exactly the same time he took to win the race in 2014. But while he was just a tenth of a second slower over 28 laps, Jorge Lorenzo was finishing nearly 20 seconds ahead of him, and Valentino Rossi some 16 seconds faster. The Yamaha M1 is a much better bike than it was last year, the improvement coming in part from the fully seamless gearbox, but also to a good extent from the major step in braking performance. The Yamaha can now brake much later than it could do last year, and is faster through the corner and out of it. The bike is a little bit down on top speed compared to the Honda, but it does a lot of other things better. "This year, we have a great bike, very complete," said Jorge Lorenzo after winning the race.

If the Yamaha has a weakness, it is in being able to push hard for a single lap, and to post a time in practice, according to Valentino Rossi. Once again, his team did a sterling job to find the missing piece of the jigsaw during warm up to give him a competitive bike. The modification they tried in warm up did not work as expected, he told the press conference, and so they gambled on something more extreme for the race. It paid off, Rossi coming close to catching his teammate, but in the form Lorenzo had at Le Mans, he was entirely indomitable. What Rossi really needs is to qualify better, so he does not have so much work to do in the race. "In the race, our bike is always fantastic, it is always so balanced, you can push all the lap," enthused Rossi in the press conference.

Then there's the Ducati. That the GP15 is light years ahead of its predecessor has been covered in great depth both here and elsewhere, and it is clearly now a very competitive motorcycle. The race at Le Mans exposed its remaining weaknesses, however, Andrea Dovizioso finishing over 12 seconds behind the winner Lorenzo. Part of that gap was because he didn't want to take too many risks once it was clear he didn't have the pace of the Yamahas, Dovizioso said. It was confirmation that there was still work to do, especially on how the bike behaves in the second half of the race. "Maybe we still use too much the grip to go fast, and after a few laps, I can't keep the same lap time," Dovizioso explained.

Maintaining his pace is where Lorenzo won the race at Le Mans. He got a strong start, and then started pushing as hard as he could. Things did not go so easily for him as they had at Jerez, but there was still no one capable of getting close to the Spaniard. The old Jorge Lorenzo is back, Le Mans merely confirmation of what he showed in Spain.

Lorenzo would counter that he had never gone away, however. He had always been fast, but things had not quite gone perfectly until the race at Jerez. That had not prevented some in the media from writing him off, something which Lorenzo was at pains to point out had been entirely wrong. Just as it was wrong to write Márquez off now that he was struggling. "I was very far from Valentino before the Jerez race, and some people said I was in crisis," Lorenzo said in the press conference. "And probably some of them they're going to say Marquez is in crisis because of these races. But you know myself, Marc, Valentino, we have the talent, and we have to wait for all circumstances to be on the right way. Marc is going to win races, is going to be competitive in the future." When everything goes right for him, he will be there.

What of Dani Pedrosa's return? The crash was deeply unfortunate, coming so early in the race, but the Spaniard made the best of the hand he was dealt. The throttle return spring had been broken during the crash, and so Pedrosa had been forced to shut the throttle manually during the rest of the race after remounting. It provided a good test for his right arm, to see how it would hold up after surgery. Pedrosa's pace was similar to the men engaged in the battle for fourth, once he had remounted and was riding again. Pedrosa was pleased with how well his arm had held up, and it had plenty of scope for improvement. The problems he had had were not with his body, but with his bike, Pedrosa said. The RC213V had a lot of areas in urgent need of improvement, he said, echoing the concerns of everyone else on a Honda.

The support races provided contrasting levels of entertainment at Le Mans. The Moto2 race was won in impressive style by Tom Luthi, but the race itself was processional and bloodless. Tito Rabat showed he was back on form by finishing a strong second, and Johann Zarco pleased the crowds by finishing on the podium.

Moto3, on the other hand, was an utterly thrilling spectacle. A group of nine made a break at the front, containing the cream of the Italian Moto3 stable, Fabio Quartararo, Jakub Kornfeil, Miguel Oliveira, and Isaac Viñales. It was to be an Italian day, however, as Kornfeil, Viñales and Oliveira could not match the pace of the Italians, and Fabio Quartararo crashed out while trying to keep up with them. It would also be a very good day for Danny Kent, as the battle for the lead slowed the group up enough for the championship leader to catch the front group after an incredible race through the field. Kent had started in 31st, after totally misjudging conditions during qualifying, but was inside the top 10 by lap six, and on the back of the lead group by the end of the race.

Though Romano Fenati went on to take his first victory for the year, as well as the first win for KTM in 2015, Kent proved to be the big winner on the day. The Englishman had a shot at the podium, but with Enea Bastianini and Pecco Bagnaia pushing hard to get on the box, he knew it would be risking getting caught up in an incident, and possibly throwing away all the hard work he had put in during the race. His team had already shown him "P4 OK" on his pit board, and Kent settled for a bumper haul of championship points over a rolling the dice for a podium or crash. With main title rivals Quartararo and Efren Vazquez out, Kent extended his championship lead even further, to 37 points over Bastianini. It was a mature, smart decision taken in the heat of battle.

The glory of the day belonged to Italy in Moto3, and even more, to the VR46 academy, with all of the young Italians involved in the training program set up by Valentino Rossi. But Danny Kent was riding for glory at the end of the year. I think both groups will be equally happy on Sunday night.


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Total votes: 165
Total votes: 79

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Comments

What a difference does one weekend makes! Now all of the sudden the Honda is the worst bike, by a large margin. Not only that but, apparently it was already bad last year.
I don't remember anyone talking about this terrible frontend during winter testing or in any of the races until now. Nor was anyone saying there was a crisis at HRC.
In my opinion, everyone is jumping to conclusions.

Total votes: 214

Thanks, David.

Spot on about the slightly forced spectacle of Marquez and Iannone. Though the both of them were doing mid 1' 34s if I remember right in the heat of the battle - which is very impressive.

And if they could do that with their respective handicaps, it further underlines to me why Bradley Smith is among the most over-rated riders on the grid. He does give some really strong insights as we read through your columns, but it doesn't seem to show in the riding.

Total votes: 170

I'm not sure how you can say Bradley is over rated. He's seen as a mid tier talent, not a megastar.

Bradley is one of those guys that has to work hard to get up to speed. It was the same for him in the lower categories. Slow start, gradual build, eventually making it close to the front.

He clearly doesn't have the innate talent of the top guys, but I think he is getting better and better each year. The problem I see is that he seems to take too long to get there. He might just run out of time and lose his seat before ever challenging for a win in MotoGP.. anyway, super nice guy and hard not to like him on a personal level

Total votes: 175

Good points - I agree he has a great work ethic, fantastic insight, very articulate, very accessible and very likeable - possibly a result also of working with someone like Herve Poncharal. So a dream I would imagine for any journalist.

I was only referring to his riding ability. He doesn't seem to have that extra edge - not sure it is talent alone that is the barrier. Too much of a nice guy? Look at Ianonne upping his game soon as Marquez went past. Exactly as you say, he seems to be taking too long to get there. Perhaps the 'over-ratedness' is because he is often quoted and mentioned for reasons beyond just his riding abilities.

My 0.02 as an armchair critic. :)

Total votes: 160

I was dealt a Royal Flush once and ended up in a hotel that had some riders in it.
I was eating my I'm-so-hungover breakfast and in walks Bradley in his Monster gear with a couple of crew.
This is 6am raceday and people are hassling him for selfies and autographs.
The patience of a saint really, I'd be furious.

Total votes: 140

So Bradley finishes top satellite rider, but yet he's the most overrated rider on the grid? Gotta love that logic. What does that make the 19 other riders that finished behind him then? What does that make of Bradley's own teammate? Bradley's beat Pol 4 out of 5 races. He's been top satellite rider twice.

I don't really have a strong feeling for Bradley one way or the other, but nonetheless it's pretty comical to say because he was beat by two factory bikes at the end of the race, that that somehow proves Bradley's overrated. No matter what David's write-up says about the Repsol Honda, nobody on planet Earth thinks the Tech 3 Yamaha is better than the Repsol Honda...and oh yeah, it was piloted by the back-to-back defending World Champ. The other bike that beat Bradley out at the end has been on the podium every race so far this year bar one.

Total votes: 190

Probably the most underated rider on the grid. The guy lined up a great pass on a much faster factory bike with factory power only for Marquez to hurtle through like a bowling ball intent on knocking over all the skittles at once.

On this occasion MM's ambition outweighed his bikes talent

Smith was right to hold and expect 29 & 93 to take each other out, let's be honest both have form & have done it before.

Smith is beating his factory employed team mate week in week out,, I'd say Pol has more work to do than Smith when it comes to justifying a 2016 ride.

Total votes: 169

Hard to ride isn't the same as bad bike.

I'd argue that last year the Honda was more difficult to ride than the Yamaha but had more potential. Potential that Marquez had no trouble exploiting. Now the Yamaha is closer in terms of maximum potential and now Marquez doesn't have a clear advantage in any one area. So it's boiling back down to an even fight between the top riders.

I think that was shown by his usual dominance at COTA. It boiled down to the best rider of the four which the last two years has clearly been Marc at that track.

Total votes: 145

Finally, people are realizing the Honda is NOT the best bike. Everyone thought MM was winning due to the superiority of HRC...NOT!!!!! If HRC would look at the hard facts, the only folks that have won on their bike, recently, were named Rossi, Stoner and Marquez. Hmmm..... Their bike has major issues and watching Marc this year should pound that home. He's pushing absolutely to the limit...watch him! Dovi finally said what everyone has probably known....Marc is masking the bikes problems.

Jorge is back, as if he ever really left. Rossi, if he could qualify better....

Total votes: 170

The riders that have won on a Honda, since Rossi, were named:

Biaggi
Gibernau
Hayden
Melandri
Pedrosa
Dovizioso
(and probably some others too)

Last year Pedrosa won races and he had arm problems. This year Crutchlow was on the podium on his third outing on the bike. Marquez dominated Austin and Argentina (until his tyres went), and he did well in jerez and Qatar wasn't that bad (but he made a big mistake).

Last year the bike was a lot better than the others. This year Yamaha and Ducati have reduced the difference and right now there's no way of telling which is the best bike.

I’m sorry but I don’t see how this out-of-nowhere theory of the Honda being clearly the worst bike it can be justified. Except for marquez not dominating and all the Hondas having a bad weekend.
They are nervous (team and riders) because they got too used to being unstoppable.

Total votes: 200

.....for being 'vague'. I'll try to be more exacting: how many riders have been on the almighty Honda and won WC since 2000? Granted Hayden did it, but it was more his consistency and Rossi/Yamaha's mechanical issues that made '06 'interesting'. Dani, an acknowledged 'alien' hasnt been a true contender since....ever! Casey gets on the bike and trounces the competition. MM gets on the bike and wins 2 WC's and no one ever looks at the 'facts'. David brought it up....Honda may be in the same part of the racing universe that Ducati was....they believe their own BS & the press. MM has consistently looked like a PBR rider on this bike.

Dovi said it: MM's talent is ridding around the bikes problems.

Total votes: 157

I believe many of the swings between Yamaha and Honda over the past few years are due to the changes Bridgestone makes to their tyres. Last year after the 2013 debacle at Phillip Island and problems at some other tracks Bridgestone went conservative with their tyres, giving them a heat treatment which reduced edge grip but increased longevity. The M1 being a corner speed bike was effected more adversely than the Honda, and their riders struggled. Though in truth it was only Marquez's ridiculous trail braking talent that meant Honda could take advantage of the situation so well. This year Bridgestone are more confident about their tyres durability and have given them more edge grip again, playing to Yamaha's strengths. I read on this site that Bridgestone said this year would be the fastest ever, and so it's proving to be. Something similiar happened in 2010 I think after there was a spate of cold tyre crashes. Then there was the squishy front which Bridgestone introduced after the season was already underway in 2012, which effected the Honda's braking stability but didn't effect the Yamahas as much, though I think in the end everybody agreed it was a step backwards. By the time Honda got their heads around the issue Yamaha was already in a strong championship position. The 2015 Honda has less mechanical grip than the Yamaha and so can't exploit the grip of the 2015 tyres as well as the Yam. It's an ongoing cycle.

Total votes: 187

Might be cruel, but I relish the fact that Nakamoto must be wringing his hands right now about the state of Hondas in the premier class.

Is it simplistic though to think control tyres are at fault for the surges in whether a bike good, or bad, in a given year ? Seems that a [factory] bike is built and revised around the tyres, and each year the control tyre throws up massive challenges, which only the factories can really afford to deal with via bike revision after bike revision, and sometimes, not getting it right till late in the season. But what we have now seems to be a reversal, just as tyres screwed the Yamaha in the past (who recalls Jorge storming up the the Bridgestone guys with a face like thunder) now they appear to be screwing the Honda, and Jorge has that little boy Grin again.

If HRC can't fix their issues quickly, and it's quite probable it wont be fixed quickly, I relish the thought of a Rossi v Lorenzo battle for the title. Even for a non-Rossi fan, you have to love the fact that Valentino has that winning sparkle in his eyes again. "20 points, Good Job!" then a big grin, was his post race roundup.

On the other hand, a desperate Marquez, battling a hard to tame Honda is also a worry - some of his moves re-entering a pack of riders after running wide or losing grip, looked a little scary to me.

Total votes: 159

"Seems that a [factory] bike is built and revised around the tyres, and each year the control tyre throws up massive challenges, which only the factories can really afford to deal with via bike revision after bike revision, and sometimes, not getting it right till late in the season."

You are correct, bikes are built to work for the tyres.

Total votes: 131

I don't think it's that dramatical for Honda in 2015. Yamaha have closed the gap to Honda, Ducati as well. So Honda tries to gain an advantage and goes backwards, for once. I'd say the three mfr's are close to each other with one being better than the other depending on which track they are at, and what the temperature is. It's just not that dramatical. Honda has a terrible weekend, for once, and all of a sudden the bikes aren't just a margin from Yamaha and Ducati, they are at a considerable distance away? Give me a break. It was a month ago Marquez was stomping on it at COTA.

Honda handbags 2015.

Total votes: 152

When Marquez is winning he is the best rider we've ever seen.... and when he is not the bike is no better than the Ducati which has yet to win a race.

I know that is not the story intended to be presented, but that is how many will take it.

All that has been said here is its a harder bike to ride fast. We have been hearing that for a while.

The difference is others have closed the gap and are going faster.

Marquez in ability to find the setup come race day is more a consequence of him completing his clearing out of the crew that was there before him. Just my opinion but I don't think his group can find that sweet spot as well. It is they who have been dependent on Marquez abilities

Total votes: 142

This is a very interesting perspective. I'd forgotten that Marquez wanted to bring all his crew from Moto 2 into Moto GP. Here is an article from David on the matter.

https://motomatters.com/opinion/2013/10/23/puig_vs_alzamora_the_dangerou...

This article is dated October 2013. It makes it seem as though Marquez had most of his Moto 2 crew in 2014. But he still won the championship in 2014. On the other hand, he was not as strong in the 2nd half of the championship, so maybe your crew perspective has merit.

Someone else already pointed out that Moto GP requires a team effort. Very interesting.

Total votes: 131

BigTime.! its just obious that in 2014 honda was the best bike by far. journalists can crawl back where the sun dont shine, that go´s for the blind mm fans to, and swallow all the ........ they said about what a amazing rider mm was. Suddenly honda is 3th best bike while its just that the M1 is now with the seamless just as good as the rcv. the rider makes the difference now.

Total votes: 154

The RCV "looks" a more difficult bike to ride than the M1, even for Marquez' standard. The lad seems to have persistent trouble to hit the apex on corner entry with the rear pushing the front and he had no grip on corner exit yesterday (so much movement). My armchair racer experience tells me the lack of rear grip on the RCV (in all situation) is their main concern.

Two races are not enough to label the Honda the worst bike of the triumvirate though, it could be just a coincidence. Mugello will give us more details IMO, rear grip is the absolute key to be fast over there and that'll be a great test for both Honda and Marquez (he's been struggling with rear grip the last 2 years in Toscana)

Total votes: 143

I am a regular reader of this site and as a fan of motogp, this, along with few other sites, is where I visit for fresh perspectives. I just dont comment much.
But this is an article I could not resist. I know David had his best intent, but this article seemed to be overhyping Marquez once again and underrating others. Marc is super talented but I would like to believe same of Jorge, Vale or Casey in their own right. Honda maybe a difficult bike but it is still a very fast bike. The proof is Cal getting podium on his very 3rd attempt while at Ducati he was all over the floor everytime. Honda had a big advantage last year while still being a difficult bike. But this year Ducati and Yamaha have stepped up big time. Now i think all manufacturers are equal bar minor advantage or disadvantage here and there. Also for Yamaha along with the bike both riders have stepped up their game a notch. For Ducati Dovi have finally found a bike which turns(at La chapelle i felt it turned tighter than Yamaha) and Innanone has turned into a strong, quite impressive contender. But Honda is the 3rd best after a single problem weekend? I dont think so. And for only Marc being able to ride it to victory is cuz he is young, talented, aggressive and can exploit the strengths of the bike very nicely. But i believe this year uptil now his aggressiveness has not rewarded him as the previous ones. Crash and mistakes are plenty. But he is still lucky as the final pass on Innanone was downright mix of aggression, talent and luck. I kept wondering how he was still seated on the bike.
And coming back to point. Honda is still a championship winning bike. Marc just has lost his way a little. He will bounce back and he will win races. But this year it wont be easy. Finally competition has arrived. And this makes for an interesting year.

Total votes: 158

I agree with you, but for some reason, whilst watching the entire race weekend, i couldn't help but feel MM might have more going on between his ears that with the bike. he has had a poor start to the season, he completely over cooked the first corner at the start a few races back, he was then taken out by rossi, he then broke his finger, he then witnessed lorenzo rise from the ashes (which i am really happy to see) and other than qualifying, i didn't really see him dominating like he usually does.

i wonder if perhaps his ego or his confidence has taken a slight knock and it is sending his riding the tiniest bit out of whack which is translating into his frantic, mistake ridden riding of recent.

i'm a big believer that the majority of a riders speed comes from his own mental strength and balls, and perhaps that is what we are seeing, not a jump to conclusions that the honda is a worse bike.

Total votes: 153

i think you could draw a straight line between honda's success in moto3 and the lack of development of they're motogp bike in the last 2 years.Taking your eye off the ball at this level even for a short time can have long lasting affects

Total votes: 143

There have always been riders who the mainstream believe win because of a bike advantage and other riders who win because of talent. Stoner only ever won due to a bike advantage in many people's eyes and Rossi always won due to talent.

In reality it is a team sport and the prodigious talent of a Stoner Lorenzo Rossi Marquez can only be successful consistently when the wider team are all delivering their piece of the puzzle to the extreme perfection. One off wins can come down to just rider talent but consistent success is due to the whole organisation.

Total votes: 146

Honda clearly have issues at Le Mans though. That's why all of the RC213V riders crashed yesterday (well except MM). But I believe that RC213V is still a competitive bike, maybe it looked like the worst factory bike at Le Mans, but the bike was strong at CoTA, Argentina & Jerez. Different tracks, different characters. It's too early to write the bike (& it's riders) off

Total votes: 143

I'm pretty sure MM93 crashed at least a couple of times during that race... he just refused to fall off!

Total votes: 173

Gotta clean my computer screen now. Drinking soda when reading that one.

Total votes: 131

The highlight of the race is the fight between Iannone and Marquez. The Ducati is looking seriously good. I am actually thinking a possible Ducati 1-2 in Mugello unless it rains. Likely Ducati already had the Mugello winning settings cooked during the recent test.

Total votes: 140

Well, last year aside where a mightily struggling JLo managed to finish a close second in an epic battle to a Marquez at his best. So in short, yes Mugello is definitely Lorenzo's favorite track and seeing his form lately the race could be over even before started.

Still, my little finger tells me a certain rider, currently leading the championship could very well give the mallorjcan a run for his money this time around. Rossi is having the best year of his career, I honestly buy into that.

As for Ducati, they always had private testings prior to the home race, but how many times did they win in Toscana ? I recall one, Stoner in 2007, in wet to dry conditions. In short, a lottery relative to the bike performance. Let's admit the GP15 is probably the most balanced prototype Gigi Ducati ever built though, so who knows, different bike, different outcome perhaps ?

As a conclusion I will finish with a bold statement, from now on, Iannone will start to be the better of the two Andreas, it's been a tough luck for the Maniac the past 2 races but his true pace has improved and now looks faster than Dovi's IMO. If someone has an "Alien" potential of the two, I think it's him.

Total votes: 151

I could see Crazy Joe was struggling after awhile, but I didn't suspect he took a couple laps off to rest. I figured he just ran off somewhere and let Smith catch him so quickly from 3 seconds back. I have become a big fan of Ianonne lately with his remarkable pace. Even moreso now with his gritty display against MM. Also, I had no idea the Honda was that hard to ride, other than watching both MM and CC display so much movement under them. But I figured it was the two riders rather than their motorcycle. It is amazing how the MotoGP bikes get good and then go bad with such regularity. Still, it seems like the M1 is a bit slower than the Honda or Ducati.

Total votes: 121

I think the balance has shifted in favour of Yamaha, with the L4'S from Ducati and HRC about equal. The rubber is either working better with the M1 or the M1's and the crews surrounding their rider's are getting to grips with set up at each venue better than the opposition this year. Ducati still have an issue with making the tire last the distance and Honda do have a very narrow temperature window with the current Bridgestone allocation available. A whole bunch of Honda riders crashed out in Le Mans, but it's not par for the course. A warm to hot Mugello surface will be a better indicator.
Mugello should favour the M1 yet again by virtue of its fast and flowing nature.
And yes, I agree with a previous comment. Joe Maniac is more likely to win the first dry race for Ducati since Stoner at PI in 2010. Make no mistake, Dovi is brilliant and consistency is his game. Like Hayden he is a 99% racer day in and day out and with his talent he is always right up there. Sure, he can win the title like Hayden did, but Joe has a bit of Capirex in him on the Desmo and that is what will be needed to dispatch the Yamaha/HRC domination in any particular season.
Boom bust! Look forward to Mugello, always the highlight of the season, for me anyway.

Total votes: 133

I'm sure they are working as I write this to change the rules so this is no longer the case. I call Bravo Sierra they started from Pole ! In any case Dani will win before years end, Marc will win again and Cal will continue to crash and complain about something. If it comes down to a scrap Lorenzo will be left holding the short straw as Rossi is ready. Last year in Parc Ferme he was sweaty , tired and out of breath this year he appears to be relaxed and having fun. Yes Jorge is a machine and can reel off the laps IF he is clear. Pretty sure the trophy goes to Italy at the end of the year.

Total votes: 134

Once again, you reveal details which cannot be gleaned from typical media outlets. The problem according to commentators or so-called expert journalists was either with Marquez or the tires. Now I have a better idea of what is happening with Honda. Thanks!

Total votes: 133

I wonder how Jorge will fare when we hit the first wet race. Though as the year has been so unpredictable so far, it won't surprise me if he's fine.

Right now I'm not writing anyone off. Whatever the points say at the moment, any of the top four could show a run of form and turn the championship on it's head. Who'd have believed, 3 weeks ago, that we'd be talking this week about what great shape Jorge is in, or that the Honda was this years dog.

Total votes: 147

It's all rubber, such is Bridgestones narrow range. Rossi is by far the strongest on a variety of rubber, he proved this at Le Mans on the soft, and we know what will happen to Jorge once the harder compounds come into play again, Marc will have a resurgence once these come back too.

It certainly seems that having two of the top three riders is once again benefitting Yamaha immensely, so much so that everyone is now questioning the almighty Honda team and its glorious test rider! I've always believed that Stoner is/was such a natural talent, as Marc is that the development road can potentially come to a dead end, stoner proved that at Ducati, with a lot of help from their attitude. He also proved it at Honda, when he was fresh in 2011 with a package developed by Dani and Dovi he cleaned up, less than a year later soundly beaten by Jorge and his teammate. Dani's been sorely missed I would say, but I don't feel sorry for them. And let's not forget Ducatis extra fuel and engines.
I agree with others here in regards to Rossis General demeanor this season, he looks more confident than I've seen him for a long while, all at 36 years of age is truly remarkable.......he still hasn't earnt the 4-5 paragraphs that Marc and Jorge get though ;)

Total votes: 149

Stoner was 9 points behind Dani with half the calendar to go before he badly damaged his ankle at Indi. He was in a good position considering the tracks left to race on, not sure how you read that as being soundly beaten.

Rossi was considered the best development rider before joining Ducati, but despite a massive development schedule and about 10 bike evolutions in two years the bike actually became less competitive. Stoners ability to set up the unpredictable Duc is now held in high regard, and Ducati completely restructured their GP operations post Preziosi in acknowledgement that there was not enough effective communication between the riders, team, and engineers while both Stoner and Rossi were riding there.

With Pedrosa as lead rider Honda won a single title in seven years. When Stoner arrived they hadn't won a title for 4 years. Hondas fortunes turned around dramatically after Stoner arrived. Dani was also far more competitive than usual in 2012, pointing to the RCV's improvement since Stoner joined the previous year.

Marquez and Stoners riding talent could warp bike development in a way that's not helpful for other riders, but really it's titles that matter and they're the riders that bring home the bacon. Marquez's braking style is very different to Dani's, and nearly everyone else, so Dani and the other Honda riders might suffer more with Marc giving Honda their primary feedback.

Total votes: 155

The manufacturers don't forget how to build fast bikes, and I'm not convinced the Honda was built incorrectly last year. Instead, it was built to lap as fast as possible given engine power over race distance and tire performance. Marquez was best suited to ride the bike, just as Stoner was best suited to ride the Ducati in 2007.

This year something changed, and it upset the balance of the RC. The tires selected for 2015, are probably not the ones Honda prefers or the allocation is not what Honda prefers for the entire season. The RC will have to change. Reminds me of Ducati in 2008.

Total votes: 128

I love David's writing - this blog is my go-to source for authoritative MotoGP analysis. But on these pages we've previously seen Ducati being diagnosed as having a fatally flawed 90-degree vee twin based on drawn-out analysis (turned out Honda was using a 90-degree too, blowing the whole thesis out of the water) and most recently "the wild and speculative theory I put forward last night about Marc Márquez' Austin engine".

When proven wrong David always points it out thoroughly and openly about it, but you have to wonder at the reasons for going charging out there with this theory that the Honda is suddenly a dog, doing a sort of reverse-Casey in terms of drawing conclusions about the bike/rider mix.

David I don't know whether to applaud your bravery on the basis that you might sometimes be right, or conclude that 'Honda now the third-best bike' just makes for a great headline that the article was written to fit. I mean we are a handful or races into the season with Ducati showing a certain resurgence but there are all sorts of factors at play. Thanks for your generally comprehensive and thorough analysis of all such factors ... but ...

A bike being hard to ride doesn't make it a bike you can't win on. Casey Stoner proved that. The Ducati was still running up the front when he shifted to Honda. It seems a deeply flawed conclusion that a bike has to be easy to ride to win on. The bike might need that wild untamed quality to get that extra squirt out of the corners or outright speed down the straight or a bit unstable generally to deliver quicker turn-in, with the rider having to deal with the downside of it. There may be no other way to deliver the winning edge. If the bike had to be easy to ride to win on, they'd all be out there riding Honda Deauvilles.

Total votes: 144

much like the ducati, the difficulty to ride it was outweighed by the extreme performance it provided if one could ride it at that level.

when the other factories caught up, riding it at that limit didnt provide the extreme advantage anymore, and more risks needed to be taken resulting in more crashes for casey.

i see that happening with the honda also. the honda is harder to ride, and had a complete ton of performance in 2013 and 2014 as a result. that extra performance could pull out an easy .3 or .4 to get you away if you needed.

flash forward to 2015 and you aren't easily getting a .3 or a .4 out of that. you have to ride much higher at the limit, not because the bike is harder to ride, but because the opposition has caught up.

it's normal, it's what happens.

whether the opposition caught up by concessions, different tires, or seamless downshifts, they caught up. and now honda needs to increase the performance of the bike to where 'over riding it' produces that gain in pace over a lap or two that allows a rider to build a lead and then breathe, as opposed to fatigue trying to fight the bike just to stay at the same pace as the opponents.

Total votes: 148

It wouldn't be the first time - but then Audi might let the big dogs out: Dr Wolfgang and Leena Gade!
I don't think Honda would appreciate getting whipped by a girl. That's a Japanese horror movie.

Total votes: 127

I think the race result is just weird with respect to the competativity of the factory Honda's. They had a problem. But I don't believe there is a big issue with the factory bike in general, it's just a different bike as the M1 and GP15, so it has different advantages.

What I don't see back in any comments (as I quickly read) is dat Marquez put a out a magnificent lap at qualifiying and led the WUP with a nice run of 1.33.5's. They just had an issue with the heat in the afternoon which was different as in whole weekend. Surely, everyone had this, but the factory honda seemed to have suffered the most. Ok, move on.

Marquez went of the podium in Brno last year and there was a similar debate, he won the next race. I wouldnt be surprised Marquez wins Mugello, although the track really suits Lorenzo and Rossi very much. Bring it on!

Oh, one thing I've read here is that the Honda looked it had issues getting out of the corners. Well I think the ducati just goes like a rocket, but that doesnt mean the honda is bad. I saw a couple of times Marquez outbraked himself, barely made the first chicane and got out the chicane with a very tight corner and was still almost able to keep up with Iannone.

Total votes: 150

David, great write-up with key details - although I think that they point more towards Marquez state of mind than the quality of the bike. Changing frames like this seems a little wild...like Marquez's riding!

In 2014 Honda had a MASSIVE technical advantage, and one of the three top riders. I watched every race, and it was clear that the Honda's power, braking, acceleration et. al. were far superior to the competition. I was surprised by Jorge, and amazed like everyone else by Rossi. It was also clear that Marquez was a reckless rider that, had he not been on the best bike, would have struggled.

This idea that Honda has a crisis, though, is wrong. Yamaha with the seamless downshift is much closer to the Honda. However, let's look at the facts - Marquez was dominating the Qatar weekend until he made a massive error on the first corner and ruined his race (it might not have mattered); Marquez dominated COTA box-to-wire; Marquez was running 2nd until he red-misted out of Argentina; Marquez finished 2nd at Jerez to a dominant Lorenzo; and this weekend he made error after error in the race when temperatures spiked after dominating practice all weekend.

Ducati has the best bike, that's clear, although on tracks that require the hard tire they are out-of-luck. The Honda is faster than the Yamaha, but harder to ride and possibly more sensitive to set-up - that doesn't make it a worse bike overall - and it plays to Marquez's strengths. But keep in mind that ALL of these bikes are sensitive to set-up! Without a last-minute change, Rossi was 1 whole second off the pace - this article could have been about Rossi's collapse instead of HRC's!

The real issue facing HRC is that Marquez is not in fact any better than Rossi or Lorenzo, and Yamaha is much closer in equipment this year (better at some tracks, worse at others). Lorenzo on his day - soft tires on a track that suits him - is very, very hard to beat. Rossi on his day - hard tires on a track that suits him - has shown through fifteen years that he's the reference, and that is still the case. Marquez won two championships on the best bike and he's on their level - ahead of Pedrosa and the rest.

Marquez has been exposed as a blindingly fast but inconsistent rider.

But HRC in crisis? No. A few changes here or there - for example a Marquez willing to take 2nd, Rossi missing set-up - and the championship has a very different flavor.

Total votes: 166

Marc is not wild and inconsistent.

MotoGP alone...

41 Starts
20 Wins
32 Podiums
25 Pole Positions
23 Fastest Laps

If that's not consistent, then what is?!

Marc is incredible and what we see from the first 5 races is that the Honda is a damn hard bike to ride.
I don't believe that it was the worst bike on the grid last year, but he still made it look better than it was.

Qatar he had the pace of the leaders aside from the first corner error (althoguh HRC say it was a bike fault), Austin was in his pocket all weekend, Argentina was unlucky, Jerez he had a fantastic ride with a broken finger and in Le Mans it was clear that the Honda as a package struggled with the changed conditions.

Anyone who says that this has exposed Marc as not being that good is in denial, for whatever reason they may have to dismiss his talent, they are in denial.

Total votes: 143

My point wasn't primarily about Marc, although it is apparent that Marc is not discernably faster - on reasonably similar equipment - in a race than Rossi or Lorenzo (qualifying is another matter...), but he's not any slower, either, and that's as good as it gets. He IS spectacular. And the Honda IS hard to ride. But hard to ride and slow are two very different things - and the Honda, whatever its faults - is not at all slow.

The main point is that hand-wringing about HRC being in some kind of crisis after having a big set-up problem in one race kind of overstates the case. HRC has an amazing bike, and the track changed dramatically from practice to the race - it turns out that "amazing" in this case goes along with "sensitive to temperature".

All the bikes are very sensitive to set-up, HRC more so in some ways and less in others (David had a piece earlier on the electronics vs. Ducati - apparently the Ducati electronics are difficult). It's clear that the Yamaha - if taken the wrong way - is dog-slow. Rossi went from 10th to 1st in race pace! That's mostly, if not completely, due to set-up changes. Lorenzo had similar issues in Argentina, it seems.

Marquez is wild, though - he's either taken out riders directly or nearly taken out riders on numerous occasions with let's say extremely aggressive moves. That's pretty much the definition of wild.

Total votes: 143

"The real issue facing HRC is that Marquez is not in fact any better than Rossi or Lorenzo . . . "
What I've long suspected.
The only way we'll know for sure is if Honda send a SEAL team to grab Casey off his fishing boat.

Total votes: 136

He qualifies great, holds his ground in the first few corners, pulls away from Marquez and then starts going after the leaders. The guy's almost on the podium! He comes up on an injured Ianonne and ... goes all limp. Stuff him Bradley! Your podium is slipping away. Now now now!! More cogitations and careful deliberations. Quickly now, Marquez is back. Nope. Marquez stuffs him and takes 4th. Sigh. I want to see him ride like the future of his team and his seat depend on it. Instead he races like he's getting ready to retire.

Total votes: 136

the Winners Condition. Since those are the complaints the engineers should listen too, but always seem to take with less weight.
How special is MM to watch? Overriding the Honda to keep 4th and squeeze every last point out of the situation. Fantastic talent. Bradley Smith never had a prayer

Total votes: 136

Yamaha has always had a better bike than the Honda.... Marc just road around the problems... as Stoner did before... as Krop said.

Total votes: 149

Arguably one of the best riders the premier class has seen since its inception without winning the big title, much like Loris. I still believe the black magic is
key on race day over race length. Ducati, Honda and Yamaha have advantages here or there, but current, given concessions to minnows, they are pretty much equal.
Their pilots and crews will make the difference in Mugello.
Back to Dani Pedrosa, a fully fit Dani will be a force to be reckoned with on the HRC bike. Let's face it, Marc is playing catch up and Dani is by Valentino's 'off hand' summation post Le Mans, non existent in the title chase.
Funny old bone, with almost 1/3rd season done, I sort of expect the 2 bridesmaids being Dovi and Dani to shine from Mugello onwards.
I pick Lorenzo to take a 3rd title.The bloke is that good, as is the M1.
Mind you, I figured Stoner would win 2008 as well! Maybe Marc is headed down the same path and the RCV is, as David points out, 3rd best. What do I know.
I know this.
Catalunya is the devil in the dark. Generally it determines the title. Mugello is an absolute blast and I expect a dry race to see some 350km/hr+ top speeds on that fabulous front/kinked straight. Expect Dani to be in the mix.

Total votes: 139

Is Iannone in that race. Yes Lorenzo was looking imperious again. Rossi is steadily improving speed it seems every race, but needs to qualify better. Smith had a good race but once Iannone and Marquez started to battle they left him behind like he was not even in the same race.

That battle took me back to the days of Iannone and Marquez battling in Moto2. Where Iannone was one of the few people to actually beat Marquez heads up. He is one of the few that can battle hard with Marquez pass for pass and not get flustered. Hope they can battle for the lead like that soon. But what makes Iannone the Race Hero in my book is he did all that with jacked up shoulder, (separated). Anyone that has ever had a shoulder injury knows what a monster effort and how much balls it took to battle like that.

Great to see NH doing well too. Another thing I noticed is Bridgestone seem to have changed the way they select tires for races. They used to make the soft tire the factories used too soft for a full race. Now they make the selection of the medium or hard tire for the Factories one step too hard for the race. This leaves Open Bikes and Factory bikes racing on the same tire for the race. So Ducati is running the same tire as Yamaha and Honda in the race. Still get their cheater tire for qualifying, but the race tire is putting them on common ground with everyone else.

Overall entertaining race, especially that Marquez vs Iannone battle in the end. There may have been mistakes, but I was literally falling asleep watching Lorenzo sail off in the distance controlling from the front.

Total votes: 128

Ianonne was a standout. I didn't follow all that closely, but in Moto2 he seemed to run so hot and cold, very inconsistent with often poor qualifying. Into MotoGP and he fell off a lot and was of course also on the earlier Duc which didn't help. This year he seems to have backed it off just a little bit and found good consistency, while also doing well in qualifying. Hopefully he is getting his head fully around the bike and can then ratchet the speed back up a little to really run at the front. He's an exciting prospect, and to judge from the LeMans performance obviously gutsy to go with it.

Total votes: 121

Yeah must have been a hard task cruising to 10 victorys the first 10 races in 2014 the rcv is so freaky hard to ride. i tell you what the Yam was hard to ride.! now he bikes are both hard to ride on the limit. its not just the rcv , JL was losing the front also a couple of times just like mm. VR was nowere near the pace untill he gambled...now thats hard. the most fun part is when JL was like mm now in 2014 mm sat there with his pokerface telling JL he needs to enjoy riding. karma came for mm he never expected that the yam is as fast as the rcv and he started making mistake after mistake.
Honda crisis honda hard to ride my @ss.!
read on other sites Suppo says its not honda its marquez on that same site MM stated it was the honda. sounds like a nice place to be there. even talk about nakamoto leaving.
mm never experienced this sinds he joined motogp. in 2013 JL was injured several times in 2014 the M1 wasnt even close to the rcv(and that ade the M1 hard to ride agains the relative easy to contole rcv. all that changed in 2015 because the M1 and the rules that were changed for ducati are now JUST EQUAL. no need to draw conclusions. all bike are hard to drive. MM is just crumbling atm. maybe to rephrase "he needs to enjoy the riding again"

Total votes: 144

Am I the only one who is afraid of Jorge being in top winning form? Even though he's a ways away from being my favorite rider, and I'd prefer to see others win, that's not why. I'm afraid because when Jorge wins, he dominates from the first lap, and this makes for very boring racing! Look at the first four races - exciting fights, come backs, fighting for position - it was like a Moto2 race! But when Jorge wins, he often only wins by decimating the field with a blistering pace, and that is boring! I hope he's not "back" in the dominating sense, because if he is, I fear a very boring championship....

Total votes: 122

As other MM commenters have suggested, how Lorenzo will go on tracks that he has to run the hard tyre is a bit of a question.

I think it just goes to show that we've gotten so used to Marquez's dominance that two wins on the trot by another rider is regarded as an abberration to be endlessly analysed... if Marquez had won the last two races we'd be all 'business as usual'.

My take is this - it's great to see Rossi leading the championship, it's great to see Lorenzo find his groove and start clawing his way back up, and it's great that Marquez has still got some powder dry ready to launch his own assault. And then we have Dovi looking for his breakthrough, and Pedrosa working to get back into the mix... I don't think you have too much to be worried about ; )

Total votes: 139

At the outset let me apologise for commenting so late on this article. I have not been well and just did not feel up to writing. There has been an interesting discussion on the Honda motorcycle here and I think what we need to distinguish between is a "bad bike" and a "difficult to ride at full capacity bike". Everybody has invoked Stoner or Marquez but I would like to go back to the days of 500 GP machines of which a small mention has been made by David Emmett in the article. The Yamaha that was being ridden by Wayne Rainey as per the rider's own confession and as per the quotation that David has attributed to Kenny Roberts Sr. tells us a story. A motorcycle that is difficult to ride on is not necessarily incapable of winning. In fact, most of the problems arise around understanding what difficulty means when a rider or a team uses that term. In Wayne Rainey's case most of his difficulties emanated from the engine of the Yamaha which had a twin crank setup whereas the Honda being ridden by Wayne Gardner and later Mick Doohan had a single crank. The Yamaha was therefore sapping some of the power that it was producing forcing Rainey to work it harder than the Honda riders.

But perhaps the most telling example of what riders mean by difficulty in riding came from Jeremy Burgess who was then the crew chief of Mick Doohan. In an interview with Jonathan Green when asked about how Honda had managed to get better than the Yamaha in the post Rainey period, Burgess simply asked "how do you know that the Honda has go better than the Yamaha?" and Green said most people are giving up Yamahas and asking for Hondas. Burgess said "When Rainey was winning everybody thought they can win on the Yamaha so everybody was chasing Yamaha rides, now that Mick Doohan is winning on the Honda everyone thinks that the Honda is the bike that they can win on and so they are chasing a Honda ride. Which bike is better has nothing to do with who is winning and the number of people wanting to ride that bike". I thought that was succinctly put by Burgess.

Total votes: 138

It doesn't really matter how much Honda is struggling (or not), I do not expect it to last for very long.

Remember when Honda was struggling with rear end chatter in 2012? They just spit out chassis after chassis until Dani was winning the majority of races by the end of the season.

The question is just if they struggle enough (and for long enough) for it to affect their chances of winning the WC? And then there's Marquez. Maybe his bike is hard to ride, but I really don't expect that to Keep him from being a potential race winner any given weekend. He might just have to work for it more. I for one am looking Forward to seeing that. And I really wonder how Jorge, in his current form, would fare in a corner-for-corner battle with a competitive Marquez.

Total votes: 136

Correct me if I am wrong, but here goes.

Honda used to place their newly recruited design graduates into their racing departments. Keep them there for 2 or 3 years and then move them into the production team for the road vehicles. The theory being that racing is improving the breed.

Honda now have a keen interest to do well in all classes of Moto GP, but now have an even keener desire to succeed in Formula 1. Could we be looking at a lack of resource and quality going to HRC and instead ending up in developing the F1 power-plant?

As Dave said, with a rider like MM, they probably don't have to try as hard as the opposition to win races from a technical perspective, and with a reputation being tarnished in the parade that is F1, they will want to fix that as soon as possible, could this be a non-Honda year?

I expect that this will not be the case for the whole season, and a renaissance will happen at some point (Brno onwards?), and despite the numerous challenges that Honda have to deal with, they are not a company that likes to lose.

Total votes: 130