Over the next week or so, I will be taking a deep dive into what I saw at the test, with the help of photos from Niki Kovács and having talked a few things over with Peter Bom. But examining all of the photos and thinking about what I saw has been an intensive affair, as I tried to figure out what was going on.
But we'll start off with Honda. For a lot of reasons. Not just because Marc Marquez expressed disappointment at what HRC had brought to the test, but also because two new riders switched to Honda, including the 2020 MotoGP champion Joan Mir and the winner of the Valencia MotoGP race Alex Rins.
I gave my first impressions from the test on Tuesday evening after the test, but the trouble with working quickly is that you don't notice what you have missed. There are so many small changes that you don't really have time to absorb them all. And sometimes, there are so many eye-catching changes that you miss out on other big changes, which is certainly the case with Honda.
At the time, Marc Marquez said he was disappointed by what Honda had brought. "Of course, I always expect more but it was not there. But the most important thing is that Honda is working and we know that they are working more for February than now. And yeah, I expect a bigger step in February at Malaysia test."
Marquez' measure of disappointment is plain not just in what he told us reporters, but also from the timesheets. The Repsol Honda rider did the fewest laps of the 2023 MotoGP field, completing 50 laps in 8 runs. By contrast, Fabio Quartararo racked up a total 92 laps on 15 exits. Newly crowned 2022 MotoGP champion Pecco Bagnaia took some time to rest on his laurels, but still managed more laps than Marquez – a total of 59 laps in 11 runs.
Doing so few runs and so few laps is a sure sign of frustration for Marquez. But at least there were a lot of HRC engineers from Japan he could tell directly what he thought. "It was a long time since I see so many Japanese staff inside the box. So it was a long time since I saw this kind of reaction," the Spaniard said. "So this is some sign already."
"It’s true that they get a lot of information. And as you see I didn’t make many laps today. I did the laps that I need to try and that’s it. Then, there was no sense to put on the soft tire and no sense to make the time attack, because the time attack is not the real potential of the bike. So just I did my job and gave the comments and now it’s time for them to work in the winter time."
Marquez said he had tried a new prototype bike, with the updated aerodynamics he had been using since Phillip Island. He tried that bike with the old engine and with a new engine, with a little more torque. But there were things he didn't tell us either. That included two new chassis, the exhaust set Honda have been playing with for a while, a new air intake, a new clutch, and a new tail.
Let's start with the frames HRC brought to Valencia. Visually, we can be certain that Honda had at least two there, and probably a third, a variation on the new frame which Takaaki Nakagami has been using for the latter part of the season.
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