MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
How ominous is Márquez's preseason pace?
Honda had a poor preseason in 2015, 2016 and 2017, but this time it looks like Marquez, Pedrosa and Crutchlow are in seriously good shape
During the last few seasons Honda has struggled through preseason testing and launched into the new season with distinctly unimpressive results at the season-opening race. And yet last year and the year before Marc Márquez turned things around to win the championship.
So far, this year is very different: Honda was the dominant force at the first two tests, showing super-fast race pace and taking two of the top three positions at Sepang and three of the top four positions at Chang in Thailand.
Does that mean Honda will be rampant in 2018, or will the season once again turn out to be the opposite of preseason? Because things didn’t only change for Honda in 2016 and 2017. Yamaha was clear favourite after preseason testing in 2016, with Jorge Lorenzo, and in 2017, with Maverick Viñales, but had below-par championships both years.
The obvious conclusion is that preseason testing means nothing; but there’s little doubt that Honda is in better shape than it has been for years. Which must be ominous for anyone hoping to stop Márquez from winning a fifth MotoGP world championship.
Honda has focused most of its preseason efforts on engine development, trying to regain some of the horsepower lost during the previous two years. In 2016 HRC reversed crankshaft rotation to help the RC213V turn quicker and change direction quicker; but this configuration costs horsepower. Last year HRC introduced a big-bang format, which improves torque delivery at the expense of peak horsepower. Thus HRC has been testing two new engine specs for 2018, both with revised big-bang crankshaft timing. They do make more power, but will they be rider-friendly?
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.