Honda Riders Find Late Improvements as Preseason Draws to a Close

Significant improvements on the final evening of preseason testing allowed Honda’s MotoGP riders to conclude preseason in a positive frame of mind, with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda RC213V) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda RC213V) placing fourth and seventh fastest in Qatar.

Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez

As riders put machines through their paces for the last time before the first round of the 2016 season on 20th March, Spaniard Marquez was the best-placed Honda rider and two tenths quicker than Crutchlow.

Continuing their adaption to Michelin’s new tires and the 2016 spec electronics, the three-day test was the first occasion that all five riders had used the full 2016 machine and engine, the package that had previously been tested by Marquez and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V) at Sepang and Phillip Island.

Riders endured a difficult opening to the three days, as a dirty track hindered the machine’s turning ability. Yet, at the close of this evening, both Marquez and Crutchlow made significant strides with set-up that allowed them to dramatically improve their lap times and post several fast and consistent runs.

Marquez was visibly buoyed by late adjustments to the set-up of his RC213V that allowed him to reel off a set of consistent times while following reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha). The 23-year old set his fastest time on his final lap of the day, as he went some way to curing the turning issues that had held him back on Wednesday and Thursday. Looking to regain the World Championship crown that he lost in 2015, the twice MotoGP king feels that he now has a bike on which he can compete at the front. Even a fall at the final turn on Friday evening couldn’t temper his positivity.

Beginning his second season with Honda in the MotoGP class, Crutchlow also slid off on the final day, after posting a 1m 55.592s lap, close to four tenths of a second quicker than his best lap from the 2015 Qatar race. While stating the current machine is more physical to ride, with its lower level of electronics (provided by MotoGP rights-holders Dorna) Crutchlow feels the latest 2016 engine is a clear improvement. And with two more weeks until the first race, he hopes that further steps can be taken before he lines up on the grid for the first time in 2016.

Pedrosa was unable to find improvements like his team-mate and thus concluded the test in a less positive mood, after a string of set-up changes had failed to improve his feeling. Working on electronics and the machine geometry, Pedrosa couldn’t get within a second of the fastest time but feels that he and his team have acquired sufficient data to ensure he arrives at the first round of the year in stronger shape.

Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), this season’s sole MotoGP rookie, experienced an eventful test with three tumbles. The first came on Wednesday before two further falls today undid some of the good work he had done on day two. Despite the falls the 2014 Moto2 World Champion believes he has further acclimatized to a MotoGP machine.

Jack Miller (Marc VDS Racing Team Honda RC213V) continued his recovery from an injury that forced him out of the first test of 2016 and was 19th overall. Still limping from the fractured right leg he sustained in a training accident in January, Miller found the Losail International Circuit more demanding than Phillip Island, where he made his comeback from injury. The Australian admitted that he was struggling to gain confidence with the front tire but remains confident that more track time will benefit him.

The Qatar Grand Prix uniquely commences with practice on Thursday 17th March. As always the action takes place under the spotlights at Losail, with evening-time races across all three classes: MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.

Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez
Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: 4th – 1m 55.402s :
“Honestly, I’m very happy today, because we have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I went back to having a good feeling on the bike, and even though I crashed I know why it happened. We have improved a lot and I want to thank my team for the great work they have done, because they are working very hard; yesterday they finished at 3am, and they were back here at the circuit for 10am today. I am very happy because we have taken a step forward at a track where I have struggled before. We have made some big changes that have allowed me to start gaining confidence, riding at a good pace both behind Jorge [Lorenzo] and alone, even despite the dew on track at the end. It is still not enough, and we need to improve more, but after today I have much more confidence for the race. Yesterday I was worried about our level, because I had no pace or confidence, and today we have taken a big step forward, so I’m happy with the final result of the last preseason test. We have found out a lot of things that have allowed me to ride at a fairly good level.”
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda: 7th – 1m 55.592s :
“From where we were on Thursday we have improved a little bit. It’s been a tough test and it hasn’t been coming easy. At the moment we are all saying the same thing and we are on a similar setting on the bike. From what the engineers have done from Sepang and Phillip Island it has been a big step, but we can still make another improvement. There was no reason for the crash. I was on a long run. I wasn’t intending to do a long run but I had ten laps when I left the pit lane. Then it was just under race distance when I crashed. We have confirmed a few things with Honda and we will now start working towards the race in two weeks.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 10th – 1m 55.857s :
“We had not many tires left so we couldn’t do much testing today and I finished earlier than usual. Unfortunately the conclusions are not entirely satisfactory. Over the three days we have tried to test a lot of things, but there are still some ideas that we want to apply the next time we are on track. With the data obtained in the last few tests, the technicians in Japan will work to try to make some changes ahead of the first Grand Prix. We’ll see if they are favorable, and if we can get better performance for the race.”
Tito Rabat, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS: 17th – 1m 57.027s :
“The test in Qatar got off to a bad start with a big crash on day one, with no warning from the bike at all. On the second day I didn’t want to push too much and risk another big crash and the possibility of injuring myself, but the bike felt better. On the final day I started to build a bit more confidence and the lap time came quite easily, but as soon as I started to push, even just a little bit, I crashed again with no warning. I got know warning; one minute I was upright and the next I was down. I don’t know what caused the change between day two and day three, but today was much more difficult. Now we need to work on some ideas to try when we return here for the race, because if we don’t find some improvements it will be an incredibly tough start to the season.”
Jack Miller, Marc VDS Racing Team: 19th – 1m 57.046s :
“Qatar has certainly been a test for us, trying to get to grips with everything and also having to contend with all the right-hand corners, which were hard on my injured foot. The injury is okay, still improving, but it definitely gave me a bit more grief here than at Phillip Island. It was also a difficult test in terms of the set-up with the bike. I haven’t built up any confidence in the front tire just yet and had a few moments just trying to stay on two wheels. We did find a few little things, but it’s still not where we want it to be and there is still some work to do. Hopefully we can find something between now and the first race so that we can come back here to Qatar a little bit stronger.”
Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa

Combined Standings Days 1-2-3

Rank Rider (Team)
1 Jorge LORENZO (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)
2 Scott REDDING (Octo Pramac Yakhnich)
4 Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)
5 Valentino ROSSI (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)
6 Andrea IANNONE (Ducati Team)
8 Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)
9 Hector BARBERA (Avintia Racing)
10 Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)
11 Pol ESPARGARO (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)
12 Yonny HERNANDEZ (Aspar MotoGP Team)
13 Bradley SMITH (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)
14 Loris BAZ (Avintia Racing)
16 Michele PIRRO (Octo Pramac Yakhnich)
17 Tito RABAT (EG 0.0 Marc VDS)
18 Alvaro BAUTISTA (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)
19 Jack MILLER (EG 0.0 Marc VDS)
20 Eugene LAVERTY (Aspar MotoGP Team)
21 Stefan BRADL (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)
22 Hiroshi AOYAMA (HRC Test Team)
23 Takuya TSUDA (Suzuki Test Team)
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