KEEP­ING THEM GUESS­ING

Mar­quez has had a tough six months, lam­basted by Rossi, beaten in the cham­pi­onship and off the pace in test­ing. So what can the Spa­niard do in Qatar?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Motogp Preview - By Si­mon Patterson MO­TOGP REPORTER

arc Mar­quez has put the Mo­togp cir­cus in a tricky po­si­tion ahead of this week’s open­ing race in Qatar – a po­si­tion where it seems no one has any idea of just what the dou­ble world cham­pion is ca­pa­ble of do­ing.

Mar­quez was be­lea­guered through­out the win­ter test­ing cam­paign by a Rep­sol Honda that seemed to de­velop a new prob­lem just as soon as the team fixed an old one.

From a too-ag­gres­sive en­gine to elec­tron­ics that just didn’t work, from Miche­lin tyres that gave no con­fi­dence to a frame that they couldn’t get to turn, the team jumped from is­sue to is­sue, al­ways chas­ing the all-con­quer­ing Yama­has while seem­ingly un­able to ever get any closer.

But that all changed in the clos­ing min­utes of the fi­nal day of test­ing, when a top se­cret al­ter­ation of the bike’s ge­om­e­try meant ev­ery piece of the world’s most com­pli­cated jig­saw fell into place for the young Spa­niard – who im­me­di­ately com­pleted a race sim­u­la­tion at near lap record pace and ended the test fourth over­all.

“I’m very happy, 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 on the last day I know why it hap­pened. We have im­proved a lot,” he said.

“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. It is still not enough, and we need to im­prove more, but af­ter to­day I have much more con­fi­dence. Be­fore, I was wor­ried about our level, be­cause I had no pace or con­fi­dence.”

That will come as a huge re­lief to Mar­quez, whose al­most unique, deep brak­ing rid­ing style

Mwas al­ways des­tined to be one of those most ham­pered by the ma­jor tyre and elec­tronic tech­ni­cal changes in­tro­duced for 2016.

He’s a no­to­ri­ous de­mon late braker with al­most­to­tal faith in his elec­tron­ics, so the move both to a more un­sta­ble front tyre and much more un­re­fined trac­tion con­trol was al­ways go­ing to be an is­sue.

Yet, with the progress made at Qatar, Mar­quez left con­fi­dent that the bike was at least at a level where he was able to ride it the way he wanted to.

“We tried to make a step at Qatar, and now the bike is turn­ing bet­ter than it was. We tried to con­cen­trate on the chas­sis, on the ge­om­e­try and the bal­ance, and we made a good step.

“And now that we have im­proved the turn­ing, I’m start­ing to feel a lit­tle more con­fi­dent. We are los­ing a lot on the exit though; it’s dif­fi­cult to find the rear grip. On mo­tor­bikes, the lap time de­pends on the exit of the cor­ner. We are work­ing on that be­cause we are los­ing a lot of speed.”

Mar­quez also ad­mit­ted that the new tyres have forced him to look at how he rides.

“I’ve started to change. I crashed when I tried to ride the bike like I did when it was on the Bridge­stones. I was straight into the brak­ing point, and I crashed. So you have to change men­tal­ity. I’m rid­ing in a dif­fer­ent way now.”

How that plays out – and whether he can rein­vent his rid­ing style to match the ul­tra-smooth, high cor­ner speed style of reign­ing cham­pion Jorge Lorenzo – re­mains to be seen.

So, with the open­ing round only days away, Mar­quez fi­nally has a bike that seems to be work­ing, at least at the last two tracks they’ve tried it at. With that comes con­fi­dence which means he is at least in a po­si­tion to start the sea­son ready to fight.

But, with the amount of time it took to get com­fort­able and con­fi­dent at Qatar, Mar­quez has ad­mit­ted that he still has lin­ger­ing doubts as to how they’ll fare over the longer term.

“The thing now is that if we have the same con­di­tions as the last day in Qatar, I could maybe win. But when Moto2 and Moto3 come and put down Dun­lop rubber, it al­ways changes. We have to un­der­stand that.

“We have a base, but the ques­tion mark in my head is whether we will need the same time as we needed here to find a setup, or if the base will work ev­ery­where.”

The body lan­guage says it all, Mar­quez turns on his heel af­ter an­other crash The el­bow is still down but Mar­quez is hav­ing to adapt his rid­ing style

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