Riders:: Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa Continued over
Honda were probably the most worried factory at the start of 2016. Their RC213V was the perfect Bridgestone bike, with astonishing braking performance that took full advantage of Bridgestone’s incredible front slick, while their class-leading electronics delivered exactly the right amount of power on corner exits.
So how would they cope with Michelins and Dorna’s same-for-all software? At the first race they were beaten by Yamaha and Ducati, so perhaps not very well.
“Marc’s braking advantage was reduced compared to what he had with the Bridgestone front,” says Takeo Yokoyama, Repsol Honda technical director. “But when Michelin’s front slick improved, Marc could come back more to his usual riding style.”
Indeed the tyre sometimes gives Marquez an advantage because his super-aggressive corner-entry technique puts more load into the tyre, which means more grip, at least in cooler conditions when other factories struggle, like at the Sachsenring.
“At tracks where riders struggle to heat the front tyre, Marc’s style helps,” Yokoyama adds. “But it doesn’t help at tracks where riders struggle with the tyre overheating.”
Marquez was soon braking just as madly and deeply as ever, so he won the second and third races in Argentina and Texas, but perhaps those successes flattered to deceive, because he was defeated on his next five outings.
Honda’s big problem was acceleration, but this wasn’t so much lack of power as lack of electronics. “We have the power,” says Marquez. “Last year we could put down the power because the slides were nicer with our electronics, but we cannot manage the power with the new electronics.”
His problem is audible from trackside. Other bikes go ‘waaaaaaaah!’ out of corners, while the RC213V goes ‘waah… waah… waah!’, indicating the rear tyre scrabbling for grip.
“The new traction control is less reactive, it has a time delay, so it’s easy for us to overshoot the slip-ratio target and then come back too strongly,” adds Yokoyama.
HRC have chipped away at the zeroes and ones, gradually unlocking the secrets of Magneti Marelli’s traction-control system, but they haven’t stopped there.
“The acceleration issue is a combination of electronics and chassis stiffness,” adds Yokoyama who recently introduced a new version of the 2014 frame that Marquez still prefers. “It’s a small modification to adjust to the character of Michelin’s rear slick and give us more acceleration grip.”