Cal strong, but Hondas struggle
Big bang configuration does little to tame RC213V as Marquez clings onto top ten position on day one
The crisis of confidence that Honda Racing had hoped that they’d seen the back of at the end of the 2016 season looks set to plague the team for another season.
Honda have struggled for two seasons with difficult-to-manage engines that left their riders struggling to rein in the RC213V machines during 2015 and 2016. And while the issue was camouflaged by title success last year, Marc Marquez’s win came largely as a result of his newfound consistency and riding mentality and not outright pace.
The move from the ‘screamer’ firing order to a new ‘big bang’ configuration that mimics many of their rivals looked set to cure some of the aggressiveness and acceleration woes, but the reigning champion admitted after the first day of action at Sepang that the bike is far from fixed.
He said: “At low revs the new engine is really different on the gas. It’s maybe a little bit smoother, but the lap time is
more or less the same. But we still have problems at the exit of the corner, with grip and with other things, and then on the straight maybe it’s a little faster but it’s still not perfect.
“It’s true that even though I won the championship last year we had some problems through the year. Yeah, we won, but we weren’t the fastest at many races. Sepang is one of the tracks where we struggle the most, and for sure we have a lot of work to do. We know where the problem is, but fixing it isn’t easy, and we’re playing around with it now to find a cure.”
The Spaniard also admitted that with multiple variations of the new engine to work through, it’s looking likely that they’ll only decide on a confirmed specification of the engine at the final pre-season test in Qatar. That gives the factory only two weeks to produce a total of 35 engines, with seven for each of their five riders required to be sealed ahead of the first race.
Marquez said: “It’s important to take a lot of information from this test, but we won’t decide on the engine until the last test. We’ll decide there, although the long straights and long accelerations here will help us understand where we’re losing out.”
To make matters worse, there is the difficulty of setting up the control electronics package to suit the new engines, a complicated process that can take several days to dial in properly and could well see Marquez denied the chance to challenge for victory come the opening race at the Losail circuit on March 26.
Honda are hanging their hopes on the new engine being the cure for many of Marquez’s issues, with both he and team-mate Dani Pedrosa running a chassis that remains largely the same as the 2016 bike.
‘We know where the problem is with the bike, but fixing it isn’t easy’ MARC MARQUEZ