Cal strong, but Hon­das strug­gle

Big bang con­fig­u­ra­tion does lit­tle to tame RC213V as Mar­quez clings onto top ten po­si­tion on day one

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - SI­MON PAT­TER­SON MO­TOGP REPORTER IN SEPANG si­mon.pat­ter­son@mo­tor­cy­cle­

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

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