29 May 2015
MotoGP Italy: Marquez trying to tame 'aggressive' Honda
“Last year it was one of my strongest points and this year I am struggling” - Marc Marquez.
Reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez finished Friday practice for the Italian Grand Prix second on the timesheets, behind Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso.
But Marquez's top priority was to work through a range of ideas to try and reduce corner entry slides and corner exit 'aggression' from his Repsol Honda.
The Spaniard, who has sunk 33 points from title leader Valentino Rossi, explained on Thursday that their options are limited by the in-season engine development freeze.
“Today we concentrated on the electronic side to try to improve the character of the engine and looks like we improved a little bit,” Marquez said. “Still we must work. For example on the last run we tried a different thing and it was not working. But we are in the moment where we must try things, to understand which direction to take. Some things are working well and are improving this aggressive feeling in the exit of the corners, but still it is of course not fixed.”
Marquez revealed that the current emphasis is on corner exit because solving the braking and entry slides will require a 'big change'.
“The entry of the corners I think we must change a big thing to try to improve. But ok we know that we have that problem, so we try to improve the other problems,” he said. “And the other problem was the exit of the corner with the character of the engine. And it looks like we improved the movement and wheelie, that also for physical condition was tough. If we improve that, the consistency is much better as well.”
Meanwhile corner-entry work is centered around modifying his riding style.
“In braking, more than the bike I'm trying to change, because in the end this is the bike,” he said. “In FP1 I just went out with that mentality to try to improve on the braking, try to slide less. Still I am sliding but it looks like at his circuit I can control it better.”
The young Spaniard leaning into corners with his rear-wheel still in the air has been a spectacular, and regular, sight during previous MotoGP seasons.
“The problem is that this year I can't,” Marquez explained. “If I do that the slide is even worse. So I try to avoid that and then of course you need to brake earlier and smoother. But yeah if I do like last year then I don't go in [the corner] I just go wide. So I'm trying to improve there with everything, with the body [position], because it's a thing that last year was one of my strongest points and this year I am struggling there.”
The search for handing solutions has been ramped-up following a poor Le Mans race, when Marquez was the only factory class Honda rider not to fall, on his way to fourth.
“In Le Mans we knew we were struggling on the exit of the corners and [on corner entry] I was turning the bike with the front wheel,” he said. “Then from warm-up to the race the temperature was 15-20 degrees higher and we never rode in that temperature. The front tyre was the same for everybody, but we were pushing the front a lot to make the lap time and [in the heat] the tyre was on the soft side. There was big movement.
“In Le Mans it was everything. All the strongest points we had we couldn't use in the race.
“But it looks like here the character of the engine is smoother also just because the final sprocket is longer [because of the higher top speed] and then the gearbox is longer, so the bike is pushing less. The corners are also faster here and we don't have that big acceleration [out of slow corners] and that helps us.
“But on the other side there are also many long entries to the corners and that sliding is also where we need to fix now.”
Marquez was also asked if the issues with the 2015 Honda could have been addressed during winter testing.
“In Valencia when we did the test after the race I said, 'If it feels like this we will have problems next year'. But then we arrived in Sepang and this aggressive character of the engine was not a big problem because the engine is slower due to the high temperature and humidity. It is also a long circuit, with a long gearbox setting.
“But then when we arrive in Qatar I saw that [the engine] was aggressive, but ok we didn't have time to change the engine [design] and we start the season like that. But ok, now we know that we are on the wrong way, so we must improve in other things [areas] and I think we can improve.”
The Mugello re-evaluation included back-to-back testing of the latest swingarm against the previous version.
“I tried the swingarm that I raced in Le Mans, the new one, and the old one and it looks like the new one is better. In Jerez I felt slightly better, Le Mans I didn't try the other but here again I confirmed that with the new one I feel better.”
Marquez, who won the opening ten races of last season, has taken one victory from the opening five rounds of 2015.
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