sat down with reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez for an exclusive interview, at the Repsol Honda team launch in Jakarta.

Marquez and team-mate Dani Pedrosa arrived in Indonesia straight from the opening test at Sepang, where they made progress up the timesheets to finish second and fourth fastest respectively.

Their main focus had been to evaluate different engine designs, to try and reduce the RC213V's aggressive corner-exit character, a task made harder by the need to adapt the single ECU software to suit the new engine.

Nevertheless, Marquez was only 0.138s slower than new Yamaha signing Maverick Vinales on the final day, when 0.404s covered the top ten riders...
Hi Marc. As you said a moment ago on stage (see video below), it looks like it'll be another exciting year for MotoGP - even closer than last year, do you think?

Marc Marquez:
You never know, but look at Sepang: On the first day Stoner was fastest, with Dovi also second on the Ducati. The next day it was Iannone fastest for Suzuki and on the last day it was Vinales fastest for Yamaha.

So it looks like four manufacturers are really strong again and a lot of riders are already at a very high level, with two tests still to go.

Many riders have the possibility to win races this year, but the most important thing in the end will be to fight for the championship. That means you have to try to manage everything you need to do that. But it will be a difficult season, of course.
You mention Vinales, he is in a new situation having joined one of the very top teams. It's also unusual, because he is younger than you! (Vinales is 22, Marquez 23). Did you race together when you were growing up in Spain?

Marc Marquez:
We did a few races together, but never competed for one year in the same category, if you know what I mean. But yeah, Vinales is the new 'name' and I think he will fight for the championship. Also Valentino, Lorenzo, Dani. It'll be nice!
Looking at Lorenzo on the Ducati, he began the Sepang test down in 17th and finished it in 9th, but was less than 0.4s from the fastest time...

Marc Marquez:
In Valencia [last November] his level was not so bad in his first test on the Ducati. Then maybe after a long time without the bike in the winter, sometimes you take time to have the correct feeling again and on the first day at Sepang he was far. But then on the second day he was closer and on the last day very, very close, no? From what we saw at Sepang, Jorge will be ready to fight for the victories also.
I know you can't give too much away about the engines you've been testing, but is it correct that at Sepang you were trying one 2016 engine and one of the new engines? (Last year's engine was the even-firing 'screamer', the new engine has a 'big bang' type sound. Honda won't confirm or deny the change in firing intervals).

Marc Marquez:
Yeah, so we rode with two different engines. Two different characteristics. One was more similar to last year's engine and the other one was more similar to the new engine of Honda. We got a lot of information and it looks like the new one is working slightly better - at that circuit.

But now we need to check and focus where, because still we had some small problems, or big problems. We need to see how the different engine characteristics work in the next test at Phillip Island before we decide.
We also saw you had one bike fitted with a thumb-operated rear brake? (Look closely and there is a small 'paddle' under Marquez's left handlebar in the top picture).

Marc Marquez:
It was there, but at the moment I haven't used it. We are thinking to maybe try it, to maybe use it...
What do you think it could offer, compared to the normal foot brake?

Marc Marquez:
I tried the thumb brake before in 2014, but in the end I did only one test with it and then took it off. But now I want to try it again and see how it is, just because sometimes in the right-hand corners it is so difficult to use the rear brake and with the thumb brake maybe I can manage in another way.

So yeah, we are working on this and it was on the bike at Sepang - the bike arrived with the thumb brake fitted because I asked Honda. But at the moment, it was not [connected] on the inside.
Also in terms of cornering, will the new 'fatter' Michelin front tyre change the riding style a bit this year?

Marc Marquez:
I think the new Michelin front tyre was maybe slightly more difficult to [turn] the bike into the corner, but then for safety it was much better. It was also much better to find the limit on edge grip. So I like it.

A video posted by MotoGP (@motogp) on
Talking about the limit, last season you did some more incredible saves - what's the secret?

Marc Marquez:
Also again at the Sepang test! But there was no photographer there!
With your elbow?

Marc Marquez:
With the elbow, with the knee, with everything!
Does your dirt track training help with that? How do you save it so many times?

Marc Marquez:
Honestly, I don't know! It's just instinct and always trying to concentrate to the absolute maximum. That's very important, because then your reactions are quicker. But it's difficult even for me to explain how I do it.
Do you do any kind of special training to improve your levels of concentration?

Marc Marquez:
Not specifically, it's just something you try to work on whenever you train normally with the bike. So you are not only training for your riding skills and physical condition, but also your mentality and your concentration. But I don't do any special training for that - my main training is in the gym, on a bicycle and on dirt track bikes.
Finally Marc, you've won three MotoGP titles and another two world championships in the smaller classes... how many more do you want?!

Marc Marquez:
[Laughs]. As many as I can! I will try to fight every year. I will have the pressure and my target will always be to fight for the championship.

Honestly, you must be obsessed! You must work really hard every winter to try to be ready to fight one more year for the championship. We will see. I will always try and the more titles I can win, the better!
Thank you, Marc.

Marc Marquez:
Thank you.

By Peter McLaren



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