Honda’s Technical Manager Takeo Yokoyama has described Marc Marquez as “somebody from another planet” after the Catalan wrapped up his sixth MotoGP championship in Thailand by adapting “his riding style to take maximum profit from the bike.”

As Marquez’s corner of the Repsol Honda garage celebrated his ninth victory of the season, a feat that clinched an eighth world title in ten years, Yokoyama spoke to Crash.net about his rider’s ability to adapt to Honda’s 2019 RC213V “immediately.”

That came after HRC engineers decided a punchier engine with higher top speed was the main priority over the winter months after repeatedly falling short in that department to Ducati in recent seasons.

Yokoyama admitted there were concerns how this may affect the character of the ’19 machine. But ultimately they decided, “OK, the problems will come, but ... he's the best rider, so maybe he can manage.”

That ability to adapt his style to the differing characteristics of this year’s bike were made all the more remarkable by two other factors: firstly, how experienced grand prix winners Cal Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo have struggled to do so; and Marquez’s serious left shoulder injury that seriously hampered his preseason.

Yokoyama also opened up on the emotion of winning a fourth consecutive MotoGP rider’s title, whether this has been Marquez’s strongest season to date and how Honda can help its other riders reach the Catalan’s current level.

Crash.net:
Another title, how does this one feel?

Takeo Yokoyama:
Every time it's different. This year was really fantastic. It has been a difficult season, honestly speaking. I know people from outside say, "Oh, it looks easy for Marc," but it was not, really. Knowing that nothing was easy, we tried our maximum from the engineering side, and also Marc tried his maximum from the rider side, and also I really appreciate the whole team, the Repsol Honda team is doing a really fantastic job and all the time concentrating on all the details. And that's why today's result was symbolic for this season. We tried, tried, tried, and then finally we won the race, it was fantastic.

Crash.net:
Marc has had a more powerful engine this year. Has his style changed?

Takeo Yokoyama:
Yes, exactly. Honestly speaking, his riding style has changed quite a lot. In the winter time, what we tried to do is, we knew that we had the best rider in the world, and so we gave him the power. Because power, in the middle of the straight, if you don't have the power, you can't do anything. Even the best rider in the world can't do anything.

So this is the point we tried to improve. So we concentrated in the wintertime to give him as much power as possible, knowing that there will be some other problems. But we decided, OK, the problems will come, but again, he's the best rider, so maybe he can manage.

Also, we are Honda Motor Company, and we cannot stay behind some other manufacturers in terms of engine power on the straight and acceleration, things like this. So we decided, let's focus on this in the last wintertime and see what happens. Immediately, Marc understood the bike characteristic had been changed, and immediately, he changed his riding style.

He said many times, if he has a good engine, he doesn't need to push into the braking, push in the corner, and he can save the tire for when he needs it, and things like this. So he's really clever, and he understood the philosophy of this year's bike immediately. So at the end, it was really good for him. I mean, it's fantastic to have such a clever rider who immediately understands the concept of the bike and adapts his riding style to take the maximum profit from that bike. It was really fantastic.

Crash.net:
Marc was recovering from surgery at start of season and couldn't ride at 100% during the tests. Yet he adapted his style immediately. How impressive is that?

Takeo Yokoyama:
We didn't expect it, when he started at the Sepang test, his condition was actually much, much worse than we expected. He took the injury immediately after finishing last season. Then we expected he would be maybe 80% already at the Sepang test, but no, he was less than 50%, honestly speaking. So he was not riding so many laps, when actually we wanted him to ride as much as possible, because it's the new bike, the new engine.

But he didn't have the fitness to do it. So we all sat down together, and said, OK, if we can't take the maximum profit of the new bike, let's try to manage, and then in the meantime, let's try to understand how to take the maximum from that. But surprisingly speaking, when he started the season he was already understanding quite well, and it was really amazing.

Crash.net:
You said some of things he does amaze you. Is he still amazing you?

Takeo Yokoyama:
Yes, every day basically I get surprise, surprise, surprise. Actually, that's one of the reasons why we cannot stop working in the motorcycle industry, in motorsports. Because we as engineers predict something, then make something, then suddenly somebody from a different planet or whatever comes along and jumped on this bike and does something we never expected. Then we realised, OK, maybe a human being can do it - if he is a human being! Then understanding this, we tried to think, OK, let's make the new stuff on top of a bike like this, because we know that he can do something more than we expected. So it's always a positive circle of this improvement.

Crash.net:
In your opinion has this been Marc’s strongest season?

Takeo Yokoyama:
From the statistics, I think yes. I think he can still work for the maximum points for a season. Number of wins, I'm not very good for statistics, but I think yes. Obviously, apart from Austin, he has been always P1 or P2, so sure it's one of the best seasons.

Crash.net:
Marc is the only rider to win aboard a Honda this year. How do you feel about that? Do the others need to step up?

Takeo Yokoyama:
Well, like I said, I knew that this year's bike would be a bit more difficult than last year's bike, because our target was to take the maximum power from the engine, because like I said, we knew we had Marc Márquez who can manage any kind of difficult point of the bike in the best way. So we decided to go ahead with this, and as we expected, he was managing really well, better than we expected.

But then we knew also that for the other riders, maybe it was a little more complicated. Obviously for next year, at least we will try to recover what we have lost from last year's bike to this year's bike, and this is our goal. So the bike of this year was a little specifically targeted, but maybe for next year, I hope the bike will be a little more easy for all of the Honda riders to manage.

Interview by Neil Morrison and Peter McLaren.

 

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