Luca Marini: Honda “very good potential” but “KTM looks incredible, Yamaha very fast on straight”

Luca Marini gets his first proper taste of life as a factory MotoGP rider during the Sepang Shakedown test.

Luca Marini, Sepang MotoGP test, 3 February
Luca Marini, Sepang MotoGP test, 3 February

After spending last season making minor set-up tweaks to a year-old Ducati, Luca Marini says he “loves” his new factory role at Repsol Honda.

“You never make two runs in a row with the same bike,” Marini smiled at the end of the Sepang Shakedown test, which precedes the Official test from February 6-9.

“You change a lot of things, not only to find the best performance at this track in these conditions but for the rest of the season. It’s a different way to work.

“I’m also pleased all the Honda riders are working in the same direction, we agree on everything.”

Arriving at Honda in the aftermath of Marc Marquez’s exit, Marini didn’t even ride the struggling 2023 machine on his debut at Valencia last November, moving straight to a heavily revised 2024 prototype.

That Valencia bike has been modified further for Sepang, while another prototype, with bigger changes (including the engine), is also available for Marini and team-mate Joan Mir.

Then there are a whole host of interchangeable parts, presumably including the latest rear seat aero used by test rider Stefan Bradl, that can be fitted to either bike.

Marini felt progress had been made since Valencia and that HRC is going in a good direction, but warned the RCV still lacks rear grip, a long-running weakness.

“Very good improvements compared to Valencia,” said Marini. “In Valencia the feeling with the bike was not so good, sincerely. There were many areas to work. While here everything is going in a good direction.

“But still we need to work on every area, especially in acceleration on exit from the corners, on more grip from the rear, so we need to work a bit on this.

“Also on the aerodynamic side we are, not behind, but with a bit less experience than the other manufacturers who are inventing many things in this moment. I gave good feedback and ideas to the Japanese. I expect a lot from them.”

Marini, who was sixth fastest out of the 13 riders eligible for the Shakedown, added: 

“The bike has good potential. It’s good to ride when you’re alone because you don’t see the performance of the other bikes. You feel you’re doing a great job. Then you pass the finish line and the lap time is a little slower than you expect. 

“We need to work a lot. This is just the first test with the full new package. It’s completely different and a new evolution compared to last year’s bike."

The Italian, who took his first two MotoGP podiums on his way to eighth in the standings for VR46 last season, also warned that the leading European brands are not standing still.

“Today is really the first day for the new bike and the potential is there… [But] all the other manufacturers have made huge steps this year," he said.

KTM riders topped all three days while Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow was seen slipstreaming past the Aprilia of Lorenzo Savadori on the main straight.

“KTM looks incredible. Yamaha looks very fast in the straight," Marini confirmed.

"I think Honda is in very good condition now. We have to work a lot, but I trust in them and the project. In my opinion, it’s a very good moment.

“Also in Valencia, I felt something positive. We stayed in contact through the winter. What I asked [HRC] for, they brought for me here. This was perfect. It's been a good start.”

Marini and Repsol Honda will face their full line-up of 2024 MotoGP rivals during the Official test from February 6-8.

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