Jorge Lorenzo may have grabbed the headlines, but reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez appeared just as content as his countryman after deciding against setting a late ‘qualifying’ time, and retaining focus on engine development on the final day of testing at Sepang.

Marquez ended the test with the eighth fastest time, six places behind team-mate Dani Pedrosa, and five back of fellow HRC man Cal Crutchlow. Yet rather than focus on his final placing, the 24-year old talked up the fine base set-up on his '18 RC213V honed across the three days.

Along with Pedrosa, Marquez evaluated two ’18 engines, with the newest motor his preference on Tuesday. A 15-lap stint during the hottest part of the afternoon confirmed a “really good bike balance,” leaving the six-time world champion in high spirits heading to Thailand.

While keen to express caution over the final engine choice, Marquez’s words suggest he, Pedrosa and Crutchlow are pulling in the same direction – a portent that should leave his rivals wary, and confirmation the factory is well ahead of where it stood at this point in the past two seasons.

“Honestly, speaking today, I only rode with the new engine, the one that Honda brought here,” Marquez said. “Because it looks like this is the direction that all Honda riders are trying, and it was so important to try many, many things.

“Of course, during the morning, we tried to set up, we tried to change many things, we found a good base, even the bike balance changed a little bit with this engine. And we found a really good bike balance, and when I felt ready, I did the long run, because I think that's the most important now.

“Do many laps, long runs, see how the tyre drops, see how the electronics work when the tyre drops, and I felt good in that fifteen laps. I think it was very, very hot on the track, because I did it at 2:45pm, more or less, but that is the race time. So I'm really happy.

“Looks like the new version had more in the top and more at the bottom. It was everywhere a little bit more.”

Does he feel the new motor is smoother? “It's there where we are working. Because at the moment, it's still a little bit aggressive, that engine. And it's where I'm a little bit more worried, because normally where, the engine always has one step, two steps, three steps even less power.

“And it's where I'm trying to understand well, because now we go to Thailand, it will be more or less the same conditions, and then when we arrive in Qatar, there is no time to change. You try the engine, it's good or no good, but there's no time to change it for the race. It's there where we need to work with the electronics to try to find a good balance.

“We were lucky that all three riders decided the same one [the newest engine]! So lucky in that, because it's the most important thing. Then of course in the chassis area, everybody likes his own setup, his bike balance, but here, all the riders go in the same direction, so now we will see in Thailand.

“But it's what I said, it will be difficult, because you don't know if it's too aggressive or not. I mean, you cannot test it in a small track like Jerez. But everybody has the same problem.

“I believe that that engine is working well, and it can be made smoother by electronics. So we are working there, and all three riders work in a little bit different ways, to try to find a good compromise.”

By his usual standards, the Sepang test was fairly low-key for a rider that has racked up 73 pole positions and 53 fastest laps from 168 grand prix starts – not that Marquez viewed his seventh place as an issue.

“It [my preseason approach] is different," he explained. "Because during the seasons, I approached the preseason in a different way. For example I remember in 2013, 2014, 2015, I was always looking at the screen, at the lap times, doing a time attack, trying to risk, many crashes in the preseason already.

“And now, since 2016, if you see I always try to find a good base, because it's more important. I prefer to keep one tyre for the long run, and I don't take a lot of risk for the time attack.

“But anyway, it's like I said, when I feel ready, I will do it. We started this season well, but like many riders say, this track is special. So until you arrive in Qatar, you don't know where you are.”


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