Amid a muddled winter of testing, the speed of Marc Marquez and the 2018 Honda has been one of the few constants, with the reigning world champion remarking, “I’m there” no matter the conditions during testing in Qatar.

A host of different names showed real potential through the three days at Losail, with many strong at one point during the day, and slower at others. “It’s so difficult to understand,” Marquez said, after coming away with the seventh fastest time.

What was easy to decipher was his strength aboard his ’18 package. On Saturday he sacrificed some of the outright speed of the Honda RC213V for consistency, which showed on his lap analysis, as he was able to lap in the 1m 55s bracket at will.

Comparing his current position to where he placed a year ago, Marquez said, “Of course last year, at the end of the preseason we had many more question marks. And this year, it's a little bit everything more clear.

“But it's so strange this year. Because you say same circuits, same day, different hours, it looks like when we go out at 3, 4, 5pm, it looks like one rider is very strong. Then when the temperature drops, the Yamaha becomes a little bit stronger.

“I mean, it's so difficult to understand, but if we concentrate on our garage, I'm happy because I go out with sunshine, I'm there. I go out in the night, I'm there. So it's what I said [on Friday], be consistent in the top five – I don't say top three, I say top five, because it will be difficult in some races – that will be the key.

“Today we worked a lot on the pace, on the rhythm, because that was my weak point yesterday. I tried to work there. I tried to be consistent. Maybe we lost the aggressiveness for the time attack, but we gained on the rhythm.

“That's the most important, because this is a circuit where I normally struggle. And I was able to be in the 1m 55s low, 1m 55 middle which is a good rhythm already. So I'm happy, but we will see. Wait, because race day is always different.

“I think we did a good preseason, we worked a lot in Malaysia, we worked a lot in Buriram here again, yesterday and today many laps to try to understand.

“And of course here we struggled a little bit more like we expected, but anyway today we did a big step on the rhythm, so I'm happy for that, because it was my weak point yesterday.

“The strongest point was one lap, and today it was the opposite. The rhythm was my strong point, maybe for one lap a little bit weak, but we adapted the setup to try to be more consistent.”

Asked to provide a positive and negative of the preseason, the 25-year old said, “Positive, of course the engine is maybe the most positive thing, because we improved something better on the top speed. Maybe weak point still – and it was one of the targets – we need to improve the wheelie.

“There still we haven't improved the wheelie, so if we have wheelie, it means we have a lack of acceleration, so we are losing there. So still there we can work. But during the season we can improve this. I mean, the engine, you can't touch it. But the wheelie I think is related more to the geometry, the chassis area.”

Of the host of names vying for a place toward the top of the timesheets on the final day, Marquez once again pointed to 2017 rival Andrea Dovizioso as the man most likely to challenge at the front on March, 18th.

“If you check today the rhythm, I was checking on paper just now, it looks like even [Danilo] Petrucci was very, very fast on the long run. Cal [Crutchlow] was also fast on the long run, consistent.

“[Johann] Zarco was fast, but on one lap. On the long run, he was struggling much more. I mean, if you see the lap time of Zarco it was 1'54.0, but then the long run was 1'56, so the difference is very, very big. And even Valentino was very strong at the end of the day. Dovi I think will be the strongest one.”


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