No matter how you look at it, a rider switching to last year's machine on the very last day of MotoGP pre-season testing is never a good thing.

But reigning champion Marc Marquez claimed a "great step" had been made after experimenting with a mix of new and old parts, including a hastily-painted 2019 RCV 'borrowed' from Takaaki Nakagami, on the final day in Qatar.

All of the 2020-spec Honda riders - Marquez, younger brother Alex and Nakagami's LCR team-mate Cal Crutchlow - have struggled with front-end feeling on the new bike.

The 2019 had been deemed harder to turn than the 2018, yet Marquez and Crutchlow felt that - despite HRC's efforts to improve the handling - the 2020 machine was even worse in some areas, most notably due to an uneasy 'pushing' sensation on corner entry.

With the new racing season and deadline for engine homologation fast approaching, the radical mix of parts on the final day looked like a desperate roll of the dice.

But it seems to have worked and, just like in 2016, Marquez was breathing a sigh of relief after the final night in Qatar.

"I'm very happy today. Honestly yesterday and the first day I was quite worried, but today we did a great step," Marquez said. "We understood many things and we saw on the rhythm, the race pace, the lap time - everything was easier and less physically demanding.

"We worked a lot on my side of the box then Cal started to try some things we found and it looks like it was better also for him. I think we found a direction, so this is the most important thing because we were completely lost yesterday."

The #93 explained: "I was worried for two reasons, first of all because we were not fast enough and secondly because I was missing all the feeling with the bike and I didn't understand why.

"I had a strange crash in Malaysia, a strange crash here and I didn't understand anything. But today we understand everything.

"Once more it's the last day in Qatar that we find the way! So a small smile. There's still a lot of work to do because the others have a good pace, but the last hour was really good."

So what exactly was the solution? At least part of the problem looks to have been the 2020-wings, with Marquez seeming to prefer the 2019 design. That would also explain why the 2020 bike suffered more at Losail, with its faster corners, than at Sepang.

"Now the bike is ready for round one, but maybe Marc is still not 100%!" he smiled, referring to his healing shoulder.

Marquez was the top Honda rider in seventh but just 0.291s from leader Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) by the end of testing.

Nakagami was eighth, Crutchlow 18th (0.972s) and Alex Marquez 21st (1.661s).

 

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