MotoGP 2023

Honda’s MotoGP Quartet Commence 2023 Preparations

my Sepang International Circuit

Preparations for the 2023 MotoGP World Championship got underway at Sepang, Malaysia, at the weekend, with Honda’s four MotoGP riders and their HRC and team staff undertaking a huge amount of development work in the stiflingly hot tropical weather.

Honda’s MotoGP Quartet Commence 2023 Preparations

The three-day outing – interrupted by rain on day two – was the first of two test sessions that precede the new season, which commences with the Portuguese Grand Prix on 26th March.

HRC has been working flat-out since the 2022 finale at Valencia, Spain, last November, in an effort to get back to the top following a challenging few seasons during which its number-one rider Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) struggled with injury.

Marquez and new team-mate Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V, 2020 MotoGP World Champion, spent their time at Sepang evaluating a multitude of new parts and different combinations of new parts, including a new engine, revised chassis and various new aerodynamics solutions.

Downforce aerodynamics – to improve acceleration and cornering grip – are becoming increasingly important in MotoGP, allowing Honda to call on its aerodynamics knowhow gathered in Formula 1 cars and GT car racing.

Marquez, who celebrates his 30th birthday on Friday, 17th February, is delighted that his off-season training regime has made him fitter and stronger than at any time since the accident which broke his right arm in July 2020. The six-times MotoGP king is therefore ready to take aim at the 2023 championship, so long as he can fix the detail issues faced by the RC213V last season.

The Spaniard began the tests with four machines in his garage – one 2022 bike for comparison and three 2023 prototypes. By the final day of the test he focused on just one bike, suggesting he had found a good direction. He is happy with the behaviour of the new RC213V engine, which has improved torque for better corner exits, but he is now chasing a little more traction and top speed. He completed the test tenth fastest, concentrating on testing, not riding the fastest possible lap.

HRC and his Repsol Honda crew will now analyse all the data gathered during the last three days, so they can improve performance for the Portimao tests, where they will finalise machine spec and do some groundwork for the first race of the championship.

Mir’s main aim at Sepang was to get fully acquainted with the RC213V for the first time, but he did well, ending the test just two places behind his team-mate.

After signing for Honda last August, Mir had a one-day outing on the RC213V following the season-ending Valencia GP but he needs more time to fully adjust himself to the machine and vice versa. During the three days the 25-year-old Spaniard experimented with a variety of different settings, working towards allowing him to lap fast and consistently, while making useful forward steps every day, especially during the all-important phase of braking and entering corners. He especially enjoyed the final day of the tests.

Like Marquez, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) has a new team-mate for 2023, Alex Rins (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V), who has won five MotoGP races in his career, including the final race of last season.

Like Mir, the 27-year-old Spaniard needs time to adjust himself to the RC213V for his fifth year in MotoGP. A fast and smooth rider, Rins found some settings that allowed him to improve his mid-corner speed but needs to work further on increasing machine stability during heavy braking. He ended the tests with good sensations, feeling the good points of the RC213V and the areas which he needs to improve.

Nakagami undertook similar work, trying different geometry and ride heights with the 2023 RC213V. Like Marquez, he also prefers the character of the new engine. The Japanese rider, who celebrated his 31st birthday last week, commences his sixth season in the premier class next month.

The Sepang tests were also the first time that HRC’s new Technical Director Ken Kawauchi has worked at a track with his riders. The hugely experienced engineer aims to keep working at fine-tuning the new RC213V and already enjoys an excellent relationship with his riders and staff.

Riders and teams reconvene for the final 2023 pre-season tests at Portimao, venue for the season-opening GP, on 11th/12th March. The 2023 MotoGP season is the longest ever, with 21 events over eight months, with each round including a new feature: a shorter sprint race on Saturdays. The championship concludes at Valencia, Spain, on 26th November.

Marc Márquez
Marc Márquez 93
Repsol Honda Team
It was a more positive day today, it was the first day where I was able to start working in the smaller areas. This is when I was able to start getting faster, step by step. But we still had to continue on the schedule and keep trying new items and new things. I want to say thanks to the team for organising everything well and working well all weekend. Today was a big day for testing concepts as well. We did everything that we needed to and the feeling did improve, but we still need to make a step. 

Joan Mir
Joan Mir 36
Repsol Honda Team
I’m happy with how we have progressed at this test and I have felt strong every day on the bike. The bike feels more like my bike and I am able to ride in a better way than yesterday – this is what is important. My Repsol Honda Team has worked really well across all these three days. For sure we need to make progress, but every day we are making steps forward and getting closer and more comfortable. I am adapting more to the Honda style and I am enjoying riding like this, I’ve learned a lot across these three days. 

Alex Rins
Alex Rins 42
Overall I’m quite happy with the progression I’ve made over these days. Today I was able to do more laps, after yesterday’s rain stopped us from doing many laps. Still there are things to improve but more or less I feel good with the bike – I felt good sensations, even though I haven’t done a lot of kilometres on it. I feel some good things and some things to improve. This afternoon we did a sprint race simulation and I was quite happy with this, even though we don’t yet have a clear base set-up. After the sprint simulation we tried some different electronics settings and I felt more confident on the bike. We still have a lot of work to do – let’s see how it goes in Portimao. 

Takaaki Nakagami
Takaaki Nakagami 30
Today was very busy, because we couldn’t follow our plan yesterday, because it rained quite a bit, although it was good to be able to test also in the wet. During the first two days we tried some different geometry and ride-height settings with the 2023 bike. The new bike is a little bit different but not a big change. My first impression of the 2023 engine is that it’s a bit better than the 2022 engine. Now we are still working to find the pure performance potential of the new bike – so we hope to put it all together for the Portimao test. 

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