Honda MotoGP riders all set for 2023 after final pre-season test
Honda’s new MotoGP signing Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) and team-mate Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) ended the weekend’s final pre-season tests happy with their progress and separated by less than two hundredths of a second.
The tests took place at Algarve International Circuit – popularly known as Portimao, after the nearby seaside town – which will also host the season-opening MotoGP round, the Portuguese Grand Prix, on 24-26 March.
Two days of excellent weather allowed riders to complete plenty of laps around this undulating rollercoaster of a track, which is very different to Sepang, Malaysia, where the opening pre-season tests took place last month.
Marquez rode 154 laps, Mir rode 135, both riders dedicating their time to working their way through a myriad of new parts, including new chassis and aerodynamics solutions, and revised electronic strategies designed to move the RC213V back to the front of MotoGP following a challenging 2022 season.
Therefore neither rider had the time to ride proper time-attack laps, so when the chequered flag fell at 5.30pm on Sunday they were placed 13th and 14th, albeit only 0.794 and 0.810 seconds off the best lap of the weekend.
The two Repsol Honda stars and the rest of the grid also had something else for which to prepare at Portimao: the biggest change to the MotoGP weekend format in Grand Prix history. This is the introduction of sprint races on the Saturday afternoons of all 21 rounds. These races, which will be half the distance of a GP and earn half the usual points, should be an exciting addition to the weekend action.
Marquez, who was briefly fastest on Saturday morning, rode a promising sprint race simulation on Sunday afternoon, which has him looking forward to the first race of this kind on 25th March. Most importantly the 30-year-old six-times MotoGP World Champion believes he is back to full strength after taking almost three years to recover from a broken arm, sustained in July 2020.
Fellow Spaniard Mir was happy with his continuing adaption to the Honda from a different motorcycle and is delighted than both him and his team-mate are giving similar feedback to their engineers, which should accelerate the process of development of the 2023 RC213V. The 25-year-old 2020 MotoGP World Champion cannot wait for his first race weekend with Honda, although he knows there is plenty of hard work ahead as he tries to further improve his feeling with the bike.
Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V) has the same task ahead of him this year as does Mir – adapting to the RC213V after several years riding a different machine. The 27-year-old Spaniard, who has won five MotoGP races, rode an amazing 162 laps over the two days, further learning the bike, adapting it to his riding technique and also trying some update parts from Honda.
His fastest lap was only four thousands of a second behind Marquez’s and he was particularly happy with his sprint race simulation, which had him riding closer to the front-running pace than at Sepang. Rins is sure he can take another step forward once Portuguese GP practice starts on the morning of 24th March.
Team-mate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu Honda RC213V) completed the weekend 1.341 seconds off the fastest lap, but MotoGP is so closely fought now that his best lap put him 20th overall. The 31-year-old from Chiba struggled yesterday, trying to get the right kind of feeling with his RC213V around this super-twisty track. Today went much better for the former Moto2 winner, thanks to changes to bike set-up and electronics strategies.
Honda MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl (Team HRC Honda RC213V) was also at Portimao, working his way through different chassis, electronics and aerodynamic concepts, to help Marquez and his fellow RC213V riders improve as the season progresses.
Following the season-opening Portuguese GP the MotoGP paddock heads overseas to the Americas, first to Argentina, then to the USA, before returning to Europe for a run of five consecutive Continental rounds, starting with the Spanish GP on 30th April.