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After the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) admitted that he “wasn’t quite comfortable” on his RC213V so far in 2021. And at the Official MotoGP™ Jerez Test, motogp.com pitlane reporter Simon Crafar spotted that the number 93’s bike was displaying some familiar components.
“Since Marc got back, he’s jumped on what Honda’s base bike is now, because all three Honda riders, except Alex Marquez, are using the aluminium chassis with the carbon fibre insert in it,” said Crafar to motogp.com on Friday afternoon. “Because three riders except Alex Marquez have chosen that for both bikes, Honda with the rear shock and linkage combination that they went to last year, from Misano on that seem to give better rear grip, that’s what he used.
“It also seems that this year at least they’re running a bit less weight on the front with this fork position, that was the base for Bradl and everybody else on the Honda. So, Marc leapt on that bike and rode it. Coming back from injury, not being fully up to speed, it’s harder to give feedback. I know that myself, it’s hard to choose your way until you get up to speed – the better speed you get up to, the clearer your feedback.”
In the end, Marc Marquez was only able to complete seven laps at the Jerez Test due to his understandable right arm and shoulder stiffness from a three-day slog in Andalucia. However, at least one of the bikes Marquez had at his disposal was something closer to the one he was so imperious on before the 2020 season-ending injury. And at Le Mans, one of his RC213Vs was also sporting some of his old settings.
“We’ve heard Marc make some comments to the press since his first race, and at Jerez, that he doesn’t feel completely at home on the bike,” continued Crafar, who casts an expert eye on all the bikes when roaming pitlane.
“I didn’t see Marc’s 2020 base bike until the Monday of the Jerez Test where I finally saw it sitting there. Again at Lemans his familiar non-carbon Fibre insert chassis and the earlier model rear shock like he ran last year. In FP2 he back to backed, what I believe is his old bike and settings with the 2021 base bike.
“He didn’t have much of a shot on it because he ran off track but he ended up jumping back on the bike the other Honda riders have developed until now. So either it had a problem and he’s going to try it again, or he thinks what they’ve developed is better. That’s what I’ve seen up until now and I look forward to seeing what he’s going to use in FP3. But it could be wet for the rest of this weekend, so this test could continue at Mugello.”
Marc Marquez admits himself that he and Honda have “gone back to what we know” after Day 1 at the SHARK Helmets Grand Prix de France, confirming what Crafar had spotted in pitlane at the Jerez Test was something similar to his old package. What are the differences that Crafar picked out? The steering head is in a slightly different position; it’s a little further away, meaning less weight is on the front of the bike. This is to due to the front tyre in 2021 being slightly different to the 2020 tyre. The swingarm pivot was lower, this means there is less chain force, which subsequently puts less load on the rear tyre when opening the throttle. In addition, the bike Marc Marquez was riding earlier today had the earlier Öhlins rear shock model, not the latest one that is available.
Marc Marquez is undoubtedly one of the greatest riders to grace Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Before the right humerus fracture sustained at the 2020 Spanish GP, his confidence was sky high and his unbelievable talent enabled him to ride around the problems that HRC faced with their bike. As Crafar goes onto explain, when you come back from a big injury, it takes time to build back that same confidence – even if your name is Marc Marquez.
“When Marc last rode his old bike, he was incredible and his confidence was super high. We all saw what he was doing and he was amazing, one of the most amazing riders I've ever seen. But that bike was obviously not right because no one else on the Honda could really make friends with it, often struggling,” said 500cc race winner Crafar.
“Meanwhile Marc, whilst doing the amazing things only he is capable of doing, was having problems too. I mean he lost the front at the Spanish GP before then having that crash and unfortunately hurting himself. He was obviously supremely confident and when you’re as confident as that, you can ride around the problems. I personally only got to do it for a short time, but Marc's been doing it for years.
“But when you hurt yourself and you come back, you must go through a period of building back up and that’s what I think he’s doing right now. Even if he got on his old bike exactly like it was in 2020, it would be hard for him to ride around the problems as he did before. As brilliant as he is, he's now going to feel the problems that everyone else has felt with the Honda. I wish HRC and the great riders they have luck on the road back to the top step."