"Much better bike" offers Honda fresh hope for 2022

HRC's riders sat down and discussed the burgeoning potential of the new RC213V and what it means for the season ahead

After having their struggles well documented last season, the new year offers Honda a fresh start as they approach the coming season with cautious optimism. While there were highlights, namely the return of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) to the top step on three occasions, 2021 proved a largely underwhelming year for a side that has often set the standards in MotoGP™, but a return to form seems to be on the cards.

That is in large part due to the redevelopment of the RC213V, with HRC’s riders excited by the modifications made. In their recent media debrief, LCR Honda duo Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Marquez as well as factory counterpart Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) shared their early confidence in the bike but were wary of not getting ahead of themselves.

“The bike is better, but it’s too early to talk about how much better it is. First of all, we need to put the bike on the track with the other bikes and see where we are. We are not the only ones playing this game. We are not the only ones putting a new bike on the track. Everybody is doing the same and everybody is going to do a step up,” said Espargaro.

The importance of the upcoming Test in Sepang isn’t lost on the number 44, and he feels that will be the first true litmus test of the revamped RC213V.

“How good is the bike going to be? We’ll see in a few days in Malaysia together with the other bikes. There’s not much sense saying that the bike is much better if we ride two tenths faster and the others improve by half a second. It’s something we need to keep working on and then we are going to see in the first races of the year, even if we are not at the top, this doesn’t mean anything. The new bike takes time and luckily, we are going to have five days and we think it is just enough. But if it isn’t, no panic. We are going to have more days to improve the bike. Having the four riders from the factory at full performance, it means the bike is going to be better sooner.”

Rear grip issues have plagued the Honda garage in recent seasons, with Nakagami explaining the knock-on effects in race performances.

“Last season, definitely we were really struggling with the rear grip. Then I had to take an extra risk and unfortunately, I had some crashes during the race and not during the practice, so it was really tough, but definitely, the new bike has a big improvement on the rear grip and also engine performance.”

The sentiment was emphasized by Espargaro, claiming that “grip was important for all us” when asked about potential improvements. The ever-expanding roster of Ducatis also played a part in the redevelopment. With eight Desmosedicis set to line up on the grid, Espargaro believes that power down the straights is as crucial as ever as he plans for battle with the Bologna bullets.

“We have seen in the past years that Ducati are super strong on the straights, it’s their key to overtaking and fighting for the races, so if we want to have a good season next year, more Ducatis are on the grid it means we will need to be faster on the straights to fight with them. To get positions back or to defend them. Everything is important, everything matters.”

Alex Marquez, for his part, optimistically recognized the potential of the new bike but firmly believes a lot more testing needs to be carried out. The 2022 bike has only visited Misano and Jerez, and the LCR rider is keen to get going in Sepang to find out its true potential.

“We still need to work on the bike and extract that potential, which looks like is there. Try more different layouts, Misano and Jerez can be similar, but Malaysia is a different layout and we need to try it there. It looks like the potential is there and it’s great to have that feeling back.”

Indeed, the early feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with Nakagami claiming “the new bike is much better than the 2021 bike.” While Honda’s riders remain cautious about how much progress has really been made, it’s clear to see they are giddy with excitement about what the future brings.

Next up for HRC and their new machine is the Official Malaysia Test on the 4th and 5th of February.

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