After two difficult seasons, exacerbated by injuries for star rider Marc Marquez, Honda has made radical changes to its RC213V for the 2022 MotoGP World Championship.
One of the top priorities for the modifications, which cover virtually every aspect of the motorcycle, is an increase in rear grip.
The issue not only limited the lap time but increased the risk level for its riders last year, with Marc Marquez (22), Pol Espargaro (20) and Alex Marquez (19) falling more times than all but Iker Lecuona (KTM, 26).
“Last season we definitely really struggled about the rear grip,” said LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami, who escaped with 12 accidents. “And unfortunately, we tried many things, but the main problem did not disappear. So we struggled a lot for the qualifying lap and race distance. Then I have to take extra risk. And then unfortunately I had some crashes during practice and the races. So it was really tough.
“Definitely the new bike is a big improvement about the rear grip and also engine performance. Many parts have changed, as you can see from the outside. The first impressions were really positive. All Honda riders say that the new bike had good potential.”
“What we asked for, as Taka said, the rear grip was something important for all of us. But also if we have seen in the past year that the Ducatis are super strong in the straights, it’s the key to overtake, and their key to fight for the races,” added Espargaro.
“So if we want to do a good season next year, when more Ducatis are going to be on the grid, we need to be faster on the straights to try to fight with them, to try to get positions back, and even to defend against them.
“I think the way is good, but we need to keep a little bit calm and see what is going on in the next tests.”
So far, the new Honda has been tried on just two circuits, Misano and then Jerez. Both relatively tight and twisty tracks, in similar autumn European weather conditions.
“The new bike is much better than the 2021 bike, but we need to test many more things,” Nakagami added. “Jerez was just to understand which direction. Fortunately, me, Pol and Alex, [wanted] the same direction. This is really positive and I’m really happy to hear the same comments.
“Now we have the Malaysia and Mandalika tests. Different conditions, different layouts, different tyre allocation. The Jerez test was good but we have to start from zero in Sepang.”
Espargaro also believes Malaysia will offer a truer picture of how the new bike compares against the other 2022 prototypes.
“The new bike is better, but it’s still too early to talk about how much better it is,” he said. “We need to put the bike on the track together with the other bikes, and see where we are.
“We are not the only ones playing in this game, and we are not the only ones putting a new bike on the track. Everyone is going to do a step up. So how good is the bike going to be?
“We will see in a few days in Malaysia, together with the other bikes.
“We are going to have five days testing which I think is enough. Also having all four riders at full performance means that the bike is going to be much better sooner,” he added, referring to Marc Marquez’s improving vision.
Younger brother Alex Marquez, again team-mate to Nakagami at LCR, highlighted the psychological boost to starting a new season strongly.
“As Pol said, we will have only five days pre-season, so each day will be really important to take conclusions and find the right feeling on the bike to arrive at Qatar in a good way,” said the #73, looking to return to his rookie season podium form at Repsol.
“We need to start the season better than last year because if you start in a good way, you already have something in your pocket and then the season will be a little bit more easy I think.
“I tried the new prototype in Jerez in November. It was a great feeling. Some parts were really good, especially where we were struggling in 2021, mainly the rear grip. Okay, some other parts still we need to work and we need to try this 2022 bike in more circuits to have a better conclusion and for sure Honda will give further improvements to us.
“So looks like the potential is great and I’m looking forward to starting the 2022 season with the level that we finished 2021. That will be really important.”
The last time a Honda rider other than Marc Marquez won a MotoGP race was Cal Crutchlow, in Argentina, at the start of the 2018 season.