By the time the chequered flag falls at the Doha Grand Prix, MotoGP riders will have completed at least five days of testing at the Losail circuit followed by six days of grand prix action, over the opening race weekends.
“This pre-season will be very strange because only one track, five days and then two races at the same track, we will be like crazy by the second race in Qatar! So many laps, too many laps, in that track,” smiled Alex Marquez.
The Spaniard was speaking after the online unveiling of new LCR Honda colours, the former Moto3 and Moto2 world champion switching to Lucio Cecchinello’s team after a rookie season at Repsol Honda.
Alex was expected to spend 2020 quietly learning the premier-class in the shadow of older brother and reigning champion Marc on the other side of the garage.
Instead, Marc’s Jerez arm injury and Honda’s initial struggles with the new Michelin rear tyre meant Alex soon found himself under pressure to develop the bike.
“With Marc injured, in one part of the season it was difficult and all the pressure was on me and Taka [Nakagami] to develop the bike and try the new parts,” he said.
“In that time, I didn’t feel prepared to be in that position, honestly. But now I feel more prepared and that I can make that role.
“The preseason will be important for Honda because we have many things to try. So I will try to give my best from the beginning and to try to help Honda follow the good way.”
Marquez, who will continue to have a factory-spec Honda at LCR, expects to start trying new parts from day two in Qatar, although the engine freeze means he expects an RCV evolution rather than revolution.
Top of his technical wish list is to exploit all of the engine power.
“We have a lot of power, but we need to use that power,” Marquez explained. “It’s the way that all the Honda riders are asking, because at some tracks we cannot use all the power and we are losing some grip or how to transfer the power to the rear tyre. So it’s where we are pushing more, but I think Honda have clear ideas.”
Marquez’s 2020 season was divided into two clear parts; before and after the mid-season Misano test.
“I was a surprise in the second part of the season because the first part was not really good. It was not a disaster but a difficult time for me. The second part was really good. I was improving day by day,” he said.
That improvement culminated in back-to-back podiums at Le Mans and Aragon, the only Honda rostrums of the season, but Marquez emphasised that it had not been just a bike breakthrough.
“The bike didn’t change a lot during the season,” he said. “It’s true that in Misano at the test we did a really big step. But it’s not like people said: you changed all the bike and have a different Honda.
“It’s a natural evolution that every rider goes through in their first year in MotoGP. You need to learn a lot of things. Also with no pre-season it was diff to manage the situation. From that point we could start to change the set up. I was more confident and the feeling was incredible from one day to the other, how we improved it. It was also a natural way to improve.
“For this year I think Honda focussed more on small things. They cannot change the engine. This year we’ll have a really similar bike but with evolutions from the second part of last year.
“It can be a really good bike. I know that Honda worked really hard this winter and will have new parts to try in Qatar. Hopefully those new parts will work.”
As far as his own performance, the #73 knows he must do better in qualifying, having failed to even make Q2 until round 11 at Aragon (where he rode form 11th on the grid to second place).
That in turn meant Marquez gave away far too much time to the leaders in the early laps.
“I was competitive in most tracks on the Sunday but everyone has a similar pace and I was losing a lot of time in the first laps,” Marquez said. “We calculated in some places I was losing 4-seconds in the first lap, 7-seconds in the first 3 laps. This is impossible to recover in the race.
“So qualifying is something I need to improve. I need to understand better the tyres.
“I come from many years on Dunlop in Moto2 and Michelin Is a different thing. When they are new you need to be aggressive but at the same time smooth. It’s something that I need to take more profit from. I will focus this pre-season to always be there and to make some time attacks.”
At the online presentation, Cecchinelli started, “We have all the ingredients to win races, honestly. A very talented rider, good technical staff, great support from Honda and the RCV factory machine.”
“For sure LCR wants results, Honda wants results, I want results,” Marquez said.
“We will go to tracks where I’ve never been with a MotoGP. For sure there will be tough days but we have a good package. I have a really good team. I think we can make a really good job.
“The first thing I want is to be in the front and to repeat the best results of last year.”
All four riders will have the 2021-spec factory Honda machinery.