Aragon MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 2: How The Honda Improved, Where The Yamahas Struggled, And Ducati's Difficulties

In part 1 of the subscriber notes from Aragon, I looked at how the podium happened, and its impact on the championship. But much more happened behind the podium, which also helped make the podium happen and affected the way the title chase is playing out. So here are a few more notes and thoughts from Aragon 1.

Returning to the podium, it is worth reflecting on exactly what Alex Márquez has achieved. The Repsol Honda rider's second podium in two weeks was impressive mainly for being set in the dry rather than in the wet, as happened last week at Le Mans. There was no luck involved, nobody crashed out ahead him. Márquez fought his way forward all the way to the leader Alex Rins. He came pretty close to catching him and passing him too.

The onboard footage from Joan Mir's Suzuki GSX-RR, viewable on the website as one of the optional camera views, give a very clear view of exactly how Alex Márquez is riding. Seen from Mir's bike, you can see how much Alex Márquez looks like his brother Marc on the bike, despite being 10cm taller and a more slender build. His body shape and language was the same, his head dropped, his elbow held down and inside as he forced the front through the corners. It was an instructive view of just how far the younger Márquez has come.

What was clear from the onboard footage – and from the overhead footage from the helicopter as well – was that he had understood how he needed to get the bike to turn. Márquez is pushing the front and using the gas with the rear to get the bike to turn. That gave him the ability to get the Honda RC213V to hold a tight line and turn inside of the bikes which need a more sweeping line.

That ability had come through a better understanding of the bike, Alex Márquez told the post-race press conference. "I think I start to understand why everybody say that Honda is a difficult bike," he said. "I think it’s a difficult bike because you need to be strong in all the points. Not like Yamaha, they need to focus a lot to have a lot of corner speed and acceleration. Maybe also Ducati, they focus more on acceleration only. With the Honda you need to be strong in all the points, in the brake points, the corner speed, but also in acceleration."

There was no time to relax on the Honda, nothing the bike did of its own accord, Márquez explained. "This is the point that for that reason it’s so demanding to the rider, because you need to be always on the limit. If you try to relax a little bit you lose one second. Maybe with another bike you lose two tenths. This is why it’s so difficult and so demanding physically for the rider. I start to enjoy it. I start to have the bike in my hands. For that reason, everything is coming in a better way. I start to understand a little bit better, especially the front part of the bike."

Progress made

The Honda itself had also made steps forward, though it was more a slow process of refinement rather than a big single step. New parts tested at Misano had made a difference, but they were just one of a number of factors which had contributed to the RC213V being more competitive.

"The improvement I think was not only from one thing," Márquez explained. "I think in Misano two, in Misano test, we tried some new things, small things that gave me a little bit more the confidence. Also we went a little bit more in the Marc ways on the setup. Now I have more feeling on the front and having a little bit more feeling with the bike. This is always good. Maybe the bike is a little bit more critical with cold conditions like Friday morning, where I crashed in turn two, but I feel the front tire more. We improved the turning a lot, also I think the grip."

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It's easy to chalk Marquez's result up to some miracle adjustment or peculiarities of the Aragon circuit. Except that Nakagami who never contended for a Moto2 title is currently is a MotoGP title contender while riding the baseline variant.

Maybe, just maybe, Honda to start with wasn't an unrideable bike that only Marc Marquez was capable of taming.

behind the scenes for sure. With very little coverage or interest given to Honda since MM's exit, we've probably not noticed what has been happening in the background-though Simon Crafar noticed the shock that Lucio, Alex and others were 'unaware' of!! Whilst always looking the serene swan on the surface there must've been turbine like churning of the waters below as the nasty RCV was further exposed when MM fell. I believe there's been more changes offered, assessed and evaluated than we will probably know until the end of the season and pick up a quality book like Motocourse or others with the venerable Neil Spalding and his eagle eyes-though whether the usual amount of pit lane snappers are allowed this year means we may never know! Thanks David for the two parter and whilst certainly no criticism, the up and down and mainly down weekend for KTM and Aprilia respectively would benefit from your brief assessment also 😬

Nice article Dave. Totally agree with you AM73 so impressive. On the corners watching that race and if the numbers were changed you would swear your looking at MM93. Alex is really starting to work it out just look at the photo at the top of this article 

When Dovizioso won his firts race of the 2017 season at Mugello, he stated that he was not a title contender because of the bike's cornering limitations. A week later after winning at Catalunya he tried to reiterate this claim, but there was less conviction in his words. Probably because he did really believe what he was saying even though at the same time he did not want Dall'Igna to give up trying to fix the bike. By the following race at Assen where he finished 5th in mixed conditions that occurred during the last several laps due to drizzling rain, Dovizioso stated that a rider is always thinking about the championship while racing. By the final round at Valencia, Dovi had won a third of the races for the season. Even if his teammate had gotten out of the way in the beginning of the race, Dovizioso's chances of taking the title were slim. But, he probably has not stopped thinking about winning the championship ever since.

Fast forward to Jerez of 2020 after three years of being champion runner-up and Dovi takes his first podium while Marquez crashes out incurring an injury. The next weekend Dovizioso gets a 6th place while Marquez returns too early which probably compromised the surgical repair and played a role in requiring a second procedure. Marquez' return to action has been delayed a couple of times and all the while Dovizioso is looking at the fact that his nemesis over the last three years is out of contention and that elusive world title is oh so close.

Meanwhile, the new rear Michelin tire simply will not cooperate with the Ducati and Dovizioso's riding style. At a track like Aragón where it was predicted that the Ducatis would make a meal of the slower bikes down the back straight, actually something of the opposite unfolded. It's true that the Ducatis were the fastest bikes down the straights, but the Suzukis and the Honda of Marquez just cut way underneath the wide line the Ducatis and most other bikes took through turn 16. And everyone had great drive whether the lines were tight or wide. Amazing! Then the bikes with cornering advantage played their cards around the rest of the track and the Ducatis struggled.

If Dovizioso had gotten to Q2 and had duplicated his Q1 time, he would have started from 7th on the grid. But, I do not believe that would have helped him very much at all. He was in survival mode from the get go after his great start. Marquez made quick work of Dovizioso and left him in the dust in the first couple of laps and Dovizioso was unable to follow. If Dovizioso had been able to get into turn one ahead of Rins, Marquez and Mir due to a better grid spot, I do not see how he would have been able to keep those guys behind him. Dovizioso finished the race 4 seconds off 6th place with three bikes behind him all within one second. Seems like he was very busy defending his line.

Ducati has a lot of work to do this weekend.


Wow that shows the advances in the sport. At the 07 and 08 races at Laguna Seca, 25 seconds plus was the gap to 3rd!

Once Quartararo realized his front tire pressure was wack (or is it "whack"!?) why didn't he retire to avoid further injury to himself and to others. In his own words "...I couldn't brake, couldn't turn, couldn't lean the bike." - Watching him go wide (and wider) this seems accurate. I underdstand the champion's zeal and the competitor's mindset, but he was already riding injured and fell out of the points.

When riders say 'can't turn can't brake' it's more relative to what they want it to do rather than what it can do. I wouldn't say it's dangerous - they just aren't as quick as they want to be. 

Sometimes I wish that only the same broad spectrum dry tire is available to every rider at every circuit. If lap times are two seconds slower, so be it. The endless tire discussions are getting repetitive (and I run Michelins on my street bikes).