It is always hard to decide which order to write about the manufacturers in after a MotoGP test. It is sometimes obvious, but at a test like Sepang, where there was a surprising amount going on, it is hard to rank the factories in order of importance or significance.
So leaving Honda and KTM until last should not be taken as indicative of anything other than authorial capriciousness. I had to pick an order. This is the order which I picked. It doesn't mean much. Because both Honda and KTM had a lot to test, though in slightly different areas. Honda continued work on their brand new RC213V prototype, which the public got its first glimpse of at Misano. KTM were focused more on the human side, with two rookies to get up to speed in the Tech3 team, and a new team manager brought in to smooth the running of the project.
Honda – Oh brave new world, that has such vehicles in it
The shock of the new is abating when it comes to Honda. We are slowly getting used to the idea that Honda has abandoned its previous design philosophy and has built a radically different machine. Yet the bike which appeared at Sepang had undergone yet more changes since its last outing at the Jerez test.
Firstly, it looked more refined, the fit and finish tighter, the bike looking more like it just needed the livery that would be revealed on Tuesday for it to be ready to race. The tail, in particular, is larger, reshaped, and smoother. That the tail, which we presume contains some kind of mass damper, similar to Ducati and Aprilia, is important is evident from the careful selection of photos in the Repsol Honda press kit. No rear shots are included, and close ups avoid the rear of the bike.
Honda brought a new engine to Sepang, as well as a new exhaust, the top tailpipe, which is attached to the rear cylinder bank, now missing the back torque exhaust valve which it had sported at previous tests. The engine character and exhaust pipe are undoubtedly linked, and given the lack of complaints about aggressive throttle response, there were probably internal changes to the engine which obviated the need to control torque with the exhaust valve.
HRC had a couple of frames to try, as well as different aero packages to try. But perhaps the biggest sign of how radical a change this is was the fact that Honda had brought eight of the new bikes to Sepang, and only one 2021 machine. That sat in Marc Marquez' garage, and was the bike he used to go out on for his first run to get back up to speed after a long layoff with his eye injury. He didn't use it again after that.
The fact that all four Honda riders, factory and satellite, had the latest bikes to test is an indication of how hard HRC are working. Taking data from both Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro in the factory garage, and Taka Nakagami and Alex Marquez in the LCR Honda garage means HRC have a lot of data to work with to try to get the bike ready for Qatar.
It was also clear that these bikes were all brand new. On Saturday, the exhausts on most of the bikes showed no sign of the bluing which comes once the bikes have been run in anger and hot gases have brought the exhaust pipes up to just below glowing. This was a serious push.
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