The Curious Case Of Marc Marquez' Preheated Front Tire In Qatar

After the first MotoGP race of 2022, the Qatar Grand Prix was over, an observant Twitter follower asked me why the symbol used for Marc Marquez' front tire choice was different to everyone else. Watching the replay and then consulting the analysis PDFs on MotoGP's new results section made clear what Marquez had done. He and his team and chosen to fit a soft front tire which had been scrubbed in, and consequently, had been used for 1 lap already.

Running through the data in the various sessions confirms this. During the heat of FP1, Marquez used a medium and a hard front, before using two soft fronts during FP2. He used a third soft front in FP3, before switching to a hard front. He did a single, slow lap on the soft front at the start of the session, then came in to switch front tires.

This third soft front tire, used in FP3, was a hint of what Marquez had decided to do. The Repsol Honda rider fitted the same soft front, with a single lap on it, at the start of FP4, and then did a seven-lap run with the soft front, before switching to the medium front. FP4 is typically the session where riders work on race setup and strategy, and this appears to have been what Marquez and his team had decided to pursue.

They repeated the strategy in the warmup on Sunday. A single, slow lap in the heat of the afternoon, to prepare a new soft front tire to be used in the race. Then a longer run on a medium front, during which Marquez crashed. That crash was what finally decided Marquez' front tire choice. "This morning I had a small crash, then this, I had doubts," the Repsol Honda rider said. He chose the soft front tire with a single lap on it.

Old better than new?

Why would you start the race using a tire which is not brand new? Without knowing the exact details of how Marquez' team handled the tire, we can take an educated guess. Putting a slow heat cycle into the tire will change the rubber slightly, and affect the way it reacts. The Hondas had really wanted to use the medium front tire, but the bizarre schedule of Qatar meant they didn't have enough track time in race conditions to test it properly. So the safe option was to race the soft front, and risk it being too soft.

That is what they might have been trying to address with the extra lap. By conditioning the tire, it may have made it react a little more like a medium, either providing a little more support, or a little more durability.

That seems counterintuitive. Normally, if you put a lap on a tire, it degrades. Especially a soft tire. But the laps Marquez rode on the tire point to it being a very deliberate action: in FP3, Marquez did a lap of 2'10. In the warm up, he did a 2'18, 2 or 3 seconds a lap slower than his other laps in the first three sectors.

Did it work? That is hard to assess without knowing exactly what Marquez and his crew were trying to achieve. The Spaniard ran wide at Turn 1 on the first three laps, not quite getting corner entry right. But Marquez has been struggling with the front end of the new Honda RC213V since it arrived. The new bike is clearly a massive step forward – third and fifth in its first race is evidence of that – but it requires a complete change of approach.

Confidence

"The confidence with the front was not the highest at the moment," Marquez said after the race. "And there I'm struggling a bit more to understand. Especially in the practice, you believe [in the front], because you know that if you crash, it's OK. But in the race, when you don't have confidence, you cannot believe in it like you want." Crashing in practice is an acceptable risk, but the danger of ending with zero points from a crash in the race was not worth it.

Improving confidence is something Marquez and his team are working on, however. "We are discovering different things with this new bike, and it's true that since I started at the first test, we improved, especially at Mandalika," the Repsol Honda rider said. "Here we don't touch a lot, because it was the first race, and I don't want to lose the way, and we were just concentrated on the racing line and tires."

Maybe, part of concentrating on the tires was choosing to use a conditioned front tire. Whether Marquez and his team will attempt a repeat of this strategy remains to be seen. But we can be sure that his rivals will be carefully poring over the lap charts to see if Marquez is up to something at future races.


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Source: 
year: 
2022
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Comments

Reminds me of cooking techniques. Age this, smoke that, dry rub those, sear them. Finish on the grill with a nice basting.

Inch thick chuck eye is making my mind's mouth water. Medium rare plz.

Keep at it folks! Get The Marc his front feel that lasts a race. 

Back in the day using a previously heat cycled tire would result in one that was "harder". No surprised by Marquez doing this. What does surprise me, given the number of folks that go out in sessions with used tires, I never hear in rider comments, "that tire had a previous session on it, and it was harder than fresh".

Interesting. I remember seeing it on the stream and thought it was a glitch. There are plenty of sessions that show "missing tyre data" on the analysis pdf. I thought it was something like that. 

the lap count for Marc's front tire was N+1 compared to his rear and to everyone else on the grid when the graphics relayed that information.  I recall in recent seasons certain riders working with scrubbed in tires for the race, so I had assumed Marc had done similarly, but barring any further insight as to why or anything of that sort.  So, David, thank you for this!  Such a small detail, but wonderful to get a little more background for it.

Scrubbing in race tires is pretty common in some car racing series.  A lot of drivers do it in Indycar, particularly the hard tires.  The reason that is always given, is that scrubbing in tires allows them to come up to temperature faster at the start of the race(there are no tire warmers in Indycar), so the drivers on hard tires don't loose out as much to ones who decided to start on softs.  That's why I find it weird that Marquez scrubbed in a soft tire.  

Not sure. Once in a while someone tries it during the race season, and it may be a bit of desperation struggling for a tire? It hasn't been frequent has it?

I know I cringe when I see the big sticker left on race tires to start a race (just happened in the Daytona 200). The fresh tire "skin" scares me for a half lap or so. (I was a cheapo that would run tires REALLY long until shagged and sliding). Used to wonder why we didn't pre scuff them in by hand or something. One good corner per side and they were fine, sighting lap and go. But take the damn sticker off!

:)

I'm only an intermediate track day rider but I do know one must scrub in a new tire before you try to drag a knee. If it's scrubbed in already you can be more aggressive allowing for warm-up (the tire). 

I recall there were races last year where riders (Miller, maybe?), said they got a bad tire, and people muttering about hit and miss quality control from Bib and Co (easier to spell).
Would one lap at a slow pace tell a rider if they had any of the QC issues that were mentioned last year?

 

Mandalika

25% has been repaved.  Extensive cleaning is going on this week. 

Fingers crossed. (Anyone going to spend some time in lovely Bali?) 

Reminder, times at end of test:

1

44 Pol Espargaro Honda 1'31.060    
2 20 Fabio Quartararo Yamaha 1'31.074 0.014 0.014
3 41 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 1'31.385 0.325 0.311
4 21 Franco Morbidelli Yamaha 1'31.416 0.356 0.031
5 63 Francesco Bagnaia Ducati 1'31.436 0.376 0.020
6 42 Alex Rins Suzuki 1'31.477 0.417 0.041
7 12 Maverick Viñales Aprilia 1'31.478 0.418 0.001
8 5 Johann Zarco Ducati 1'31.488 0.428 0.010
9 33 Brad Binder KTM 1'31.574 0.514 0.086
10 73 Alex Marquez Honda 1'31.603 0.543 0.029
11 88 Miguel Oliveira KTM 1'31.620 0.560 0.017
12 10 Luca Marini Ducati 1'31.665 0.605 0.045
13 30 Takaaki Nakagami Honda 1'31.687 0.627 0.022
14 93 Marc Marquez Honda 1'31.793 0.733 0.106
15 43 Jack Miller Ducati 1'31.870 0.810 0.077
16 4 Andrea Dovizioso Yamaha 1'31.890 0.830 0.020
17 72 Marco Bezzecchi Ducati 1'31.901 0.841 0.011
18 49 Fabio Di Giannantonio Ducati 1'31.915 0.855 0.014
19 23 Enea Bastianini Ducati 1'32.010 0.950 0.095
20 89 Jorge Martin Ducati 1'32.544 1.484 0.534
21 87 Remy Gardner KTM 1'32.860 1.800 0.316
22 40 Darryn Binder Yamaha 1'33.049 1.989 0.189
23 25 Raul Fernandez KTM 1'34.896 3.836
 

I'm not convinced the Honda is superior this year. More riders can be competitive to be sure but can the bike take the one genius to the next level? It seems they may have taken the edge off that allowed only MM to ride consistently beyond the limit. I think Pol may finish ahead of MM this year, as he should since it's 'his' bike.

I think they took a half second away from MM and spread it around to everyone else. Nice, but a genius needs special weapons that others can't understand, Mick Doohan used to make the Honda more difficult to ride on purpose because only he could tame it. And MM did win 6 championships with the old "unrideable" bike. Apparently it was only unrideable by everyone else. The odds just finally caught up with Marc as they were always bound to.

 

Well that's writing MM off quickly.
A genius on a more 'normal' bike will still extract more from it than a mere mortal one can.

The Qatar race proved MM that his arm will not hold him back this season, a critical condition for him to be able to ride the bike the way he wants to.
Also his fitness level is nearing the level he wants it to be.
On top of that he now has a bike that's more rider-friendly and doesn't require him to risk body and mind to win races.
And he now not only has the knowledge (had it long before) that scoring points on a lesser day is more important than risking it all, he finally rides like it as well.

On a negative note, as he is now more aware of his mortality and limited longevity, he will sacrifice a bit of speed to be able to stay in the game for a bit longer. Make no mistake, racing (read : winning) is everything for this guy. He'll do everything he can to be able to do that as long as possible.
And at the moment he needs more work on his riding style and bike setup to be able to extract the maximum from the bike. But he'll figure it out, that's what geniuses do. And they do it better than others...

So adding up all of the above, I'd hold off writing MM off for the time being.
From my point of view, only MM can defeat MM in this current field.
And hey, I'm not even a fan. Only an admirer of the skill, body and mind.

Marc didn't develop this bike. That makes it unpredictable to him. He has been saying as much lately. Also he is one crash from the end of his career. I write him off because I don't think he can last 21 races or even the 16 or 17 it would've taken the old Marc to win the championship. And he now has more and faster competition than ever just as he's more vulnerable than ever. Pecco took it to him in a straight fight last year as I'm certain JM36, Fabio, JM89, Pol, Aleix, BB33 all can do this year. He's not the same MM93 and it's a bit early to pronounce him fully fit and ready for 21 races. It sure is gonna be fun finding out. Cheers!

He is at no more risk now injury wise than he has been in the past. His eye has the exact same risk as it had since his initial injury at Sepang. He will continue to rehabilitate the injuries but they're not going to hold him back like they have these last two years. His attitude sure did change though once the bike was Pol's and Honda showed their development cards to him. There was no sandbagging on health, he was bright eyed and claiming that only match fitness would hold him back. He was 100%. That's how I saw it anyway, his attitude turned on a dime once Honda delivered a bike suited to Pol not Marc.

What worries me with the RCV is the feel of the front end is sounding a bit Ducati 2010'ish. "Can't feel it" "Can't find the limit" "Wants to let go suddenly without warning". Those issues hand delivered Casey to Honda. He loved Ducati but not knowing when the front was going to fold without warning derailed a couple of his prime years in red. Interesting times over at Honda for sure.

Agreed. He is at the same level of risk; the level of risk that led to it happening last year. I call it too much risk to count on him for a full season. We shall see. I'm not wishing him harm, no specific harm anyway, I just don't think he can continue the heedless riding. In fact, I think he got away with it over long as it is. Whatever anyone thinks about his arms/shoulders they are not the same. They may be ok but that isn't the superhuman MM we know. That is a hobbled, to whatever degree, MM. I don't believe he will finish the season healthy. I also think Honda took a half second away from him with the new rear-biased setup and I don't think he can override it enough to make up the difference. I don't know any of this, it's all just speculation and opinion at this point. That's why they line up 20 more times. Cheers!

Touch wood it wont happen. Roll a pair of dice. Every time you roll it the chance of rolling double 6 is the same. That goes for all riders when they fall too. So far MM is falling a lot less on the new bike.

MM is human, not a coin. Head injuries are cumulative. Joint injuries are cumulative. Maybe the opitc nerve won't be affected for a 3rd time but it isn't like flipping a coin. As for falling, he isn't going fast enough to fall. He needs to get to the limit to feel what the front end does there and he's so far not getting there and he's not feeling it. He's being cautious not to crash, that doesn't sound like the old MM to me. No offense.

Aye. The point was...when a rider falls in a particular spot, in a particular way, they have a chance of being injured or, as is most often the case, not being injured. Marc's Jerez crash 2020 was a good example. When he fell the die was cast. On any other day he would have bounced across the gravel, got up, thrown his hands in air, kicked the gravel and walked back to the garage. There's some places where the you'd be lucky not to be injured and others where it would be a 1 in a million chance of damaging anything other than your leathers. Low side better than high side etc etc. There's a good portion of luck involved. There's nothing special about Marc Marquez in that respect. The more you crash, on average, the more injuries you will collect. Never crash, no injuries from crashing, no broken eggs if you are carrying eggs either.

All the Honda riders stated that the lap times are coming easier. The lap times are coming in a different way. If they aren't forced, as in previous years, to risk most in the braking and entry then it's a fair bet all the Honda riders will crash less. That will inevitably mean less injuries, on average. No crash, no cumulative injuries.

I don't agree but you have backed up your argument.

If they aren't risking all then they're not going fast enough. This bike isn't allowing MM that je ne sais quoi that gave him what he wanted. At least, I don't remember him complaining about the bike; it seemed to be tailored to him. Now he can't feel the front, the worst thing for a rider. The others are going faster because they aren't as talented as MM but they are going slower than MM would on his bike. They are not going to win 6 championships with this bike, MM or no MM. It's a lesser bike beyond the limit where MM lived.

MM is in much greater risk of serious injury in any crash than any other rider on the grid. The optic nerve is not something that can be known about until it presents again. Maybe 10 more years, maybe next month, maybe there's greater susceptiblity now, as I believe, or maybe not. Shoulders and arm are not brand new either. We shall find out over the next 6 months.

Can't figure out what the faulty egg metaphor was about.

Marquez, his team, and HRC are working on getting that "special feeling" back on the front end of his bike. We've seen what he did in the past when he has the front dialed to his liking. If (or when) they do accomplish this with the current RCV, it'll be interesting to see how competitive the field of current riders and bikes are.

Looks like from the outside that the new Honda is a safer bike. Will Marquez continue to play with the limit? Who knows... 

^ Still so cranky?! There are known clear ways that frustration changes awareness.

Marc is not fully fit, but at Qatar for the full race "did not have to ride around pain in the R shoulder or upper arm." Fresh bike "like changing manu."

Came in 5th

I don't want any of what is getting smoked in here. WAY better stuff right over...in Indonesia.

The only "cranky" I am aware of is shaft horsepower.

Bring it!

What I saw in the pre-race presser was the determination in Marquez' eyes when discussing the search for that "special feeling." Arising from frustration? Couldn't say.

Eggs are delicate. You imply that Marc is more delicate than he used to be, cumulative injuries. If he crashes less then he has less chance of injury even if he's an egg.

I totally agree not feeling the front is the worst thing possible. However, I do suspect that if and when they sort this issue the result will be significantly different than previous years.

The Honda/Marc of previous years was a result of not being a Ducati and not being a Yamaha. The one place they could make a difference with the bike that they had, a non Ducati V4, was braking and entry. This is what they could do, Cal and Marc mentioned this often. Rightly or wrongly they followed this path. The majority of all crashes for all riders are in this area. Maybe one bike can brake a little early and carry more speed into the turn, it can brake a little bit later and carry less speed, there's a window to work with. It could be that some bikes must take less risk in this area because they don't have such a good feeling with the front, can't take the risk without the feeling. They make up time elsewhere. The end result is a good lap time, different bikes get from A to B in slightly different ways using different strengths. The strength of Honda/Marc of previous years was having good feel in braking/entry and using that to take big risks and make big time in the areas of the lap most likely to result in a spill.

I don't think Marc will try to force the bike to make lap times in ways the bike doesn't want to. Maybe he is trying to through force of habit or maybe he is feeling the bike out. No idea. As you point out Pol showed the bike is fast despite not being Marc. This weekend will be fun...except for the time zone.

Under 4 hours...WOOHOO! Can't wait to find out if the repairs hold up. Simon says it's as hot as he's ever seen at a track. Rain for the race? This could be very interesting. Good weekend for Suzuki is my predict.

 

I am not sure you have got Doohan right

Doohan played games with the engine configuration because advances in technology compensated for the rideabilty advantages of the Big Bang.

He didn't play games with the basic bike set up, leaving a bike with good balance between front and rear. This is why riders like Criville and Rossi were able to win championships.

My impression is that the new Honda is more Doohan like than the heavily front oriented predecessor.

I'm not an insider, just going by what Mat Oxley wrote about Doohan: that he made the bike harder to ride so the other Honda riders would look worse. It's good to have inside info, Thanks.

The more heavily front oriented predecessor won 6 championships that only a generational genius could ride was a weapon in the right hands. I think the new bike is going to be slower for MM and faster for everyone who isn't MM.

And if Marc doesn't get it right it will probably cost Honda just as much as the riders. If MM has his hands full with the younger generation, I can't see Pol handling them any better - rear bias or otherwise.

For all the talk of the next-gen riders coming up, let us not forget that Marc handed Pedrosa, Rossi, Lorenzo and Dovi an arse whooping whilst they were riding the bikes that they wanted to ride. Top shelf world class competition.

If MM is still the same MM as he was in 2014 he will win the championship

If Marc Marquez is at 90% of The Marc he will just be one of the three title favorites. Which is FANTASTIC for us fans! Him and this bike have plenty more coming. Both are great like they are.

I could argue that the Honda of the last several yrs was more "No one's" bike than "Marc's," and that this one is more "everyone's" than "Pol's." 

My chips are already in on this stuff. Early days in a LONG season. Watch...