It’s not surprising that Marc Márquez will be the most content rider during the summer break, because he now leads the World Championship despite the two DNFs in eight races. You may or may not like him, you can even be totally against him, but what no one can deny is that Márquez has desire. No matter how bad a situation is, he doesn’t give up. Just three races ago, Márquez was 37 points behind then-championship-leader Maverick Viñales. Right away there were those who suggested that Márquez was out of the running for the title. Three races later, he has managed to turn the situation around; he leaves Sachsenring for his summer break as provisional leader of one of the most competitive MotoGP championships in history.
We spoke with Márquez before leaving Sachsenring about the first half of the season, the grumbling by some about Michelin, his bike, his crashes, his rivals, and his brother Alex…basically everything we could think of. Our talk came after Márquez had scored his eighth consecutive Sachsenring victory, meaning that the rider from Cervera has dominated at the German circuit since his 125cc GP win back in 2010.
The championship is so tight with four riders separated by only 10 points. In your opinion, is this the result of special circumstances like crashes and/or problems with tires, or the reality of a talented playing field?
I think a little of both. In my view, the category is more closely matched than when I arrived in MotoGP in 2013. Back then, on a bad weekend, in a bad race, you were third or fourth; now, during a bad weekend, you can end up tenth. The single ECU has helped a lot to narrow the differences between different bikes, but also between the bikes of the same brand. The performance between the factory bikes and the satellite teams has been matched and this has allowed other riders to lead like (Johann) Zarco, (Cal) Crutchlow …riders who are not on factory equipment but who have a bike very similar to the official ones. I think this is a good thing. Then we have the issue of tires: it’s going to the limit because every race they change a lot. And there is also the fact that we all have crashed. All these things together make the championship as close as it is.
You were clear about tires in Barcelona before the race when you said that three asymmetric front tires with a total of six different compounds didn’t help you. How is this situation now? Was Michelin wrong? Have they tried to go too far?
I believe “wrong” is not the correct term; Michelin haven’t been wrong. In the end they tried to give all riders a lot of confidence based on the experience of last year, and for wanting to do well, they made us all lose some baseline reference. It’s difficult to understand where we were and what happened with each tire. In the end, it’s often better to take the simple solution and choose what you already know, and that you know that works more or less well. This also made the tires quite unstable, but gradually they are returning to the “natural” line. Over time we should see more consistent results from all the riders because so far we have seen many ups and downs.
Regarding the tires, we talked about rare situations such as special tires for Ducati in Mugello and things like that. Do you believe there is some kind of conspiracy going on?
No, no…I’m convinced, I’m 100% sure they are playing fair. The tires are all black, they ones you receive are by chance and you get a lot of tires over the weekend, and sometimes, for a whole year, it’s normal for one tire to run a bit worse than the others. It’s normal, it happens to all the factories. I don’t believe at all that there is a conspiracy or anything like that. Every weekend we have three front tires, three rear tires, for all styles of riding, for all preferences for all preferences and everyone chooses the one he wants. I am completely confident in this regard.
At Montmeló, you crashed in practice four times…and then you had an incredible race. Where did you get the mental and physical strength to ride a bike with so many problems so well in the race?
Yes, it was a difficult weekend. Where did I get the mental strength? From the team! I won’t say things like “I’m very strong,” and so on, no. That’s why I have the team and the people that I have. On occasions like these they support you, they give you confidence and they give you your spirit back. This is very important to me and so I keep my team and for me they are untouchable. But hey, it’s also true that you have to be on the bike to understand it. I admit that I ran the Montmeló race without much confidence, but I still finished second.
After the race, on the podium you also joked pretending to crash. This kind of thing, your positive attitude, your constant smile, is noticeable.
I have always been very expressive, very cheerful. I’ve always said that the best life philosophy is to always take the positive side, and when you make a mistake you have to understand, you can get angry in the moment, but then you have to forget, and the best way to forget it is laugh at yourself. In Barcelona I knew that I had crashed many times that weekend, but the important thing was to be on the podium. Things come out naturally, from the inside.
The information we have from you is that under braking, you have problems with the front tire. There are problems midcorner because the electronics are not yet fully engaged. On acceleration, you have problems because the engine doesn’t accelerate as it did before. With all these problems, it seems unlikely that you are the leader of the World Championship.
It’s all circular. Of all the problems we have, the main one is exiting the corner. We just don’t accelerate like we want to; we lose a little bit there. This means that, for the time lost exiting, you have to brake later and get into the corner faster. This in turn forces you to go to the limit with the front tire; that’s why I suffer with the front tire. But everything is a consequence of our acceleration problems. As I said, It’s circular…I lose under acceleration, I want to recover under braking and entering the corner, which leads me to put the tire in crisis and this makes me slide more. But hey, you have to understand well what is happening and know how to ride carefully at the same time that you have to regain those tenths at corner entry.
If you had the 2014 Honda electronics, would you win ten consecutive races like back then?
Not now…now, our electronics base is pretty good. I think that its operation is fairly constant, but it’s true that we have struggled to reach this point. But now, I repeat, I’m ok with the electronics.
Also better. It’s clear that we can always improve, but we understand better how to ride it. But there is one point, which is acceleration, although it’s not related 100% to the engine. People hear acceleration and say “the engine [isn’t powerful].” Our engine [is very powerful], what happens is that we cannot use that power because there is a lot of wheelying going on.
Shuhei Nakamoto, the head of HRC when you entered MotoGP, had a certain philosophy of working and understanding the races. This year, there is different person leading HRC, Tetsuhiro Kuwata. Are there differences between the two when it comes to managing and understanding races?
Not much at the moment. I think it’s too soon to see a difference, if there is one. Nakamoto was there many years, I think he did a good job and I will always be very grateful because he gave me the opportunity to join the HRC factory team. Now there is a change, but in the end Kuwata is also very good, his specialty is electronics and engines. He is up to date on how the bike is evolving. I would say we are in transition. Kuwata is adapting to how things were. I suppose there will come a time that things will change to his way of thinking, little by little. At the moment everything is going quite as it was before.
Other Honda riders like Jack Miller say that the bike this year is much easier to ride than the previous ones. Do you share this opinion?
Yes, this year we have gotten a bike that’s easier to ride, but this doesn’t mean that it’s a faster bike. It’s easier to ride up to a certain pace, but to lap at a record pace we haven’t gotten there. The fact that the bike is easy allows you to maintain a more constant pace in the race.
You’ve been a Honda rider since you came to MotoGP and you’re sure to be for many more years, but if you had to change your bike one weekend for another, what would it be?
I always say the same thing. I would like to do like when I go ride motocross with friends. I ride a Honda, a friend is on a Yamaha, another on a KTM, another a Suzuki. And since there are no cameras, we change them from time to time. It would be fun to do such a test with MotoGP, but I know this will never happen.
Surely not, but if you had to choose one, what would it be?
Choose? I would like to try them all, but it’s clear that both Yamaha and Ducati, who have led the championship, I always would like to try them out. But I would also like to try the KTM, and the Suzuki…
We have to talk about Sachsenring and your eight victories there starting from pole. What is your secret? Are you better mid corner?
It’s a rare circuit, different, a track that has no equal in the championship. You have to ride a bit differently than the rest, and in that adaptation I’m pretty fast. And there is also the fact that it is a left hand track…I’m better at left corners than right ones.
Second to last question: your brother. Finally he is a winner in Moto2, I imagine that you are proud of him.
Yes, of course. Every rider is different and every rider has their time. It has taken three years in Moto2, although last year he had some good races, some podiums, a fourth … My brother is working very well and obviously I am very happy for him. We are together all day and we always try to help each other.
Let’s say you win the championship this year, who’s going to be second?
It’s very difficult to say, but I believe…if I win, I don’t care who is second, but I believe that (Maverick) Viñales, (Valentino) Rossi, (Andrea) Dovizioso…all have many opportunities to win the championship. It is so tight that it’s really hard to say who will win or who will be second, but second is the first of the losers, so winning is the only position worth anything.
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