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What caused Honda’s “mystery” India MotoGP weekend?

Honda enjoyed a rare strong outing at this weekend’s MotoGP Indian Grand Prix, which Joan Mir noted was “a bit of a mystery”.

Joan Mir, Repsol Honda Team

Joan Mir, Repsol Honda Team

Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

For the first time in 2023, both factory Honda riders qualified inside the top six, with Mir fifth and Marc Marquez sixth.

Marquez carried this form into Saturday’s sprint, scoring his second podium of the season in third, while in Sunday’s grand prix Mir ended his points drought with a ride to fifth as his team-mate recovered to ninth from an early crash.

The stiffer rear tyre casing brought to the Buddh track by Michelin in theory should have hindered Honda, as it has done when used previously this season.

But from the off both Mir and Marquez were competitive, maintaining this through every session despite the latter insisting Honda’s initial Friday pace was purely down to top riders adapting quicker to new tracks.

Marquez believes Honda’s form at Buddh was strong because the layout is similar in nature to the Circuit of the Americas, where he has dominated at in the past and where Alex Rins secured HRC’s only win of the season in 2023.

“Because it’s a very similar race track compared to Austin,” Marquez said when asked to explain Honda’s India form.

“There are a lot of stop-and-go corners. The accelerations you need to do a big pick up, and it’s not necessary to use the lean angle.

“This is our weak point, corners like at the Catalunya circuit, it’s there where we struggle more and we suffer a lot during the weekend.

“But in this track that is stop-and-go, and [you need to] pick-up [the bike early] and first gear corners, normally our bike works good – very similar to the best bikes.”

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

For Mir, who achieved his best result of his maiden Honda season on Sunday, he highlighted the ability to have been able to better understand the RC213V at the Misano test two weeks ago as helping him.

“It’s a bit of a mystery this,” Mir said of Honda’s India pace. “Marc made a step and he was able to be a bit stronger than in previous weekends.

“But the one who was able to make a bigger step to be at his level or similar, was me. We made a great step this weekend.

“Of course, the Misano test was important – not for the position, but I could make a lot of laps and if you check that test in the last laps, they were very fast with used tyres.

“So, it means we understood something that I could get some confidence back.

“And when we came to this completely new track with the ability to adapt quicker than the others, we were fast straight away.

“We could continue and keep growing during all the weekend. That was great, I didn’t expect that.

“I expected to be fast on Friday, but yesterday we qualified very good. And then in the warm-up again we showed a good pace, and in the race we were fighting for the places I expected.

“But I said to the team yesterday, you cannot come from the back and expect to win races. This does not exist.”

Next week’s Japanese GP takes place on a circuit of a similar nature to Buddh, while the rear tyre construction will revert to the standard one that Marquez prefers.

“Interesting to know or understand in Motegi, especially because we will have the standard casing on the rear that normally helps my riding style a little bit – but the other riders will be faster,” Marquez said, who then went on to explain his Sunday crash.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Srinivasa Krishnan

“But it’s true that today we were on this track, all during the weekend, we were in that fifth position, considering that [Marco] Bezzecchi, [Francesco] Bagnaia, [Jorge] Martin and [Luca] Marini were faster than us.

“But apart from those four riders, during the weekend overall we were the fifth fastest rider.

“For that reason today I took an extra risk. Today I knew the extra risk was the first 10 laps: if in the first 10 laps I could follow the Ducati riders, then in the last 10 laps I would be there because with the used tyre normally I’m riding well.

“I took the risk, unfortunately I went wide at Turn 1.

“Luckily, I could restart the race, and if you remember after Silverstone it was my target to finish races. So, I achieved my target and the most important thing is the pace was similar to [Fabio] Quartararo who finished third.”

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