Barcelona MotoGP upgrades highlighting philosophy differences at Yamaha and Honda

The championship’s two Japanese manufacturers have been working hard over the last few months to close the gap to their European rivals and return to the forefront after years of decline.

Both have been taking advantage of the new concession system introduced by MotoGP this year by holding a number of private tests, but there appears to be a stark difference in how quickly the new parts actually make their way to the race bikes.

Yamaha, having successfully convinced Fabio Quartararo to keep his faith in the marque for another two years, is not only trialing new updates, but is also introducing them on race weekends at an impressive pace.

After running a completely new version of the M1 at the post-Spanish Grand Prix test at Jerez, the Iwata-based brand completed some more private running at Mugello in the weeks leading up to the Barcelona round of the championship.

With the test being considered a positive, Yamaha has now quickly homologated the new aero package, which will now be seen on the bikes of Quartararo and Alex Rins at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona this weekend.

Speaking about the upgrades, Quartararo said: “[The test] was great because we could analyse quite well where the main priority is to test and to improve for us from now until the end of the season. So this is great.

“We don’t know how we’re going to improve it, but we know where it is. And then we used the new aero package that was better for Cal, better for me and better for Alex. So, we will use it during this weekend.”

Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Marc Fleury

Interestingly, Yamaha is fast-tracking updates even if they are only offering a marginal difference in performance or the feeling of the bike. That suggests it wants to continue to bring in small improvements on a regular basis, instead of standing still and waiting for a bigger package to be ready for race conditions.

Asked how good the new aero package was, Quartararo added: “Little bit helping on turning. That was of course not a big difference, but whatever we can slightly improve, we do and it was slightly better in the lean angle, in the amount of lean angle we could have.”

Like Yamaha, Honda has also been working behind-the-scenes on improving the aero, chassis and the engine of the beleaguered RC213V, having held a private test of its own at Mugello in the run-up to Barcelona.

But unlike its rival, Honda is not rushing to introduce the updates on the bikes raced by factory duo Joan Mir and Luca Marini, as well as LCR duo Johann Zarco and Takaaki Nakagami.

Mir explained that although the Mugello test was positive for the factory, he will race with virtually the same bike that he ran at Le Mans earlier this month.

“We tried quite a lot of things, aerodynamics especially, then different configurations on the engine side,” he said. “It was quite productive. We will not get what we request on the test for here. We will have a similar package.

Joan Mir, Repsol Honda Team

Joan Mir, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Marc Fleury

“We will need probably this month and the next two races that we have at the end of June, and we have one more month more, from then we will make one step forward.

He added: [The new aero package] was not something of a big evolution but it was a step. I will not use it here, I will probably use it in the next race, for in terms of homologation and this stuff [it makes more sense]. But we are following the steps.»

Mir’s team-mate Marini struck a similar tone, saying that Honda doesn’t want to bring updates until it is convinced that it brings a significant improvement in performance.

“Now we have to understand after all the analysis and all the reports that we have now after the test, which parts of the bike we need to put on track tomorrow because we have different combinations,” he explained.

“And also for the homologation of the aerodynamics we need to see, because we don’t want to have a rush.

“Because the Japanese are working a lot and during the year we will have more upgrades so we have to be smart and clever to understand. If something is clear, it’s really, really positive, ‘okay, we put it’.

“If not, maybe it’s better to wait to have more upgrades because the gap from first is quite huge at the moment so we need steps that can help us to get closer.”

Honda’s approach sheds a new light over the changes it has made to its mentality in the last six-to-nine months. While there is no denying that it is now taking more risks with developments, it’s clear that it is still hesitant in bringing updates to race weekends.

“Their mentality is different compared to Italian engineers,” said Marini. “But they are really precise, really strong, they want to understand everything very well.

“The approach is that they want to understand everything and they want to be sure that everything works before putting in on the track and maybe break something and cause a problem to the rider.”

Additional reporting by Lorenza D’Adderio and Germán Garcia Casanova

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