Honda should have more ability to repair its MotoGP woes after claiming its first victory in eight years at the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours, according to its works rider Stefan Bradl.
The Japanese manufacturer has long dominated the famous endurance race, in which it regularly fielded some of its top drivers – such as Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards at the turn of the century.
But his success eventually waned, with the turning point coming in 2015 – a race where Casey Stoner broke his shoulder and leg in a freakish high-speed crash caused by a stuck throttle.
It ended a streak of five successive victories for Honda, and he had not returned to the top step of the Suzuka 8 Hours podium until his success in 2022 with former Tech3 KTM MotoGP rider Iker Lecuona. , fellow rookie Tetsuta Nagashima and experienced pilot Takumi Takahashi at the weekend.
There was a concerted effort by Honda to restore its prevalence at the event which took place for the first time in three years this weekend after COVID-19 canceled the 2020 and 2021 editions.
Bradl, who went from MotoGP test rider to replacing Marc Marquez with the factory Honda team during Marquez’s last injury absence, hopes the reallocation of resources after Honda’s Suzuka triumph will help the manufacturer to turn around its miserable 2022 season.
The British Grand Prix marked a new low for Honda, with its top-ranked driver only qualifying in 17th place – the worst qualifying result for a Honda in the premier class since 1980.
Things didn’t improve much during the race, with LCR’s Taka Nakagami 13th leading the Grand Prix and factory riders Pol Espargaro and Bradl 14th and 19th.
Asked by The Race whether his transition from test driver to race driver has hurt Honda’s development, Bradl replied “yes, it’s a problem for sure” and then cited Suzuka as well.
“They are testing more and more in Japan. They had to prepare [for the] Suzuka 8 Hours too,” he added.
“I’m happy they won the race, so maybe they have even more capability for MotoGP. It’s good.”
Honda has struggled with its new-for-2022 bike concept, with Pol Espargaro’s third-place finish at the season opener in Qatar remaining the manufacturer’s only podium finish of the season.
Its woes have been compounded by the ongoing injury problems of its star rider Marquez, who has been on a break since Mugello at the end of May and faces a very important examination at the end of August to decide when he can return to the HondaRC213V.
The Silverstone weekend marked the fifth time this year that Honda has failed to place any driver in the top 10 of the race.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel even though it’s still very hard and difficult, our situation right now,” Bradl said.
“But I’m sure we’ll get out of there, not next month but at some point we’ll find a way and come back.”
Bradl’s factory teammate Espargaro was confused as to why Honda’s lap deficit was so much bigger than in the race.
“Overall the pace was much better than expected, but starting so far on the back. It makes no sense that in 17 laps, we lose 7 seconds then in the qualifying 1.5s [in one lap]“Said Espargaró.
“That’s what we have to sort out and sort out because that’s definitely what’s killing our strategy for the race.
“We had the pace to be sixth, seventh, eighth. We should be here, but our problem is so far away, what can you do? »
Espargaro felt he couldn’t progress further than 14th because he couldn’t find a way to pass Nakagami’s LCR Honda and didn’t think it was worth risking an intra-Honda collision for a point additional.
Despite the personal satisfaction of finishing as the best Honda rider, Nakagami said Honda needed to find improvements ahead of the next race at the Red Bull Ring.
“Of course we are absolutely not happy but at least I did my best and [I’m the] top Honda,” Nakagami said.
“I knew this weekend and today’s race would be tough. I had positive and important feelings for the future and for the next race.
“I already explained to HRC what I felt during the race. We have to keep pushing to improve the bike because [all of the Hondas] out of the top 10 is really sad and disappointing.
“We have to change something even for the next race.”
He added that it was clear that other manufacturers had a “better balance” and all had different ways of making their bikes faster, so Honda “has to find new things to make it faster”.
Nakagami used an experimental chassis this weekend, which he says was a marginal step forward but does not solve the fundamental aerodynamic problems that Honda currently has in MotoGP.