After a week of pre-season testing at Sepang we have already been able to draw some conclusions. And all of them are very positive for two brands, Yamaha and, above all, Suzuki. And quite negative for two others, the ones that have been dominating until now, Honda and Ducati. A 180º turnaround that could have a common cause: the tyres.
Michelin has changed its compounds for this 2020 season and the results are not convincing everyone. The French brand has come up with tyres whose carcass allows more contact surface when the bike is tilted more than 45°. In other words, it allows for better cornering.
The new Michelin tyres allow better cornering
This is precisely what they are complaining about now at Ducati and Honda, two bikes designed to have a good acceleration, a lot of top speed but that weaken, precisely, in the pass through the corners. According to them, the new tyres benefit those who earn their time in the middle of the turns, that is, Suzuki and Yamaha.
“It’s a tyre that gives a lot of confidence in the middle of the corner, so to make the most of it you have to concentrate on the distance in the corners. But our strong point is the acceleration and in that area it doesn’t give support,” said Danilo Petrucci, the second Ducati rider who was still the best of the Borgo Panigale men at Sepang.
What we saw in Malaysia was very conclusive. Fabio Quartararo, with Yamaha, was the fastest rider at one lap for the three days. In terms of race pace, that honour went to Alex Rins, with the Suzuki, who swept the board. Behind him, Maverick Viñales, also from Yamaha, was the second fastest.
“They are faster because the new tyres give more grip in the middle of the corners, their strong point,” said Andrea Dovizioso about the Suzuki. If Honda’s poor performance at Sepang can be justified by the injury of Marc Márquez and the inexperience of Álex, for Ducati there are no excuses. And it is worrying.
Not only was Ducati outperformed at Sepang by Suzuki and Yamaha, but also Aprilia and KTM were ahead of the pack thanks to their new bikes. In light of this, Ducati were the slowest bike at Sepang, along with the Honda, and there are excuses for that. Only Jack Miller a lap away and Petrucci in race pace saved the honour of the brand. Worrying.
As we know, the Ducati is a bike traditionally based on its powerful corner exit, sacrificing the intermediate step. A model that has also been imitated by Honda as the seasons have progressed. Now these changes in the Michelin tyres can be caught up with the step changed to both brands.
Márquez also gives the Suzuki and Yamaha advantage to the tyres
Still in pain from his injury, Marc Márquez also had time to talk about the issue: “At this circuit the most dangerous rivals are the Yamaha and Suzuki riders, probably also thanks to the tyres. It seems that they change the balance of the bike and the parameters of the electronics. They certainly give more grip to the rear, but that changes the whole balance.
The situation for Honda isn’t much better than for Ducati either. Márquez is pretty touched, although from HRC they insist that he will not go through the surgery again, which would be a disaster. But with Álex Márquez adapting, the development of the Honda RC213V is in danger. We could be looking at a year of surprises.