Honda MotoGP Team Principal Livio Suppo Interview

“Marc Marquez’s strength is to turn a wrong choice into an opportunity”

livio suppo holding motogp trophy
Livio SuppoCourtesy of Repsol Honda

The line between making a masterpiece and looking like a fool is always subtle, but what we saw this past Sunday at Brno in the Czech Republic was confirmation yet again of Marc Marquez's huge talent. After his superb victory, the factory Honda MotoGP rider confessed, "Today, I woke up with the feeling that I was willing to take a risk to win the race."

Marquez was smart to put up the best strategy, brave to take risks switching from rain tires to slicks before everyone else, and skilled to ride with slicks on a damp track. Marquez turned a negative situation (an overheated soft rear rain tire) into a positive one by entering the pits on the second lap and changing bikes, and this was the key to his win.

Honda HRC Team Principal Livio Suppo explained to me after the race that Marquez’s incredible strength makes him so unique. The five-time world champion has it all, and this certainly makes him a favorite for this year’s world title in what has thus far been a crazy season.

brno grand prix race action 2017
Brno Grand Prix of Czech Republic 2017Courtesy of Michelin

This was an important victory for the championship. Marc now has a 14-point advantage over Maverick Vinales, 21 on Andrea Dovizioso, and 22 on Valentino Rossi.

Brno was a great race for both the Honda riders finishing first and second. Dani Pedrosa usually suffers in these mixed conditions, but he was very good. If he could have changed bikes one lap earlier it would have been better, but anyway he succeeded to get the tires up to temperature quickly and do a great race. He lost some points from the leader but recovered some on the other title contenders. Regarding Marc, he has this incredible capacity to take some risks and understand when is the best moment.

marc marquez celebrates czech republic victory
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team, Brno Grand Prix of Czech Republic 2017Courtesy of Michelin

Entering the pits on the second lap was the key to Marc’s win. Is it possible that he slowed down a bit to enter the pits first, taking his rivals by surprise so that they reacted too slowly?

I don’t think so. On the grid, Marc decided to put on the soft rain tire thinking that the track would dry quickly. He wanted to take this small advantage pushing hard at the beginning. In reality, it had a boomerang effect because the soft tire overheated immediately. It was hot and the track dried more quickly than usual. This choice put him in a difficult condition. The same happened at Sachsenring, when he put a front soft tire. But Marc’s strength is to turn a wrong choice into an opportunity.

Does the way Marc won at Brno describe his personality?

Absolutely. He has an incredible talent. He is fast but also smart. On top of this, the winning key is his character: He succeeds by turning a difficult situation into an advantage. I think this is the result of his positive thinking. Then, of course, he is particularly skilled to ride with slick tires on a damp track.

Besides Marc’s talent, the team showed an incredible readiness and capacity for analysis. What was the team strategy?

There are some things, like the overheating of the tires, that are unpredictable. The rest you need to prepare in advance, for example, having the bikes ready from the first lap. Our bike had the dry configuration so that when Marc entered on the second lap we were ready.

Are you in favor of dashboard communications so that the team can inform the rider when to change bikes in the case of a flag-to-flag race?

The team can see the data and give the information but the final decision remains up to the rider. The rider needs to feel if he wants to take the risk or not. I remember Donington, 2009, when everybody decided to put the slick tire and Casey Stoner opted for the rain. I tried to convince him to switch to the slick, but it was useless. That time, Casey looked like a fool, but the rider has the situation under control and he has to decide.

marc marquez motogp brno race action
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team, Brno Grand Prix of Czech Republic 2017Courtesy of Michelin

Honda seemed to struggle in the first part of the season. At Brno, you had two Honda riders on the podium. What work have you done?

We also had both riders on the podium in Jerez. This means that we have also been fast in the first part of the season. We have a new engine, but it is sealed, so the engineers have worked on the setup, the geometry, and now we have more understanding of the bike.

Do you have a forecast for the championship?

I prefer not to make forecasts. The championship is still open. If we look at Maverick Vinales, this winter he seemed unbeatable.

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