Honda heads into 2024 with the aim of arresting a period of decline that has seen it slump to the bottom of the standings in the last two seasons and lose its star rider Marc Márquez to Gresini Ducati.
The Japanese marque has been working hard over the winter to deliver tangible improvements to the RC213V, with both Mir and Luca Marini getting a chance to put some additional laps on the bike at the Sepang shakedown last week before the entire field converged at the Malaysian venue on Tuesday for the first full-blown pre-season test of the year.
On the opening day of running, Mir finished 14th in the timesheet with a time of 1m58.741s, eight tenths slower than the pace set by Jorge Martin on the Pramac Ducati. That put him second among the Honda contingent, four places and a tenth behind LCR rider Johann Zarco.
While the 2020 champion was again impressed by the effort that has gone into developing the bike, he felt that Honda actually went a step backwards in certain areas on Tuesday compared to the shakedown.
“We didn’t improve the bike today, the base that we had at the shakedown. And I didn’t feel comfortable,” he explained.
“Maybe we made the braking and the feeling with the front a bit worse today and that is not helping for the first two sectors. But then on the other hand, we are fast in sector 3.
“We are trying some things, [like] today on the seat, to see a little bit what is the optimal position. The handlebars, the footpegs.
“Overall I feel not bad, better than last year. I’m able to ride a bit more comfortably, to close the handlebar a bit more.
“If you have a better feeling with the front you can close a bit more. This is a good signal.
“At the moment we are still missing some performance.
“Tomorrow we have less things to try fortunately and we will be focusing on the details that in the end makes you feel these last tenths of the new bike, that last limit you can reach on the new bike and to understand a bit more.”
Joan Mir, Repsol Honda Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Mir was in an upbeat mood when he tested a previous version of Honda’s 2024 contender at Valencia in November, saying it was the first time Honda brought to a test new parts that actually worked.
But while he was still happy about the changes the Japanese marque is making in the background, he conceded the RC213V is not yet where he wants it to be – and it will take more than two weeks of testing to fix its problems.
“I was happy at that time and I’m still happy because I feel that the work they are doing is a good job,” he said.
“They are working so hard and this is something I really appreciate. But the reality is that we are not at the moment where we want.
“So I want to be optimistic but last year was a very, very hard year for me. And I don’t want to think we can solve this situation by a couple of tests because there is a long road to do, to continue improving and everything.
“We are not where we want at the moment but I can be happy.”