LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl enters his second MotoGP season with an eye on the podium. Bradl was in third place on the fifth lap of the Aragon Grand Prix when he crashed, ending any chance of his maiden MotoGP podium. Asked what he expected of Bradl, HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto said, “Last year he had a chance to be on the podium but he missed it because of a crash. First of all. Stefan has to be on the podium after that maybe he’s able to take the next step.”
The next step began with the Sepang MotoGP Test. Bradl finished with the sixth fastest time and second non-factory machine (Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow was fifth fastest). In making the move up to MotoGP last season, Bradl found that he wasn’t able to stay at the pace of the others at the end of the race. He spent the winter working on his physical fitness to be able to fight to the final corner.
“Our main focus was to get our average speed a bit faster, because last year I dropped back a little bit too much during the race with old tires and so on,” he said. “And that was our main focus, to keep the speed a little bit faster while we are on used tires and this stuff. And yeah, of course, for the setup we need to work on that and that was our main focus, which worked good for the moment, but still there’s something left.
“Yes, I worked on my physical conditioning as well, because I used the experience of last year which was completely new for me. I was able to train a little bit different and more and harder and that was, yeah, also one thing to become better. And, yeah, we will see how it works out. But for the moment I feel quite comfortable on the bike. We need to try also some different things in the setup but for the moment we still have a couple of days of testing before the first race.” More than a couple days. Bradl has a second three-day MotoGP test in Sepang, a three day test at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and a final three-day test in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
Nakamoto said that all the riders of the Honda RC213V—Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez, Bradl, and Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista—are on the same spec motorcycle. The bike Bradl rode in Malaysia was “not a big difference compared to the one from Valencia” at the end of 2012, Bradl said. “As you can imagine, there is three months where I’m not riding a bike, so it is different, difficult to compare that bike from November to the bike of February.”
Responding to Nakamoto’s observation that Bradl needs to be on the podium before fighting for MotoGP race wins, Bradl said, “It’s my target to get a couple of podiums, will be very nice. This is the target and that’s our main focus to work on that.” To get on the podium Bradl knows he’ll have to be more consistent and faster. “For one lap we can be very fast, but to keep that speed, to change the riding style during the race and all these little details, need to come together and to not drop my lap time so much.”
Bradl beat Marc Marquez for the 2011 Moto2 World Championship. Now his former rival arrives in MotoGP with high expectations. Marquez finished with the fourth fastest time behind Pedrosa and Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.
“He’s fantastic,” Bradl said. “I think everybody’s a bit surprised. OK, we expected that he’s fast; that he’s he so fast is a surprise. And well, I mean he’s a special talent. For sure he will put pressure on Dani and Jorge, so will be a Spanish battle, but I think it’s good for MotoGP, it’s good for everybody to see an exciting season and he’s a great talent. No doubt.”
One of the areas where Marquez said he struggled was in braking. Marquez and a few other MotoGP rookies ran into the gravel trap at the end of the front straight in Sepang. Bradl said he didn’t have a problem when he made the transition to MotoGP.
“One of my strong points of my riding style is braking,” he said. “Also, we can see on data I’m a strong rider on brakes, but I need to be maybe a little bit more calm on braking just to use the bike and prepare for exit. And for me that wasn’t a problem. For me still is the problem to pick up the bike in the right moment, to use the perfect moment for the tire for a good acceleration.”