Mixed weather conditions just ahead of the race created a tricky situation for the Repsol Honda team at the Losail International Circuit on Sunday evening, with both riders struggling to perform on front tyres too soft for the conditions.
A brief, light rain shower fell just minutes before the planned MotoGP race time of 9pm, causing the start time and race distance to be changed twice. Finally, the lights went off at 9:45, following two warm-up laps that preceded a 20-lap race.
In the hectic moments leading up to the race, Marquez changed his front tyre on the grid, switching from a hard-front/medium-rear combination to a medium-medium spec. Pedrosa kept his original choice of medium-medium, but both riders then struggled with the front during the race.
After a good start, Marquez fought hard for the second position for half of the race but finally had to settle for fourth, while Pedrosa managed to hold off the attacks of Aleix Espargaro to finish in the top five.
Marquez said: “We were aware that we would struggle a bit at this track, but as always we kept a positive attitude, as we also knew that if everything was in place, we could have fought for the podium or even the victory. I think we worked well over the weekend, and we had everything clear for today. Our plan was to use the harder front compound, but the chaotic situation with the rain and the continuous delays created many doubts.
"In the end we decided to go with the medium front, aiming to reduce the risk of crashing, but this turned out to be our biggest mistake of the weekend. I struggled with the front the entire time; I couldn’t brake hard and after few laps the tyre was already wearing off. We continued to have some small issues with acceleration, but even so I had a good feeling with my bike. But with that tyre choice, I wasn't able to gain on braking. That’s my strongest point, so I decided, okay let’s finish this race and Argentina will be another race.”
Both riders will now focus all their efforts on getting ready for the next race, in Argentina, on 4th April.
Honda Yuasa Racing first entered the BTCC in 1991 as the family-run Team Dynamics outfit. The father-and-son pairing of Steve and Matt Neal has gone on to achieve incredible success – in 1999, Matt became the first Independent race-winner in the Super Touring era, and Team Dynamics hasn’t looked back since.
Team Dynamics received official Manufacturer support from Honda for the first time in 2010 and began competing under the Honda Yuasa Racing banner in 2012. The squad’s impressive tally of BTCC titles includes five overall Drivers’ and six overall Teams’ championships, from more than 500 race starts.
Gordon Shedden claimed Drivers’ glory with Honda Yuasa Racing in 2012 and came tantalisingly close to successfully retaining it in 2013. A switch from the Civic hatchback to the new Civic Tourer model for 2014 presented Dynamics with a different challenge – but as ever, they were still firmly in contention and making history with the first podiums and wins for an estate-style car in the BTCC.
2015 was another historic year for Honda in the series as the hotly-anticipated Civic Type R piloted by Neal and Shedden sped to the Manufacturers’ laurels, with the Scot clinching a second Drivers’ crown in dramatic fashion in the final race.
The pair partnered each other for the seventh successive campaign as Halfords returned to the Honda Racing fold in 2016, and at the end of a nail-biting season, Shedden lifted the laurels for the second consecutive year in the Brands Hatch GP finale, with team-mate Neal only ruled out of title contention in the same meeting by a sizeable impact with the circuit barriers.Now both triple champions, the pair remain on-board in 2017 and with an intensive winter testing programme under their belts and a chassis-engine-driver combination proven many times over, there is no reason to believe Halfords Yuasa Racing’s challenge will in any way weaken. The newly-liveried stealth black Civic Type R with signature orange flashes is certainly the car with the target on its rear bumper.