Honda’s MotoGP riders are fully ready to commence the 2021 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar later this month after completing preseason testing at Losail today.
Latest signing Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) has been Honda’s stand-out performer during the second and final preseason test, completing his 2021 preparations with tenth fastest lap time.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu Honda RC213V), Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V) and HRC test rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) also performed well, gathering plenty of data and information that will help Honda make a strong start to 2021 at the Qatar Grand Prix on March 28.
Today’s action was curtailed by strong winds, which made the going doubly treacherous: gusting at up to 50kmh/30mph and blowing sand onto the track. Espargaro, Nakagami and Bradl were among the few riders who did venture out but they only rode a few laps each, well off their usual pace.
Although the loss of the last day of testing was an inconvenience, because most riders had planned to undertake their final race simulations, Honda’s teams had already done plenty of work with the latest iteration of the RC213V, by the far the most successful MotoGP machine of the last eight seasons.
Espargaro’s rapid adaptation to the bike has been one of the highlights of testing. The 29-year-old Spaniard has been close to the front throughout, setting an excellent pace during longer runs and riding some very fast one-off laps. His best lap was just over a second quicker than the circuit race lap record.
During the tests he tried new chassis parts, new aerodynamics and experimented with different electronics strategies. No new engine specs are allowed for 2021, according to cost-saving regulations introduced in response to the wider effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Espargaro, who won the 2013 Moto2 World Championship aboard a Honda-powered machine, was happy with his progress. Yesterday he did an excellent long run, with used tyres, and had planned to do a full race simulation today, as well as another time attack. Now, after just four days on a new bike, he can’t wait to start racing.
Nakagami is also more than ready to start his fourth session in the premier class of motorcycle Grand Prix racing and his first with a latest-spec RC213V. He has enjoyed getting to grips with his 2021 machine, which is considerably more powerful than the 2019 bike he raced last season. Today the 29-year-old Japanese and his crew made the most of the conditions by focusing all their efforts on practice starts. MotoGP is so closely contested now that a good getaway from the grid is vital for a good result.
Alex Marquez had already decided not to ride today, following a heavy fall yesterday, in which he sustained a fracture of the fourth metatarsal in his right foot. Nevertheless the 2019 Moto2 World Champion feels he had already covered most of the work he needed to do with his new LCR team and is now hoping he will be close to full fitness for the first race of his second season in the MotoGP class.
It’s still not certain who will be Espargaro’s team-mate at the Qatar GP. Although six-times MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) continues to progress through the final stages of his recovery from injury he has yet to be given the green light to go racing by his doctors. Today his team announced that bone consolidation around the fracture site is going well, so that he can intensify his strength and mobility recovery programme.
In Marquez’s absence Bradl continued to ride the former champion’s bikes at Losail, the 31-year-old German doing a great job of evaluating numerous new solutions to further improve the performance of the RC213V. If Marquez is unable to be present at the first race then Bradl will race in his place, as he did for much of last season.
The season-opening Qatar GP is immediately followed by the Doha GP on April 4. Then the MotoGP paddock returns to Europe, where the race is due to continue with the Portuguese GP at Portimao on April 18.