Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) stormed the podium at Misano today, with Marquez taking his third victory of 2021, also his second in a row, and Espargaro chasing his team-mate over the finish line in second for his first MotoGP podium with Honda. Therefore this was the first time the pair enjoyed the post-race podium celebrations together.
This superb result was the culmination of a huge amount of work by the Repsol Honda Team and Honda, following a difficult period that started when Honda’s six-times MotoGP World Champion broke an arm at Jerez in July 2020, which put him out of action for nine months.
Marquez returned to racing at April’s Portuguese GP, with his right arm and shoulder still far from full strength and causing him problems, especially in right-handers. Therefore the heroic 28-year-old Spaniard scored his first win since his comeback at June’s German GP at anti-clockwise Sachsenring and his second at the anti-clockwise Circuit of the Americas earlier this month.
Today’s victory was his first at a clockwise circuit since the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi, almost two years ago, underlining the fact that he is now very close to full strength, so he can look forward to battling for the 2022 MotoGP World Championship.
Marquez qualified on the third row of the grid yesterday and immediately went on the attack in the race, completing the first lap in third place and moving to second on lap four when Jack Miller (Ducati) crashed in front of him. After that he shadowed leader and title-hopeful Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati).
He never gave up the pressure on Bagnaia, until in the closing stages when it seemed that his still-not-100% right arm and shoulder had had enough and he lost a few tenths to his Italian rival. Then Bagnaia slid off at the same corner that had claimed Miller, leaving Marquez the clear leader.
At the chequered flag Marquez was 4.859 seconds ahead of Espargaro, who was delighted with his first podium aboard an RC213V. The former Moto2 World Champion has been building towards this result all year. He didn’t have an easy time at the first few races, because the pandemic limited pre-season testing, so he had to get accustomed to the RC213V race by race.
Espargaro made his first breakthrough after MotoGP’s mid-season summer break, when he took pole position at August’s British GP and led the race for several lap.
Today’s result followed a valuable two-day test here at Misano following last month’s San Marino GP at the track. His crew made significant improvements to his machine set-up, especially in terms of improving rear grip, which has helped Espargaro extract the maximum from his RC213V over race distance.
Fifth after the first lap he fought his way forward, moving into third when Miller fell and holding his place despite intense pressure from rivals. This result gives Espargaro huge motivation for the final two races of 2021, at Algarve International Circuit and Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
While the Repsol Honda team celebrated its best day of 2021, Honda’s other two MotoGP riders didn’t have a great race day at Misano.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) started well, by topping morning warm-up, but this hasn’t been an easy weekend for anyone, with rain and cold temperatures dominating Friday and Saturday, robbing riders and teams of valuable set-up time.
Nakagami was one of many riders who didn’t have a great time in yesterday’s grim conditions. The 29-year-old from Chiba qualified 17th fastest, leaving him with a lot of work to do in the 27-lap race. Fifteenth at the end of the first lap he started moving forward and passing rivals, aiming to make his way into the top ten, until he fell on lap nine.
Luckily Nakagami was able to remount and continue the race, even though there was little chance of scoring any points. In the end his persistence paid off. There were numerous tumbles in the race, but no injuries, which put the former Moto2 race winner 15th at the finish, for the last World Championship point.
Team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) also had a challenging Saturday, qualifying 14th quickest. And he had a tough start to today’s race, placing 17th at the end of the first lap. However, the 25-year-old Spaniard was undaunted and began fighting through the pack in superb style, moving up to 12th by one-third distance, when he was forced to stop due to a minor technical glitch.
The 2021 MotoGP World Championship was won today by Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), France’s first premier-class king, with two races still to go, next month’s Algarve and Valencia GPs.