MotoGP 2021
Round 1

Espargaro finishes Honda debut a very close eighth

qa Losail International Circuit

Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) began his Honda MotoGP career with a respectable eighth-place finish under the Losail floodlights this evening, just 5.990 seconds behind the winner.

Espargaro finishes Honda debut a very close eighth

The 29-year-old Spaniard went into the race following the shortest period of pre-season testing in several decades, which left him with just four days to get to know his RC213V. Therefore he is still very much gathering data and getting the feeling for his new machine. There is no doubt that he will get faster and faster as the 2021 MotoGP World Championship unfolds.

Last night Espargaro qualified 12th, so he did a great job in the race. During the early laps he rode conservatively, getting used to racing the RC213V with a full fuel tank, then he pushed hard to join the leading pack during the final stages, riding less than three tenths of a second slower than the winner to take the chequered flag only 4.861 seconds off a podium finish. And all this in spite of strong winds which made riding particularly tricky.

Next Sunday the former Moto2 World Champion will use everything he learned this weekend to get even closer to the winner in the Doha Grand Prix, also at Losail.

HRC test rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) once again substituted for Honda’s six-times MotoGP king Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who is still recovering from the arm injury he sustained last season. The 31-year-old German finished 11th, one second outside one of the closest top tens in MotoGP history.

Like his team-mate Bradl rode a strong race, from 17th on the grid, after losing some time in the early stages when he was a little too conservative with his use of the front tyre. Bradl will be in action on Marquez’s RC213V again next weekend. Marquez is due to have his next medical check-up on Monday April 12. That will decide when the 28-year-old Spaniard makes his return to the MotoGP grid.

This year former GP winner Lucio Cecchinello celebrates 25 years of Lucio Cecchinello Racing, but today’s race wasn’t a great start to those celebrations.

The combination of cooler conditions and strong winds didn’t help Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu Honda RC213V), who crashed out on lap seven on 22. The 29-year-old from Chiba, who is contesting his fourth season in the premier class, was uninjured in the fall.

Team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V) slid off seven laps later, while making an impressive comeback after a difficult start, when he was hit by another rider during the first few corners. Once he found his rhythm after that incident his pace was very promising. The 24-year-old Spaniard was also unhurt in his crash and aims to make amends for this DNF next Sunday.

Pol Espargaro
Pol Espargaro 44
Repsol Honda Team
It has been a race of two halves. The start of the race, honestly, wasn’t good as I took too much time to settle into my pace and then I lost some precious time. In the middle of the race, I was one of the fastest riders and I am happy but also angry because I feel that I could have done better. But it is still just the first race so we have to look at the race from this perspective and I needed to finish the race, a crash would not have been good at all. I have gained a lot of information and now we can go again next weekend in the same place understanding our potential better.

Stefan Bradl 6
Repsol Honda Team
At the end of the day we have done a good first race and I am pleased. I think we suffered a little bit because of qualifying. In the race we were able to run well and fight a lot. At the start of the race, I was maybe a little too conservative with the front tyre, I think Pol was more aggressive during this time and I could have gone with him, but it is better to bring the bike home than take too many risks in the first race. Maybe we could have done a little more and stayed with Pol, which would have been nice, but I am still pleased.

Alex Márquez
Alex Márquez 73
In the end it was not a positive day and I’m sad for the team and everybody who worked so hard this weekend. Honestly, I had a horrific start and I lost a lot of time at the first corner and was also touched at the rear by [Danilo] Petrucci. Then I was in a group and was trying to overtake, but it was difficult to overtake at that point. When I was alone I was in really good shape and in a really good rhythm, but when I caught the people ahead it was so difficult to overtake. I did a small mistake that cost us the race, so I’m very sorry to the team. But I think we’re in good shape and working well and I think next weekend we have another chance to change the situation and do better in the championship.

Takaaki Nakagami
Takaaki Nakagami 30
Of course I’m not happy because I didn’t finish the race. There’s not much to say. I’m really sorry to my team as they worked really hard and yesterday we made a big step and had confidence for today’s race. But in the end I’m not sure as I didn’t make a mistake and the data didn’t show a strange feeling. Anyway the crash was at Turn Nine and we need to understand what happened at that moment. Fortunately I’m okay and we have a few days off to prepare for the next round here in Qatar. Once again, I want to say sorry to all my team, but we have to be strong and think about the next round.

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