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.
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.