MotoGP 2021
Round 1

Espargaro all set for his Honda MotoGP debut

qa Losail International Circuit

Honda’s latest MotoGP signing Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) had a challenging day at Losail today, qualifying 12th fastest for tomorrow’s season-opening Qatar Grand Prix.

Espargaro all set for his Honda MotoGP debut

The 29-year-old Spaniard will therefore line up on the fourth row of the grid for his first race aboard his RC213V, the winner of seven of the last nine MotoGP Constructors World Championships. Next to him will be Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu Honda RC213V), who was 11th quickest.

In the Moto3 category Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) took a superb pole position in his first race weekend on the NSF250RW,

Before MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 qualifying got underway today the Honda-supported Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup had its first race of the year here at Losail. Japanese riders dominated the top two steps of the podium in the NSF250R race, with 16-year-old Taiyo Furusato bettering 15-year-old Gun Mie. Third place went to 13-year-old Malaysian Hakim Danish.

Espargaro had high hopes of a better performance today, after setting a strong pace during free practice, when he was just half a second behind the fastest rider. However, this is only his first race weekend with the RC213V and he lost his way somewhat in FP4 while evaluating different settings and tyres. This is entirely normal during the early stages of a rider’s relationship with a new machine. He will learn from today and is confident he can be in the mix in the race.

Riders and teams will keep an anxious eye on the weather tomorrow, because wind gusts of up to 50kmh/30mph are forecast. Strong winds are obviously a hazard, especially at Losail where sand gets blown onto the track, reducing grip.

Eleventh-fastest Nakagami is starting his fourth season in MotoGP and his first with latest-spec RC213V machinery. The 29-year-old from Chiba topped today’s Q1 session, riding his fastest-ever lap around Losail, to graduate into Q2 but he wasn’t quite able to repeat his speed in his second qualifying outing. Despite this the former Moto2 race winner is confident about the race, because he felt very confident during FP4, during which riders use race set-ups to work on their race pace.

This is a landmark season for the LCR team, which celebrates its 25th year in World Championship racing.

Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V) was 12th in free practice, only two tenths of a second from putting himself directly into Q2. In qualifying the 24-year-old Spaniard had to be happy with 16th. The 2019 Moto2 World Champion is regaining confidence after several falls during preseason testing. Like Nakagami he felt very good in the all-important FP4 and is looking forward to starting his second year in MotoGP.

Stefan Brad (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) qualified 17th, one place behind Marquez, so the two will start the race side by side from the sixth row. The HRC test rider once again takes the place of six-times MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) who continues his rehabilitation from the broken arm he suffered last year. The 28-year-old Spaniard will undergo his next medical check ? to determine his comeback ? on April 12.

Takaaki Nakagami
Takaaki Nakagami 30
We made a big step from yesterday, so I’m quite happy about this. Q1 was tough, so I tried my best and on my last lap I made quite a good lap time – 53.5 – which is my best time here at Losail. That was really positive. The feeling on the bike was pretty good in FP4, which is the race-pace session, so it’s important for the race and I had good confidence with the bike. As always I will do my best to the end. If we can do 54s to the end of the race then we have the chance to get a great result, so I will try to get a good start, make no mistakes and get a good result. 

Pol Espargaro
Pol Espargaro 44
Repsol Honda Team
At the end our feeling was good but during the day we were looking for solutions, this can happen when you are still new to a bike. FP4 was not a good session and we were working on stopping the bike better. But we reset, tomorrow we go again, no matter what, and we fight. I think we can be there in the race. It was not a good day today, but I feel ready for a good race. We need to have a good warm-up, but I have the feeling it will be a good race and I am going to go for it. 

Alex Márquez
Alex Márquez 73
Honestly in general it’s been a really positive day again. We have improved coming from a difficult test with many crashes and now we have good confidence again, which feels really, really good. In FP4 we did a really good job and in qualifying I did a 53 for the first time here, but there are so many riders who are very fast in a one-lap time attack. We have improved this from last year, when it was one of our weakest points. In general we can be happy for the race – but the weather forecast look likes the weather could be difficult, so we will see how it will be and adapt. 

Stefan Bradl 6
Repsol Honda Team
We have had a busy day today and made some more progress. In free practice 3 and 4 I was feeling quite good, and our race pace is looking better than where we have qualified. There is still some more performance to gain over one lap with a new tyre. No matter what, we will keep improving during warm-up and fight forward in the race to gain as many positions as possible. The season has just started. 

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