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.
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.