HRC test-rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) will lead the Honda charge in tomorrow’s Doha Grand Prix.
The 31-year-old German, who is substituting for injured six-times MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), will start the race from the fourth row of the grid.
This weekend’s action at Losail follows last Sunday’s season-opening Qatar Grand Prix at the track. Back-to-back races at the same venues are a current feature of MotoGP because they allow more racing at a time when traveling and logistics are hugely complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Track conditions were tricky today, with strong winds blowing sand from the surrounding desert onto the racetrack, reducing grip and slowing lap times by several tenths of a second.
Bradl’s best lap puts him 11th on the grid, 1.118 seconds off pole position. Close behind the 2011 Moto2 World Champion in 14th, 15th and 16th will be Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V), Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu Honda RC213V), who all struggled to get the maximum out of their machinery.
The main issue for Honda riders at Losail is the front tire allocation, which doesn’t allow the RC213V to exploit its terrific corner-entry performance, especially in qualifying. That’s why Honda’s MotoGP riders are looking forward to the upcoming races in Europe, where the tire allocations should be more suitable.
The younger Marquez brother did everything in his power to achieve a better grid position, but his hopes were largely dashed in yesterday’s FP2 outing, when the goal was to be among the ten fastest riders, who go directly through to the Q2 qualifier. The 24-year-old Spaniard had a good pace in free practice but found setting one-off fast laps more difficult – at the end of FP2 he slid off while pushing for the top ten.
Espargaro had a great debut race on the RC213V last Sunday. He crossed the line in the eighth place, 5.990 seconds behind the winner, after losing 3.861 seconds in the first two laps. Thus his race pace was fast enough to compete for a podium finish.
This weekend Espargaro once again has a strong pace – he was inside the top ten in the third of the first three practice sessions – but he was unable to find the extra speed to achieve a better grid position. Starting from the fifth row won’t make it easy to race for a top-three result tomorrow but the 29-year-old Spaniard believes the race will be kinder to him than qualifying and he will certainly give everything he’s got.
Nakagami wasn’t satisfied with his performance in qualifying and, like his fellow RC213V riders, he looks forward to being able to perform better at the upcoming racetracks. The 29-year-old from Chiba will start from the sixth row of the grid, aiming for his first World Championship points of 2021.
The older Marquez brother will undergo his next medical check on April 12, which will determine when he will be able to return to action. The 28-year-Spaniard, who rode the RC213V to the 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 MotoGP titles, suffered a broken upper-right arm at Jerez last July. He has had three operations to treat the injury and returned to riding – aboard an RC213V-S streetbike – last month. However, medical experts advised him to miss the first two races of 2021 to ensure he is in better shape to race.
Following the first two races of the 2021 MotoGP campaign the paddock leaves Qatar and flies to Europe to get ready for the European sector of the championship, which begins with the Portuguese GP at the Algarve International Circuit on April 18.