MotoGP 2021
Round 2

Honda riders believe much better is to come in 2021

qa Losail International Circuit

Honda’s four MotoGP riders completed a challenging second weekend in Qatar today. Although their results were not of the usual quality they believe much better is to come when they commence the European sector of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship, starting with the Portuguese Grand Prix on April 18

Honda riders believe much better is to come in 2021

Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) started the 22-lap race with high hopes of improving on the eighth place he achieved last Sunday in his Honda MotoGP debut, only 5.990 seconds behind the winner.

However, the 29-year-old Spaniard was out of luck this evening, when his impressive charge towards the front was spoiled by two minor errors, the first while braking at the end of the 353kmh/219mph start/finish straight.

Espargaro eventually took the chequered flag in 13th place, just 6.063 seconds behind the winner. Without the few seconds he lost through his mistakes the 2013 Moto2 World Champion would surely have pushed towards the podium. His lap times during the middle stages of the race were as fast as the leaders, which gives him confidence for the upcoming events.

MotoGP has never been closer and more competitive than it is at the moment. Indeed today’s race finished with the closest top-ten and closest top-15 finish in 73 years of MotoGP racing – 5.382 seconds and 8.928 seconds respectively.

One of the main issues that Espargaro and his fellow RC213V riders faced at Losail was the selection of front tyre compounds, none of which really suited the RC213V. Honda’s MotoGP machine – which has won six of the last eight MotoGP Constructors World Championship – is particularly strong in attacking corners. Without a suitably harder front tyre available for Losail all four Honda riders weren’t able to exploit this technical advantage.

Nevertheless Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) had an excellent ride, finishing less than half a second behind his team-mate. The 31-year-old German came through the pack strongly after making a poor start and completing the first lap down in 18th position. Bradl is HRC’s test rider, who is currently substituting for Honda’s six times MotoGP Riders World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who has been out of action since last July, when he broke his right arm during the Spanish GP.

Marquez has since undergone three operations on the injury, requiring a lengthy recuperation. The 28-year-old Spaniard was hoping to ride at the opening two races of 2021 but was advised by his medical team to wait a little longer. Marquez is expected to have his next medical check-up on April 12. This investigation should decide when he is ready to race again.

Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) finished two places outside the World Championship points in 17th. The 29-year-old from Chiba tumbled out of last Sunday’s race, so he was determined to see the finish tonight. Nakagami ran the soft option front like all but four of the 22 riders on the grid and soon ran short of grip, so he struggled to maintain consistent lap times and merely focused on finishing the race.

Team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V) had another DNF but knows that the conditions here in Qatar are unique and that when he arrives at the Algarve International Circuit for the third race of 2021 he should be in much better shape. The 24-year-old Spaniard lost the front and fell shortly after half-distance.

Both Nakagami and Marquez were unhurt.

MotoGP today completed 11 days of action at Losail – five days of pre-season testing and six days of practice, qualifying and racing. The paddock now leaves the Middle East and heads to southern Europe, where the Portuguese Grand Prix will be followed by the Spanish GP at Jerez on May 2. The season is due to conclude at Valencia, Spain, on November 14.

Pol Espargaro
Pol Espargaro 44
Repsol Honda Team
This race we once again showed that our potentially is incredibly high, our pace was really strong especially during the middle and the end of the race, but I made two big mistakes which ruined our chances. We could have been fighting for a lot more, especially without the second error. We have again been able to finish close to the winner despite this, but I am left wondering what could have been. These two races have both shown that our potential on the Honda is very, very high but we still need to work on a couple of things including qualifying. There’s more to come, we will try again in Portimao.

Stefan Bradl 6
Repsol Honda Team
The first thing I did when I came back to the garage was to apologise for the start, it was my mistake. It’s a problem I have never had in my career before and it’s very unfortunate because here we lost probably two seconds. After this big mistake our pace was very good, and I was able to catch the group and ride aggressively. I am quite angry because I was riding well and if it weren’t for the start, we could have been even closer and fighting for higher positions. In the end it is what it is. Now MotoGP returns to Europe and I am sure we will see Honda stronger there again.

Takaaki Nakagami
Takaaki Nakagami 30
Well, it was a tough day again. The beginning was ok, but after seven or eight laps I felt a drop with the front tyre which then made it really difficult to hold on to the bike and especially in turning. We had a lot of struggles during the race and then I found it difficult to keep the lap time and stay on the bike. Of course, we are not happy about this position. However, last weekend I had a crash and today we finished the race and we have to think about it positively. We have gathered a lot of data here in Qatar and now we look forward to the next race in Portimao.

Alex Márquez
Alex Márquez 73
Second race here in Qatar and it ended not in the way we wanted. I made a small mistake on turn 14 and I lost my front tyre which is hard for the team as I was trying to make a good race. I was a little bit inside in the corner. Anyway, not easy days for us here in Qatar, but I think we are there, we are competitive, we are constant… Now, it is time to improve, to learn … I don’t want to say any excuses. I will be more competitive and stronger in Portimao.

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