Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) achieved his best qualifying performance of the year at Assen today, riding the fourth fastest lap to put him at the head of the second row for tomorrow’s Dutch TT, the ninth race of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship.
The 29-year-old from Chiba moved into third place with seconds remaining of the Q2 session, only to be knocked off the front row by a rival moments later, by just 0.198 seconds. Nonetheless he was happy with his performance, which made him the fastest Independent Team rider, winning him a place in parc fermé, alongside the front-row qualifiers.
Nakagami feels good on his RC213V this weekend and always goes well at Assen, one of MotoGP’s fastest circuits with arguably its most challenging layout. Five years ago he won the Moto2 race at the Dutch TT.
Honda’s other three MotoGP riders – Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V) and six-times MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) – were 11th, 16th and 20th in qualifying.
Espargaro had hopes of a much better performance after showing impressive speed in the first three practice sessions, which he finished third fastest, only three tenths off the fastest rider. The 30-year-old Spaniard used a revised chassis in his RC213V to achieve his best lap in FP3, making him confident of fighting for his best grid position with Honda.
Sadly, qualifying didn’t go the same way, because the former Moto2 World Champion didn’t choose the best front tyre compound for the session. Espargaro says he is still suffering from a “weakness of knowledge” following a lack of preseason testing, due to the global pandemic.
The younger Marquez was the faster of the Marquez brothers at Assen today, with the 16th best lap during qualifying. Lap times are very close as always, but much will depend on who chooses which tyres for the race. Although Assen has been completely resurfaced for 2021, so the asphalt offers a lot of grip, Marquez is still chasing more grip. The 25-year-old Spaniard will make his decision on tyres following tomorrow morning’s warm-up session.
The older Marquez arrived at Assen boosted by a remarkable victory in last Sunday’s German Grand Prix, his first since coming back from the injury that kept him out of racing for nine months. The 28-year-old Spaniard always said this weekend would be more challenging, because unlike Sachsenring this circuit runs clockwise, so it’s more difficult for his still-recovering right arm.
Marquez took a heavy tumble at turn 11 in yesterday’s FP2 session, bouncing back in this morning’s FP3 session, when he was only seven tenths off the fastest times. However, he wasn’t fast enough to go directly through to Q2, so he had to ride in Q1. He was on his best lap when he slid off at turn nine. He will therefore start the 2021 Dutch TT from the seventh row of the grid, with a lot of work to do in the 26-lap race.
Tomorrow’s race is the fourth in five weekends and precedes a five-week mid-season break. The MotoGP paddock reconvenes at Red Bull Ring for the back-to-back Styrian and Austrian Grands Prix on 8th and 15th August. The 2021 MotoGP season is due to conclude at Valencia, Spain, on 14th November.