Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU / Honda RC213V) was Honda’s top finisher in today’s incident-packed Styrian Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring.
The 29-year-old from Chiba took the chequered flag in fifth place, only three seconds away from a podium result in the first race of the second half of the 2021 MotoGP season, following a five-week mid-season break.
The day was difficult for the entire MotoGP grid because the race was red-flagged and restarted following an early collision set two bikes ablaze at Turn Three. The clean-up operation took half an hour, the restart getting underway 40 minutes after the initial start.
Nakagami fought superbly, completing the first lap of the restart in ninth position and then working as hard as ever to keep pushing his RC213V forward at MotoGP’s fastest racetrack.
After getting the better of team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL / Honda RC213V) and other riders the former Moto2 race winner set off after fourth-placed Johann Zarco. Nakagami passed the Frenchman on the last lap but at the same time was overtaken by Brad Binder, putting him fifth at the finish.
Honda’s six-times MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team / Honda RC213V) made a great start in the first race but the restart was more complicated for the 28-year-old Spaniard.
He was tenth after the first lap and slipped back to 13th before getting into the groove and steadily moving forward to an eventual eighth place, despite a rear tyre that didn’t give him the same level of performance as the tyre he had used in the initial start.
The younger Marquez brother enjoyed his battle with Nakagami and then had his big brother come past, spending the last ten laps giving chase to his more experienced sibling. His ninth place was his second-best dry-race result of 2021, following his eighth place at April’s Portuguese GP. He finished May’s rain-affected French GP in sixth.
Today was the 250th Grand Prix start for Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team / Honda RC213V), who made his GP debut in the 2006 125cc Catalan GP. However, this wasn’t a great day for the 30-year-old Spaniard.
Espargaro started the race from 16th on the grid, hoping that his better race pace would help move him towards the top ten. Sadly, it was not to be. The former Moto2 World Champion climbed as high as 13th and would surely have kept moving forward, but he was given a long-lap penalty for exceeding track limits. The sanction dropped him to 17th and he only had time to make one more pass – to 16th – before the end of the race.
Espargaro took the restart using the same rear tyre he had used in the first start. He believes that putting the tyre through extra heat cycles affected it, reducing grip and increasing wheelspin that slowed him during acceleration.
Honda’s four RC213V riders will learn from today’s race and put that knowledge to use when the Austrian Grand Prix commences here on Friday. After the Austrian round the MotoGP paddock will head northwest to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.