Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) achieved his second-best qualifying result of the year at Misano today, snatching a second-row start in the final moments of the 15-minute Q2 qualifying session.
The man he knocked off row two was team-mate Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who briefly led the session and will lead the third row of the grid tomorrow afternoon. Just 0.012 seconds separate the pair on the eve of the San Marino Grand Prix.
Espargaro’s final lap put him sixth fastest, eight tenths of a second off pole. Two races ago, at last month’s British Grand Prix, the 30-year-old Spaniard scored his first pole position aboard his RC213V and went on to lead the race.
Tomorrow he will do everything he can to get himself into the battle for a first podium finish with Honda, but he isn’t sure he has the pace to run that close to the front.
However, anything could happen in the 14th round of this year’s 18-race MotoGP World Championship, because latest weather forecasts predict rainfall at race time.
Marquez rode as hard as only he knows how today, despite pain and discomfort from his right arm and shoulder, which are still recovering from injury and subsequent surgeries last year. The arm and shoulder are a particular issue here at Misano, which features a series of four consecutive right-hand corners that demand so much from that side of the body.
The 28-year-old Spaniard slid off at low speed in free practice, then fell again in qualifying while chasing the pole-position man, searching for an even better grid position.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) fell in the Q1 session, while struggling to find a front-tyre compound that ideally suits him – the medium option is a bit too soft for his liking and the hard a bit too hard. He will start from 13th on the grid, most likely choosing the medium for the race, because it gives him more feeling when he’s attacking corners.
The 29-year-old from Chiba and his crew focused their attention on maximising the turning performance of their RC213V, because Misano features many tight corners and changes of direction.
HRC test rider Stefan Bradl (Team Honda HRC Honda RC213V) was the next best RC213V in 18th, making a wildcard appearance at the track where all teams will attend a two-day test session next week. The 31-year-old German is doing important development work for HRC here, working hard to find a good direction for the 2022 season.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) ended qualifying one place further back, only 0.037 seconds behind Brad. The 25-year-old Spaniard will therefore lead the seventh row of the grid.
The former Moto2 and Moto3 World Champion made good progress in the FP4 session and was close to going through to the Q2 qualifier but his best lap was cancelled, due to yellow warning flags, displayed after another rider had fallen. His focus for the morning warm-up session will be improving his speed through the track’s final sector.
Just four races remain after tomorrow’s racing： the Grand Prix of the Americas, the Emilia Romagna GP here at Misano, the Algarve GP the Valencia GP.