Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) enjoyed a strong final Saturday of the 2021 MotoGP season, going fastest in the vital FP4 session and ending qualifying in ninth place, so he will start the last race of the year from the third row of the grid.
Last year at Valencia the 29-year-old from Chiba had one of the strongest rides of his MotoGP career, finishing the Grand Prix of Europe in fourth place, less than a second off the podium. Tomorrow the former Moto2 race winner will do everything in his power to complete his fourth season in the premier class with his first podium result.
Team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) went into this afternoon’s qualifying sessions full of confidence after an impressive performance in the preceding FP4 outing, which he finished in seventh place, less than three tenths of a second off the fastest lap time.
However, the younger Marquez brother was unable to produce that performance over a single lap in Q1. The 25-year-old Spaniard tried everything to fight his way into the Q2 session, only to slide off at the low-speed Turn Two hairpin with a few minutes to go. He will therefore start the race from 19th on the grid.
Marquez’s older brother – six-times MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) – is absent from Valencia this weekend. He sustained a slight head concussion and diplopia in an enduro accident two weeks ago, so he is resting at home.
His team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) had a difficult day today, following a promising final Friday of 2021 which had him second fastest, only one hundredth of a second slower than the best time of the day.
This morning the 30-year-old Spaniard was pushing hard during the final minutes of FP3 when he fell heavily at Turn 13, Valencia’s penultimate corner. Espargaro was battered and bruised in the tumble and was taken to the nearby 9 de Octubre hospital to undergo further checks.
The hospital has confirmed that Espargaro sustained no fractures in the fall, but he took a heavy impact to his right ribs, which is causing him a lot of pain. He will rest, take painkillers and reassess the situation tomorrow morning.
Although tomorrow’s race is the final race of the season, riders and teams get little chance to rest and recuperate. Testing for the 2022 season commences at Jerez, Spain, a 720km/450-mile drive to the southwest of Valencia, for a two-day test on 18th and 19th November.