Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) was the best of Honda’s RC213V riders in today’s qualifying sessions for tomorrow’s Catalan Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old Spaniard will start the ninth round of 2022 from tenth of the grid, after riding in some of the most punishing conditions of the year so far.
Espargaro, born and raised in nearby Granollers, recovered from a tricky start to the day to go straight through to the Q2 qualifier. He suffered a minor fall at Turn Five in FP3 but dug deep to set the eighth best time of the session, earning him an automatic place in Q2.
The stiflingly hot conditions and low grip offered by the track surface have been a big talking point in pit lane. Track temperatures of 58 degrees greeted riders for MotoGP qualifying, reducing grip. Finding adequate rear traction has been a high priority for all riders throughout the last two days.
While the 2013 Moto2 World Champion was hopeful of qualifying further ahead, he was pleased with his race rhythm in yesterday afternoon’s FP2 outing. Braking from top speed into Turn One was Espargaro’s biggest challenge today. However, he is confident that his Repsol Honda crew can find a solution which should help him to be back in the battle for a podium finish.
Espargaro will share the fourth row with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V), who will start from 12th, after he came through to Q2 from Q1.
It’s been a busy weekend for the 30-year-old from Chiba. With Honda’s six-times MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V)currently recovering from a successful operation on his right arm in the USA, Nakagami has been tasked with testing new chassis and swingarm parts that were used by Marquez in last week’s Italian GP.
Initially, he struggled to record competitive times in the soaring afternoon temperatures. But a crucial set-up change by his LCR Honda crew during FP4 improved Nakagami’s pace as he aims to score a fourth consecutive top-eight result. The two-times Moto2 Grand Prix race winner went on to place second in Q1 before posting the 12th fastest time in Q2. Had he not run into traffic in the final sector, he is confident he could have qualified even higher.
It has been a weekend of adaptation for HRC test rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who is making his third race appearance of 2022, deputising for Marc Marquez. The 32-year-old German qualified 21st after a tight, competitive Q1 session.
Bradl has enjoyed a solid weekend. Despite a Turn Five crash in Friday afternoon’s FP2, he made no mistakes today and is building speed in his first race appearance since the Spanish GP in early May.
Today was a tough day for Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V), who was unable to participate in qualifying after suffering a fast crash at the end of FP4. The 26-year-old lost the front at the Circuit of Barcelona–Catalunya’s final corner and was taken to the medical centre to check his condition after a fast trip through the gravel.
Aside from grazes to his arms and back, Marquez was largely OK. The double World Champion, who hails from Cervera, just an hour’s ride from the circuit, counts his home track among his favourites. He has won here three times in the past (once in Moto3, twice in Moto2) so despite starting tomorrow’s race from 25th, he is hopeful of climbing the order to finish in the points in the 24-lap race.
After tomorrow’s racing teams and riders have next weekend off before back-to-back races at the German and Dutch GPs on June 19 and June 26. The season concludes at Valencia, Spain, on November 6.