MotoGP 2022
Round 1

Espargaro And New RC213V Take Superb Debut Podium in Qatar

qa Lusail International Circuit

Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) rode an incredible race under the floodlights at Losail tonight, taking Honda’s all-new RC213V to a dream podium finish in its very first competitive outing.

Espargaro And New RC213V Take Superb Debut Podium in Qatar

Team-mate Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) was also in the podium hunt for much of the 22 laps, finally taking the chequered flag in fifth place, less than three seconds outside the top three and only 4.099 seconds behind the winner, a deficit of less than two tenths of a second per lap.

The first few laps of this race – the fastest-ever Qatar Grand Prix – were spectacular for Repsol Honda, with Espargaro and Marquez running first and second for five laps. Last year the pair scored their first one-two at October’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Misano, when Marquez led Espargaro over the finish line.

Tonight’s result was huge for Honda, which has had a challenging time since Marquez got injured at the start of the 2020 season. The result also proves that Honda has two riders who can compete for MotoGP race wins and for the championship.

Honda has so far won a record-breaking 21 MotoGP Riders Championships and 25 MotoGP Constructors Championships. The RC213V has already had huge successes in its previous form: six riders crowns with Marquez and seven constructors crowns.

This was Espargaro’s second podium with Honda, after joining Repsol Honda last season, during which he scored his first pole position and first podium on an RC213V.

Honda engineers have been working on this fully redesigned RC213V since last year. The new machine changes the emphasis of balance from the front of the bike to the rear, in concert with MotoGP’s latest race slicks, created for the entire grid by Michelin.

Espargaro especially likes the new RC213V because it allows him to aggressively attack corners, using the rear of the bike, with its rear brake and electronic engine-braking system. And he knows that this is only the beginning, with so much data and information gained from this first race outing.

The 30-year-old Spaniard’s performance was especially impressive considering that he chose soft front and rear tyres. These gave a performance advantage in the early stages but later he had to deal with wheelspin exiting corners, because the rear tyre was past its best.

Espargaro now has more than one week to analyse today’s data before racing the new RC213V for the second time in the Indonesian Grand Prix at the new Mandalika circuit.

Marquez chose the same soft front/rear tyre combination and was also stronger in the first half of the race. The six-times MotoGP king held third until just before one-third distance. From that point of the race he worked hard to defend his position and seemed to have the situation under control until lap 17, when he ran slightly wide into Turn 1 at the end of the 345kmh/214mph start/finish straight.

The 29-year-old Spaniard admitted before the race that he didn’t think he quite had the pace to fight for the podium, so he wasn’t too disappointed with the result. Like his team-mate, his main concern was that he had gathered a full race’s worth of information and data, which he can work with to improve overall performance for the next race and beyond.

Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) finished his first race on the new RC213V in tenth place, his result somewhat compromised by a difficult qualifying session yesterday, when he actually found he had too much rear grip with a new soft rear slick.

Tonight the 30-year-old from Chiba came through from 13th at the end of the first lap, at a track where overtaking isn’t easy. His speed was good, putting him less than 15 seconds behind the winner at the chequered flag, despite the challenge of racing in the middle of the pack.

All four Honda’s RC213V riders are still learning this very different machine. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) is working hard to improve his front-end feeling with the bike. The 25-year-old Spaniard fell twice on Friday and Saturday and slid off again during the race, while fighting to get inside the top ten. The former Moto2 World Champion will learn from this and move forward for the next race at Mandalika.

Mandalika, on Indonesia’s Lombok Island, will host the country’s first GP in a quarter of a century on March 20. Riders and teams tested at the all-new circuit last month, so they will go into the race weekend with plenty of data. The MotoGP paddock then moves to Argentina and the USA before commencing the European sector of the championship in Portugal in April.

Pol Espargaro
Pol Espargaro 44
Repsol Honda Team
It’s a great way to start the year, we made an incredible start and we were able to lead most of the race. Honestly speaking, we were not expecting a race like this and with the pace we had so at the end we were really on the limit. It’s an incredible feeling so start the year like this, of course I am disappointed that when Bastianini passed me I got sucked into the slipstream and I ran wide, dropping to third. But still we have to be pleased to start the year like this at a track where I normally do not go well at and in the past has not been the best track for Honda. I wanted to show my potential and today I was able to do it. Much of the glory today has to go to Honda, for all their hard work over the winter in Japan to build this new bike and allowing me to show my true potential.

Marc Márquez
Marc Márquez 93
Repsol Honda Team
Honestly speaking the pace today was just too fast, the speed coming from Pol and the guys at the front were amazing. I did my maximum today and managed everything we had to, it’s the start of a new season and I thought to start with a top five is good for today. Today was not our day as I was struggling with the front tyre, so we kept calm. Of course we need to keep working. I am happy for Pol and really happy for Honda HRC, this result shows all the work they have been doing and the potential of this new bike.

Takaaki Nakagami
Takaaki Nakagami 30
I started from P16 and made an amazing start. By Turn 1 I was in a good position. Then in sector one and sector two I just lost my line a little and lost positions, but the beginning of the race was good. During the race, I saw a couple of riders crash in front of me, so I just tried to stay calm and make sure I finished. We had good pace, the same as in FP4. I’m quite pleased, it was a little bit difficult on Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday we finished in the top ten and I’m happy to see the team smiling. I want to thank all of them. We’ll work really hard to improve our potential in Indonesia.

Alex Márquez
Alex Márquez 73
The objective today was just to finish the race. After the difficult time we had in qualifying it was important to finish and build up a base. We made a change today from qualifying and the feeling was great. I made a really good start and was able to move up into 11th or 12th on the first lap and I was going well and being realistic with my pace. But then I had a really strange crash at the first corner, after the straight. I suddenly locked the front. We need to analyse what happened exactly but in my opinion I didn’t make a mistake. I saw some smoke coming out of [Miguel] Oliveira’s bike the lap before my crash, but I’m not really sure what happened. I want to say sorry to my team, I gave my best, but as I said, my objective was to finish the race and we didn’t achieve it. I’m happy about how Sunday went until the crash, specially how the feeling with the bike came back. Our eyes are on Mandalika now and having a good weekend there.

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