Honda’s four MotoGP riders race their all-new 2022 RC213V machines in Indonesia on Sunday after a hugely promising debut outing in the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix two weeks ago.
Despite the shortest pre-season testing programme in several decades, Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) led most of the Qatar GP, finishing a very close third, while Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) rode with the lead group, finally crossing the line in fifth, only 4.099 seconds behind the winner.
Since then the riders, the Repsol Honda crew and HRC engineers have been using the data and information gathered from the bike’s first race to further increase performance for upcoming races, starting with this weekend’s first-ever MotoGP event at the brand-new Mandalika circuit on the Indonesian island of Lombok.
Espargaro and Marquez have much to live up to this weekend. Previously there have only been two Indonesian Grands Prix, both won by Repsol Honda riders: Mick Doohan in 1996 and Tadayuki Okada in 1997. Those races were staged at the Sentul circuit, near the capital, Jakarta.
Before travelling to Lombok this week, Espargaro, Marquez, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) took part in a spectacular MotoGP parade through Jakarta.
Indonesia is crazy about motorcycles and the nation’s two-wheel fans include Prime Minister Joko Widodo, who led the parade, which also featured other MotoGP riders, Indonesian Moto3 World Championship rookie Mario Suryo Aji (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) and countryman Veda Ega Pratama (IDEMITSU Asia Talent Cup).
Espargaro can’t wait to start riding at Mandalika when practice gets underway on Friday morning, because he topped last month’s pre-season tests at the track. The 30-year-old Spaniard enjoyed the layout of the new circuit, completed last year, and believes the new RC213V can run at the front in the second race of the 21-round 2022 MotoGP World Championship.
This is Espargaro’s second MotoGP season with Honda. Last year he scored one podium finish and one pole position aboard the 2021 RC213V and is already confident he can achieve much more with the latest machine. Previous versions of the RC213V have won seven MotoGP Constructors World Championships, since its launch in 2012.
The most successful RC213V rider so far is Marquez, who has won 59 MotoGP races and six MotoGP Riders World Championships with various iterations of the machine.
Marquez won the premier-class title for the first time in his rookie season and he’s now taking aim at a seventh crown in his tenth season in the category. He is already the most successful Honda rider of all time, with five more victories than former Repsol Honda star Dani Pedrosa and five-times 500cc World Champion Doohan.
The 29-year-old Spaniard was happy with his fifth place in the Qatar GP, for which both him and his team-mate took the safe option on tyres, choosing the soft-option front and rear, which worked well but left them short of grip in the all-important final laps. Most importantly, Marquez rode the whole weekend at full strength and with no pain, a huge improvement after two seasons hampered by injury.
Like his team-mate, Marquez knows that the 2022 Honda challenge will grow in strength as its riders and engineers learn more about the RC213V, which focuses its performance on the rear tyre, according to the latest rubber provided by MotoGP tyre suppliers Michelin.
Marquez was also fast at the Mandalika tests, only four tenths off Espargaro, even though he didn’t make a time attack on the final day, because he wanted to rest his body. Marquez spent several months during the winter recovering from an eye injury, so he was still building strength during testing, because he hadn’t been able to do his usual off-season physical training.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) had a positive start to his fifth season in MotoGP with a tenth-place finish in Qatar, just behind reigning MotoGP World Champion Fabio Quartararo. Of course, the 30-year-old from Chiba was hoping for a better result, but his race was compromised by a tricky qualifying session and most importantly he sees huge potential in the new RC213V, which he will unlock race by race.
Team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) is also enjoying the performance of the latest RC213V. The 25-year-old Spaniard was just ahead of Nakagami in Qatar when he slid off unharmed. The younger Marquez brother already has plenty of ideas to squeeze more speed out of his RC213V, which he will use this weekend.
The 4.3km/2.68-mile Mandalika circuit, constructed on Lombok, Bali’s neighbouring island, is full of different challenges for riders and engineers, with 17 corners, some of them taken at very high speed, and a 0.507km/0.3-mile start/finish straight, which is almost exactly half the length of the start/finish at Losail, Qatar. The track has been partially resurfaced following last month’s pre-season tests.
Honda’s four MotoGP riders are all striving to continue Honda’s record-breaking performances in motorcycle Grand Prix racing, which go all the way back to its first victories in the early 1960s. The company has been the dominant force in MotoGP’s modern four-stroke era, with its three different machines, the RC211V (seven riders/constructors titles), the RC212V (two titles) and the RC213V (13 titles).
So far Honda have won a total of 21 riders and 25 constructors championships in the premier class, both all-time records.
After Sunday’s racing, MotoGP continues its globetrotting start to the 2022 season by heading to Argentina and the United States for rounds three and four, on April 3 and April 10. The European sector of the championship commences with the Portuguese and Spanish rounds on April 24 and May. The season concludes at Valencia, Spain, on November 6.