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MotoGP Mandalika: Espargaro ‘ready to fight for the victory’

After topping preseason testing at Mandalika and leading the majority of 2022’s opening race, Pol Espargaro is sitting favourite for the IndonesianGP.

While the Repsol Honda rider missed out on the top step in the closing stages of Qatar’s stunning showcase, Espargaro is confident, if a little reserved on his prospects for this weekend.

“Overall, I'm very happy how the preseason has gone but it's difficult to expect something [based] on the preseason,” he explained from Lombok. “After, when you go on the first race of the year, there is a lot of nerves going on, a lot of things happening that you didn't feel since a long time, since the last race in Valencia, so I was pretty nervous.


“When you set up a high target on the preseason, then you cannot do something less, you want the maximum.

“I start the race in a very good mood. I set up a good rhythm, I could start to do very good lap times. The race was super fast, much more than last year and this shows the performance of the bike that Honda has been working so much during the preseason. Thanks to that I was able to fight for the victory of the race till the last five laps. Enea put the turbo on and my wheels say ‘enough’ for the race and I couldn't handle it. But anyway, at the end I enjoy so much the race and it was a good way to start the year.

“The race was very, very fast,” he reflected. “We were checking before how fast was the race and compared to my race last year, I was 20 seconds faster than the first race last year and 16 faster than the second race, already racing twice there. The pace was crazy! Honestly, speaking, we were not expecting this kind of race.

“I wasn't expecting to break the race as fast as I did, to set up a race pace as fast as it was. We were expecting a race with at least five/six riders overtaking each lap twice. But finally I was completely alone pushing, it went into the rail, everyone behind the other pushing on the limit every lap.

“As we were not expecting this kind of race, I was not expecting this kind of rhythm, we were not expecting the end of life of the rear soft tyres would arrive so early and so badly. At the end, we choose this because it was the first race of the year. Many things can go wrong. We could choose for example, the front medium as well which Brad [Binder] choose it and I think it could be a little bit better but I didn't want to take risk. This was the safer option. I know with these tyres, I was very fast so we put it on and at the end, okay without going wide, maybe I could finish second but no question mark this was one of the races I was looking for since a long time. So yeah, I'm happy already.”

His dominant display in both Doha and during testing on the last visit to Lombok, leaves Espargaro bookies favourite for the celebrations this time out.

“No pressure!’ he joked. “It was good in the preseason here. I enjoyed this place, even if the heat was not easy to handle three days of testing here. But you know, I was not the only fast here, Enea was very fast. Marc was very fast. Fabio was really fast. The Ducatis were not super, super fast, the factory guys but sure they are going to be after solve the problems in Qatar race.

“I expect is going to be a tight race, everyone is going to be there and hopefully we can be there as well, same in Qatar and fight for something great.

“The knowledge we have on the track it's already quite a lot. So we know that for sure the gearbox which already is something important, all the power, electronics more or less, but for sure talking about tyre allocation, tyre durability, this we need to start from zero. Especially because there is different cases on the tyres, different rubbers and the track has been re-asphalt in many corners. So it's true that what we have done on the test is useful to learn the track but for sure about all the other things, we need to start from zero.

“That's why I don't know what to expect about this weekend, even if the test was good there is many guys on the list to winning the race, not just myself and hopefully we can adapt to these conditions good as it was on the test.”

Espargaro was among the 20-rider parade through Jakarta that welcomed the championship to Indonesia on Wednesday. With a presidential welcome at the Merdeka palace and fans lining the streets for the 4km route.

“It's like feeling like a rock star!” the Spaniard admitted. “We could feel what it feels like. Honestly, it's amazing to go into places like these ones, where you can show what you love, which is motorcycles, to the people that also love your sport and you are at the highest level. It's something crazy, it's difficult to explain. Going on the Jakarta roads full of people surrounding us, with a lot of motorbikes behind, a lot of fans following us in motorbikes. The President, a huge fan of motorsport with his own custom bike. It's something like going back in time in Spain, in old times where I remember I was going with my father on the races to see [Alex] Crivillé. Sleeping on the racetracks, just full of passion and it's so beautiful, people really love it.”


His second season in Repsol colours marks Espargaro’s ninth in the premier class overall. It’s been a tough journey, through satellite and development teams and with very little champagne due to eight podiums from 137 starts. 2022, however, looks to be rewarding the 30-year-old for his steadfast belief.

“To be nine years in MotoGP and not succeeding so much in results, for sure you need to believe so much in yourself,” he confirmed. “This is something definitely you need to do and trust in your skills.

“If I have been here so many years is because there is something on me that the teams see, not just pure winning, because actually I think this year is the first year I really feel I start with a package that allows me to fight for the victory.

“In the first era of MotoGP, when I arrived with a satellite bike, it was very difficult to be on the podium. The bikes were quite different, satellite to the factory. Luckily this have changed so much through the years but in that years I was in KTM, so also developing a bike and we were not ready to fight for the wins till the last year that I finished fifth in the championship. Now I feel ready for something else, to raise my level, the bike is on the place I like. I've been faster than ever, I think faster than ever Honda have ride in Qatar, with myself on the bike and this feels beautiful.

“I'm ready to achieve the results I would have liked to achieve when I arrived to MotoGP.”

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