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Qatar MotoGP test II: Espargaro ready ‘to fight like a lion'

Four days of Qatar MotoGP testing and his first crash on the Honda out of the way, Pol Espargaro is ready for the 2021 title fight.

A shorter-than-planned preseason test proved productive and fruitful for the Repsol Honda man as he navigated a smooth transition from his past four years at KTM and onto the challenging RC213V.

The final day in Qatar allowed little track action due to strong winds and encroaching sand with the Spaniard briefly taking advantage of a respite in conditions to concentrate on his practice starts, completing eight overall.


Having already suffered his first fall as a Honda rider early on Thursday afternoon, Espargaro had quickly bounced back, shaking off the ‘silly crash’ to concentrate once again on his pace, setting a low 1’54 to move to the top of the timing tower with three hours of testing left.

Unfazed by the incident, he later explained “Unluckily, I get it today but not as I expect. I was not finding the limit actually, was just the first run, the third lap, so it was quite a slow one. It was quite a silly one I would say, with not the proper tyre, not the proper timing, not pushing, so it was like, kind of a warning. Like it can happen, but not actually as I was expecting it, so it was a strange crash. We were trying different tyres and the wind was very different, there was less wind at the end of the braking zone. So this, and the tyre we were using, wasn’t a great combination but after, I used a different tyre and we went much faster so it’s not a big problem.”

Throughout the four profitable days, the 29-year-old completed well over 250 laps of the Losail Circuit, his best time of the test - a 1’53.899 - placing him 10th overall in the combined standings and the fastest Honda rider.

“At the moment we look quite competitive” Espargaro commented at the end of Thursday. “The Honda so far, really fits my natural riding style, and I am enjoying riding it a lot. The future looks nice, but we are still in the early stages. If we do everything well, we can have a good year.

“Still, it’s sure that we need to improve, because other riders are quite fast as well but seems like we are not so far in our race pace, to be fighting for something interesting on the first GP of the season.

Talking of the first race, does he have any expectations?

“You don’t know what to expect because it’s not tomorrow, the race, it’s in some weeks, so the track, for sure is going to change and we are going to have some different problems than what we have now.

“It seems, in the situation we are now, we are quite competitive in race pace and I think on one lap timing we are better than what it shows. So even if we are just learning, our confidence at the moment is quite high!”

Expecting to spend Friday running race simulations and fine-tuning the race set-up, the Honda team eventually decided against running with the challenging conditions, opting for a short run of practice starts before, like the majority of the paddock, calling time on it’s testing programme early.


Nevertheless, the Spaniard believes overall, it was “a successful test for us, we ended up doing a lot of restarts, this is a part that I need to learn, and we need to improve so it was also useful.

“I did not have a lot of expectations [before the first test] maybe Honda yes, but me as a rider, I was not expecting anything because this is the worst you can do. Because if it’s going good, it’s what it should be, and then there is no emotions, and if it’s going bad, then the emotion is going down pretty fast before the first race.

“I would say with just four days of testing to feel more or less ready for the first race, with a new bike completely, where other riders have been struggling, it means that, wow, it’s good! It’s like a pain release, you know, all the winter waiting for this moment, and I would sign for these results, before I start the test.”

With so little testing available during pre-season this year, has he been able to pull on his previous years’ experience to allow his smooth transition from the KTM to the Honda?


“Thank God I have this experience and I could adapt to the Honda faster than maybe myself in other times. Just four days, especially for the rookies, it’s painful. I mean, it’s nothing! In other times when I grow in MotoGP I was doing two days in Valencia, then we’re going to Jerez, then we would go in Malaysia, we were coming here. So imagine it was like 12 days of testing or 10 days of testing and now it’s just four, it’s nothing.

“For me it’s a problem but also for the guys that are coming to the MotoGP or other guys that are changing the bikes, I’m not the only one so I’m not going to cry, but it’s something that is hard and for sure we’re not going to be fully ready for the first race, but we are going to fight like a lion!”

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