A very enthusiastic Pol Espargaro returned to Qatar this week feeling confident that he and his new Repsol Honda MotoGP steed were becoming more in-sync.
Concluding his third day in the desert in a comfortable fifth position, having spent much of the seven hours towards the top of the timesheets, Espargaro broke the 1’54 barrier on his 47th of 53 laps around the 5.4km track, with a time of 1’53.899. 0.8s faster than his previous best from Sunday, the Spaniard was already relishing the feeling with his RC213V.
“Today was another really good day. Speaking honestly, the progress has been better than I was expecting," he said, speaking at the track.
“The most important thing is i’m starting to understand the bike. I was not happy because the lap-time was good, I was happy because when I wanted to push, I push it in one way and this way works. It’s coming naturally and I am finding and understanding the limits more and more.
“It’s like it matches with my thinking and my way of riding and I’m happy because every time I want it, I can get it, and this is something that, just to be the third day, it’s something very important for me.
“Still there are some tenths to find over the fast lap, but we are making big steps, I was eight-tenths faster today, so it means we are constantly changing our references and we are always learning, but more important than this is our consistency. This is really where we have been working and what I am happy with. I am still working a lot on myself, but now we can start to experiment a bit with the bike. It’s positive.”
After four months off the bike, Espargaro explains: “Many things are missing and one of them is the body fitness. It needs to come but especially because you want to push at the end of the day.
“At the end of the day you have already almost 60 laps on your body, and your brain is a little bit stressed by everything, it’s not fresh, like in the morning. Stopping during the winter, it left you like, less of a rider, and you need to get back, by pushing and getting the limit and it’s quite hard but at the moment, I’m feeling like I’m starting to be fast when I want it, and this is nice.
Questions over whether the Spaniard would gel with the Honda have been rife throughout the pre-season and it is obviously something the 29-year-old had had concerns about himself.
“Yeah, this is something that I’ve been thinking a lot, you know, like, I will match with the bike? It’s very important that your riding style matches with the DNA of the bike, and if you match it, then everything is much easier.
“I think I had it. That’s why I made that move to Repsol Honda, knowing that maybe my riding style would match. At the moment is just a little bit too early to say but I feel, yeah, it’s coming more natural and as I said, when I want to do it, I can do it and this something that, it means that this is matching at the moment.
“This was an important day! I mean the last two was important but after that two day resting, [the questions] start to come again like, ‘Whoa, you’re gonna start, you’re gonna remember how to ride? Starting by zero it’s gonna be hard for you’. To start again on the bike and feel, ‘okay, I can do it again’, it’s something very nice. Every time I ride I feel lighter so that’s good.”