Honda MotoGP factory rider Pol Espargaro has completed his first day on the new-for-2022 RC213V delighted with the Japanese firm’s work over the winter, having delivered him a machine that could finally allow the Spaniard to keep his promise with the team.
However, while the machine could be a step in the right direction, the adoption process hasn’t been entirely smooth for teammate Marc Marquez, who admitted his bumpy day was largely due to the learning the new machine.
Espargaro, who clocked the ninth fastest time on the opening day and was 0.066s slower than Marquez, has made no secret of his arrival at Honda where he feels weakest, with a clear lack of grip on the rear of a bike designed for late brakeman Marquez troublesome Espargaro. ability to ride in the most natural way.
Unable to feel the bike under braking when the rear tire lets go is something that last year meant it was only able to perform when the track temperature dropped.
But, heading to the Sepang International Circuit in the heat of the Malaysian day for a genuine attempt to assess their improvement over the two-month break, he says he finally feels like progress is In progress.
“For sure we gained a lot on rear grip, rear contact,” he explained. “We gained a lot, especially on corner entry, it’s something for speed, to be better in lap times, but also for safety. We were all asking because it’s very uncomfortable when you come into the corner and you don’t know what’s going on behind.
“The front you can control it and you can crash many times because the collisions are small. You don’t get hurt, but with the backs you do. That was the main focus for me and we got it. Very well done.
“Even in the hottest conditions, I was the only one riding at 3 p.m. with [Lorenzo] Savadori. We were trying in the worst-case scenario, the hottest part of the day, with used tires – and it felt good.”
Pol has also pledged to do his part to improve in the low grip stuff with a real focus on flat track and off-season motocross training, but says the reason it works better for him now is even more to the bike than its own improvement.
“Obviously I’ve worked a lot in different disciplines,” he said, “but on corner entry you can’t do anything. You just wait for the bike to do something – turn, spin. you can’t do much. Sure you can play with the rear brake, with the engine brake, sliding a bit more – but there’s a point where it’s all gone and you’re just trying to keep a some cornering speed.
“You can’t do anything, and the rear contact has to be there or it’s super dangerous. You have to stop the bike to avoid a huge crash. And that’s where we’ve improved a lot.
However, while the new bike might be safer in the long run, teammate Marquez discovered otherwise, crashing twice on what is essentially his very first time on the new bike after missing the end-of-season test. in Jerez in November. thanks to his eye injury.
Shifting the balance of the bike from front to rear somewhat, he admitted the process of adapting his styling is what caused him to fall – unscathed – twice on the opening day of 2022.
“It’s true that it’s a different bike,” he said. “I can’t lie. I can’t say exactly what the direction is but you can see from the track side if you understand. The feel of the bike is different, and from my personal side for a long time on a style, now it’s true that the motorcycle is [different].
“I also had last year’s bike, and I immediately understood that the speed, the lap time, is easier to get with the new bike, but that creates another problem, as always. One of the things I need to learn and understand is the front feel, which has changed a lot.
“A mistake today was entirely my fault, but another time I crashed and I still don’t understand why, because I didn’t do anything [different]. All of these things, plus not riding a MotoGP bike for a long time, means I still don’t fully understand this bike. The lap time was coming but I don’t know why!
Marquez’s brother Alex finished the day 15th, three places behind LCR teammate Takaaki Nakagami, but was overwhelmingly positive about his work on Saturday – also because he avoided any crashes, after having had a plethora of accidents during pre-season last year.
Like Espargaro and Nakagami, the young Marquez got his first glimpse of the 2022 Honda prototype during year-end testing at Jerez, but Sepang marked his first day of focus on the new RC213V.
“For us, it was pretty clear [in Jerez] that the new prototype had more potential,” he said. ‘together. But the main thing for us was to work with two prototypes and have time on the track – because in Jerez the bike was jumping from rider to rider, we didn’t have much time with the bike. .
“We need all the time we can be on track and we can do quality laps – not quantity, quality. It will be good for us to gain confidence, to need more secrets to take advantage of this motorcycle because it is completely different.
“I mean, since the [riding] style-wise, driver-wise, but also for the set-up and all that, it’s an exactly different way of extracting potential.