Pol Espargaro showed off the incredible potential of the new Repsol Honda Team RC213V with a brilliant third place finish ahead of Marc Marquez, who with a fifth place finish sees the Repsol Honda Team leading the Teams’ World Championship. Leading most of the race with Marquez close behind, Espargaro proved the potential of himself and the new package from Honda HRC. The Qatar weekend as a whole has been hugely positive and productive for both sides of the Repsol Honda Team garage as Espargaro and Marquez consistently ran with front-running pace.
There was no missing the power and precision of the Repsol Honda Team RC213V off the line as Pol Espargaro rocketed forward to lead from sixth on the grid, teammate Marc Marquez, who has started third, tucking in just behind him after the first corner. The pair settled into a steady rhythm in the opening laps as the MotoGP field fought behind them.
Espargaro’s pace didn’t relent as he steadily worked his way further forward, opening up an advantage of a full second towards the middle of the race. On lap 11 of 22, the #44 set his fastest lap of the race as he tried to maintain his lead. Expecting another kind of race all together, Espargaro spent the closing stages of the Qatar GP managing his tires and fuel and soon found himself with Enea Bastianini for company. As the young Italian passed on the start of lap 18, the extra speed from his slipstream sent Espargaro wide at the first corner – ending his challenge for victory and seeing Espargaro hold steady for third.
This is Espargaro’s second podium finish with the Repsol Honda Team. Having led 17 laps today, Espargaro more than doubles the amount of race laps led in his MotoGP career. This is Espargaro’s best result in Qatar and his first podium finish at the opening round.
After his lightning start, Marquez held strong as the likes of Brad Binder, Joan Mir and Bastianini piled on the pressure in the opening laps. Wanting more from the front tyre, the #93 lapped in the high 1’54s for most of the race as he defended his position in the top three. Taking home a safe fifth place when the flag came out of positions Marquez well for the rest of the year, the eight-time World Champion knowing full well that seasons aren’t won at the first race.
Now the MotoGP World Championship prepares to head back to the Mandalika circuit in Indonesia for Round Two on March 20. The race will see MotoGP return to Indonesia for the first time since 1997, when Tadyuki Okada won the 500cc race on his NSR500 from Repsol Honda Team teammate Mick Doohan and Alex Criville.