Pol Espargaro: Small steps to reach the top, like Aprilia

Disappointed not to get Marc Marquez’s development parts for the Catalunya MotoGP race weekend, Pol Espargaro tried new chassis, swingarm, aero and more at the post-race test.

Espargaro was fifth on the timesheets (0.241s) by the end of his 88 laps - helping put Sunday’s misery behind him, where he had plummeted from fifth to 17th and last due to grip problems.

“Well, we were testing quite a lot the chassis and the swingarm that Taka was using during the weekend and quite a lot of electronics, plus the aerodynamics,” Espargaro said.

Like Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia, Honda is yet to introduce its one available fairing update for the 2022 season.

Espargaro’s current bike (homologated in Qatar) has a slightly different fairing configuration to the machine of team-mate Marc Marquez (now used by test rider Stefan Bradl), with the #44 having opted for the inclusion of side pods while Marquez preferred only the top wing.

Remote video URL

It remains to be seen if both sides of the Repsol garage will chose the same in-season aerodynamic update, but Espargaro revealed that the fairing used at the test also had an influence on the issues grip they are seeking to understand.

“When I was trying it, it was in a moment where the wind was blowing quite a lot, so we also wanted to see what happened when there is quite a lot of wind in the fast areas where we struggle a little bit,” Espargaro said.

“Also, changing the aerodynamics, the wings, changed the bike completely. The way the bike is transferring the weight in the exit of the corner. So this can also help us on the acceleration, on gaining grip or even in losing it. We need to understand things and this was a good tool to do it.

“Honestly speaking I don't like aerodynamics [in general] but it's something that changed quite a lot the behaviour of the bike. And at the end of the day it was a good test.”

In terms of the mechanical parts, Espargaro - who is thought to have had two different chassis available - agreed with Nakagami that the swingarm was not a clear difference.

“It’s not a big step but it's enough to feel a little bit more comfortable,” he said.

“We are not talking that, you know, in qualifying time [we will gain] 0.4-0.5s. But if we gain one tenth in one lap, which is nothing, you can gain one row in qualifying.”

Pol Espargaro puts trust in 'small steps, not big ones'

The Spaniard, whose third place in Qatar remains Honda’s only podium of the season, added that he would rather see a series of small technical steps in the right direction than a big hit-or-miss gamble.

“I trust in the progression of small steps, not in big ones of changing the whole bike and then seeing what happens,” he said. “I think now we have seen Aprilia doing small steps, small improvements and at the end they reached the top. I think it's the way to not get lost, to not start from zero."

Stefan Bradl, Catalunya MotoGP, 4 June
Stefan Bradl, Catalunya MotoGP, 4 June

Bradl, still sore from his Sunday accident, completed 53 laps on his way to 17th (+1.027s)

“I have to say that my physical condition today was not fantastic. I feel a little bit sore, but overall it has been a good test.

“We have compared chassis and things to find the direction for our bike to perform better and to improve. I've been doing a couple of back-to-back tests and just getting some information.

“At this track it's also sometimes difficult to make a proper comparison because grip level from one run to the other is changing a lot, or if you have a new or used tyre.”

With Marquez’s recovery time still unclear, Bradl will remain on the Repsol Honda for at least the upcoming German and Dutch rounds.

“We just wish him all the best for his recovery and [we are working] so that he can be back on a good bike,” Bradl said.

Alex Marquez, Catalunya MotoGP, 4 June
Alex Marquez, Catalunya MotoGP, 4 June

With Takaaki Nakagami spending a night in hospital following his turn one accident in the race, Alex Marquez was the only LCR rider on track.

Marquez, who rode from last to tenth in the race, is also thought to have tried the chassis and swingarm parts during a huge 93 laps.

“It was a long test here in Barcelona, we tried many, many things and that was most important,” said Marquez, who was also riding sore after his fast Saturday accident.

“I tried to give 100% and the maximum input I could to help HRC, who are making a lot of effort to improve our bike. We tried many things; some things were negative and some were positive, like always, but it was an important test for us to give the information to Japan and keep going.

“I believe we can be fast in the second part of the season, so this information will be crucial to work on that.”

Like Pol Espargaro, who is being linked with a return to KTM, Alex Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami are still to sign for the 2023 MotoGP season.

Read More