After waiting all winter for his Repsol Honda debut, Pol Espargaro was the first race rider out on track for the start of 2021 MotoGP pre-season testing in Qatar on Saturday.

The former Tech3 Yamaha and KTM rider went on to record 67 laps of the Losail circuit, more than any other competitor, as he began learning the RC213V.

The Spaniard's best lap put him 17th fastest, albeit only 1.191s from older brother Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and 0.935s from the leading Honda of Stefan Bradl.

"Sure they are both bikes that you need to fight a little to get the result, but apart from that all the rest is very very different. But it feels good already with the Honda," Espargaro said of the KTM and Honda.

"The most important thing is to learn about the front, it's where you gain the time. Stopping, having some corner speed.

"Already the rear I think I have more-or-less under control in acceleration and middle corner but it's just a matter of pushing a little bit more, going to the limits and then recognise where I'm losing.

"I have checked some data already and I have a big paper to check now in the hotel!

"Bradl was one of the fastest today and so already his data is good. For sure his [confidence] in the front is much bigger than mine, I mean there some places where we more-or-less do the same things but in others even if I try to brake hard still I have some margin.

"Also releasing the brake in the middle of the corner, he is faster, but these are normal things where he knows more than me the limits of the bike and he's reaching it straight away. He doesn't need to make two or three laps with a new tyre to reach the fastest lap time.

"I did my best lap time with seven laps on the tyre and then I repeated it with 19 laps on the tyre. Which shows the big gap I'm losing compared to my team-mates with a new tyre.

"Tomorrow I'm going to push a little bit more and then I'm going to continue doing that until the crash will come and then it's going to tell me 'that was the limit', so let's see!

"Learning about the front is my biggest concern for tomorrow."

With that learning process in mind, Espargaro insists he is in no rush to start trying out new parts, Bradl having three different machines available.

"Bradl has been working hard and he's been very fast today so it's good to compare and to chat with him. I have everything I want on the table to try to test but in the end I think it's not good to keep changing the bike every five laps when I'm completely new.

"Just I need to get used to the character of the bike and from then on, when the lap times are going to faster, if I'm going to be at the level in this test to the other riders, then we can start to play to adapt the bike to me.

"But until that moment I think I have more to adapt than the bike."

Bradl, quickest in yesterday's Shakedown, battled for the top spot throughout day one of the Official test.

"I am happy overall because we have worked very well, been very productive and I feel comfortable on the bike. We kept working through our test plan and today our attention shifted more to parts and working on the chassis side," said the German.

"We’ve been finding good pace again and everything has worked very well so far, the goal is to continue in this direction. I’m happy to be riding and feeling like this on the bike.

"It’s the first test day for the other riders so I probably had some advantage from riding yesterday, we need to stay calm as everything is going to get closer as lap times improve. Happy for now, but still lots of work to do."

LCR Honda riders Alex Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami, who also have the latest specification bikes, were tenth and eleventh fastest respectively.

 

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