motogp austria: pol espargaro: ‘slow, struggling, everyone is smashing us’

Before joining Repsol Honda, Pol Espargaro had only finished a MotoGP race outside of the points on three occasions in seven years.

But since stepping onto the RCV, at the start of 2021, Espargaro has been left pointless at the chequered flag four times in 29 races.

The most recent came at the Red Bull Ring last weekend, where the Spaniard struggled to 16th place, 30-seconds behind race winner Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati).

The top RCV of Alex Marquez was only two places ahead of Espargaro, meaning Austria marked the sixth race in succession – ever since Marc Marquez stepped away to undergo arm surgery – that there has been no Honda rider in the MotoGP top ten.

“Well, it was a painful race,” said Espargaro, now officially confirmed as leaving Repsol Honda for a return to KTM via the GASGAS Tech3 team next season.

“It was very difficult. I’ve been struggling all the race with traction, to stop the bike I had some problems on the brake.

“Together with some arm pump, because of these problems, I’m riding very slow… at the moment I’m struggling to ride this bike,” he added.

“We [Hondas] are all struggling and with this situation I feel I’m struggling more than the others.

“But now we move on, we go to another place [Misano] and let’s try to just keep a little bit the spirit up, to try to improve the situation.”

motogp austria: pol espargaro: ‘slow, struggling, everyone is smashing us’

Pol: ‘Everyone is smashing us’

Austria marked a return to the stiffer, heat-resistant rear tyre carcass that caused Honda riders so many problems at round two in Mandalika.

At that early stage of the season, Indonesia looked like being a one-off blip, with Espargaro and Honda expecting to pick up their Qatar podium form once the normal tyre returned.

Such optimism has long since vanished. Persistent turning difficulties have afflicted all Honda riders ever since, with even team-mate Marc Marquez no higher than fourth in his six appearances.

As such, Espargaro can only ‘hope’ for better fortunes next time at Misano, the scene of his best Honda result to date, a second place behind Marquez last season.

“We need to keep the positive, somehow,” Espargaro said of returning to the normal tyre next weekend. “So maybe yes, maybe we arrive in Misano and we can enjoy the weekend.

“But at the moment, as I said, we are struggling everywhere.

“There is no place where we have been fast since a long time ago and everyone is smashing us. Together with I’m not riding well, plus all the technical problems that I’m having, everything’s quite messy.

“So hopefully we can enjoy Misano, but it’s difficult to turn this situation [around].”

motogp austria: pol espargaro: ‘slow, struggling, everyone is smashing us’

Andrea Dovizioso, who will retire from MotoGP after the San Marino round, caught and passed the Repsol Hondas of Stefan Bradl and Espargaro during the Red Bull Ring race.

The RNF Yamaha rider, who finished 15th, said: “Bradl is [a test rider] so is doing the right things, but PoI I think lost the confidence and is not able to use the potential of the bike. He’s like me: I’m not able to use the good point of [my] bike and he’s struggling a lot on the bad point of [his] bike. This is the final result [for both of us].”

Joan Mir is set to be confirmed as Marquez’s new team-mate for 2023, with Takaaki Nakagami looking increasingly likely to stay alongside new LCR signing Alex Rins – unless Ai Ogura can win the Moto2 title…

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