'Desperate' Espargaro needs wet race to scare MotoGP rivals - The Race
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‘Desperate’ Espargaro needs wet race to scare MotoGP rivals

Aug 7 2021
By Simon Patterson

A dejected-sounding Pol Espargaro has admitted that he’s hoping that tomorrow’s forecast for bad weather at the Styrian Grand Prix will bring a “hurricane” to MotoGP’s race at the Red Bull Ring.

The Repsol Honda rider conceded that bad weather at the notoriously unsafe circuit is the only way that he has any chance of securing a good result.

In fact, so extreme is his belief in the inadequacies of the 2021 Honda RC213V and the issues that he’s facing with it, the Spaniard says that he needs his rivals to be afraid to crash in order for him to make up any time at all from 15th on the grid.

“Honestly speaking, the worse it can be, the better it is for me,” he said after qualifying. “Even if there is a hurricane, I’m going to push to go on track, because in dry conditions we’ve seen that we are not competitive enough. In the wet maybe we can do something else a little bit better.

“Hopefully a lot of rain comes tomorrow, people get scared, and we can take something else from it because we don’t have good pace. The bike isn’t working good, I tried desperate solutions in qualifying trying to be better, and obviously, as you can see it wasn’t working. It can be a good day if there are storms and rain and hurricanes.”

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His issues all stem from issues with rear traction on the bike, which he says has left him completely unable to ride the bike the way he wants to – and that nothing they’re doing has helped to fix the woes.

“We have no traction,” he explained, “the same problem as we had when we stopped for the summer break. The edge grip is zero, we pick up the bike and it spins, we ruin the tyre, and we can’t stop the bike because the tyre is locking up. I’m a guy who uses the rear brake a lot, braking in the middle of the corner to turn the bike. I live on the rear brake – and here I can’t even touch it.

We’re putting in super hard springs so that I can avoid it, because my body is trying automatically to hammer the rear brake to make the bike turn. Slowly, it’s killing my riding style and I can’t take anything at all from my style to make the lap time. I’m struggling.”

And what makes things even worse for him is that it’s not just a problem he says is impacting him at the Red Bull Ring this weekend but just another example of the issue that has plagued them all season – even if it’s been exacerbated by an Austrian track that Espargaro normally loves.

“The bike is the same as the one we finished in Assen with,” he admitted frankly, “and if you don’t change a bike with problems then the problems will remain. This is the reality at the moment. It doesn’t mean that we’re not working, but obviously, this was one of the best tracks for me last year.

“My rhythm last year was pretty much the same speed as my fast lap today. I flew here last year. I was if not the fastest then one of the fastest, and this obviously doesn’t make me feel good. It’s a place where I enjoy riding, and when I ride slowly I suffer.

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“We’re trying, but things aren’t coming, and after the summer break we expected – or we wanted more than we expected – all of us, not just the riders but also the technicians, wanted to be more in front and we’re not. So we’ll just keep working.”

Things were a little better on the other side of the Repsol Honda garage for Marc Marquez, who was denied the chance to qualify better than eighth by a late crash in qualifying. Admitting that he probably didn’t have the pace to fight for pole position, he nonetheless seems in a slightly better position than his team-mate going into tomorrow’s 28-lap race.

“The crash was completely my mistake,” he said. “I went in too fast and I braked a little late, but it was the last lap and it was a slow corner, so I said ‘ok, I’ll try’ because I didn’t want to give up the lap. I had the margin to improve a lot, but OK, we crashed and we’ll start eighth.

“It’ll be a long race and an interesting race, because we need to control a lot of things – tyres, fuel consumption, physical things, and the track limits. In some corners, it’s easy to brake a little bit late and use the track limits, but especially in Turn 9, because sometimes you don’t feel it when the rear wheel has maybe touched the sensor.

“But apart from the crash, I’m happy with the day because the race pace is OK. It’s true that we didn’t take all the profit from the bike in one lap – the bike was ready to be more in front. But in the race, we’ll be OK and it’s a long race. We know that Ducati are very strong in one lap, but we know that the tyres drop here so we’ll see what happens.”

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