One of the few riders changing both bike and team for the 2021 MotoGP season, Pol Espargaro faces a race against time to learn as much as he can about the Repsol Honda RC213V before the Qatar season-opener.

With Covid cancelling not only the usual November post-season tests but also this month's Sepang test, the former KTM star has five days of testing - all in Qatar - before the race weekend begins at the same Losail circuit on March 28.

"For sure it's not the perfect plan to start in a new team and a new bike in MotoGP, where now the level is so high - all the bikes more-or-less factory - and I'm just going to have five days to get ready for the first race," Espargaro said.

"But no excuses, I come into the Repsol Honda team knowing the situation, knowing the pre-season is going to be short and with the team we have already talked a lot about how to plan the strategy before the first race.

"I think we’ve figured out a good situation to learn fast, test everything we can in a fast way and try to be ready for the first race."

Part of Espargaro's learning process will involve trying to understand how new team-mate Marc Marquez pulls off so many miraculous front-end saves and whether that on-the-limit style is a necessary part of riding the Honda.

"I'm going to arrive in Qatar three days before the test and sit down with all the engineers, I'm going to see every single corner of the track, trying to analyse a lot of data that I have in mind," Espargaro continued.

"For the past month I've been thinking of different situations where for example Marc has been saving crashes that gave him a lot of points, if he didn't save those crashes maybe he would not have won a lot of races.

"So my question is, how Marc was doing that?

"It seems in recent years it's a part of the Honda DNA and I need to learn how to manage that situation. In KTM I was sometimes doing that, but I need to learn even more how to do that.

"I said I would not sleep the night before jumping on the bike because it's going to be full of emotions and a completely different bike to what I was used to in the last four years, which was a bike [KTM] that I made from the beginning.

"To jump to a bike that others have done for me is going to be super different, so there is this feeling of what's going to happen. How I'm going to perform and if I'm going to be ready in the first race with five days of testing, to achieve that maybe we need to risk a lot and then some crashes are going to come earlier on. It’s a mix of feelings."

Unfortunately for Espargaro, six-time MotoGP champion Marquez won't be present to learn from at the Qatar test, as his lengthy recovery from complications following last July's broken arm continues.

"What is sure is that we need Marc because Marc is the number one of the team, the fastest with the bike and I really want to learn from him and the sooner he returns the more I'm going to learn from his side and faster I'm going to improve," said Espargaro.

"The best way of improving is to beside the best rider in the world and he's the one."

Nonetheless, "Without Marc we have the satellite team that are also going to have factory bikes with Alex [Marquez] and Taka [Nakagami].

"They are very fast riders together with Bradl who has been doing many laps during the pre-season, in the winter tests. He's allowed to and he's going to be in the Qatar tests so for sure I will learn a lot from him.

"And then let's see when Marc arrives in the team. Hopefully it's in the first race in Qatar. We don't know, he doesn't know. Hopefully as soon as possible. "

With or without Marquez at his side, Espargaro - fifth in the world championship last season, with five podiums - knows what Honda expects from him.

"It's a winning team with a winning bike and everyone expects you to win races and titles.

"I mean results must be there, the bike is there, Marquez showed in the past years that he's been fighting for victory in most of the races and winning most of the titles.

"Honda expect that from my side and I'm going to try to do it."

 

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