until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


A dozen crashes, 0 points – A MotoGP team’s nightmare start

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

More than one MotoGP team was glad to see the back of the Losail International Circuit following the weeks of testing and back-to-back races at the Qatari track.

But while the likes of Aprilia and KTM are already looking forward to the chance of to be more competitive in Europe, it’s the LCR Honda crew that probably breathed the biggest sigh of relief as they boarded their flights home.

The Qatar trip was a complete debacle for LCR duo Taka Nakagami and Alex Marquez, who failed to achieve anything more than a spectacular crash damage bill over the course of five days of testing and two race weekends.


Nakagami has the team’s only finish from the opening round, scoring 17th place in last weekend’s Doha Grand Prix to at least put his name on the championship standings, even if he has yet to take a single point.

“We are struggling a lot,” Nakagami, who had been a surprise title contender in 2020, admitted after the second race in Qatar.

“At the very beginning, I was behind [Franco] Morbidelli and it was under control, and I was thinking about where to overtake him and to improve the position.

“Then, after seven or eight laps I felt a huge drop of the front tyre’s performance, especially on the right hand side.

“After that, I felt like if I kept pushing then for sure I’d crash, that it would be in the gravel again.

“It was a difficult decision, but I knew I had to finish the race, otherwise there’d be no positive things to pick up. It was a hard race.

“I’m disappointed with our performance, very disappointed.

“I did my best with what we had, and I want to race in Europe now. It’s better to forget these two races, because I’ve got no idea how to fix these problems.”


Things are even worse on the other side of the garage. Marquez crashed out of both races, to add to his previous tally of five falls in four days of testing and meaning that he’s now ended up in the gravel eight times this year while only completing 19 racing laps. That beats even Nakagami’s tally of four crashes across testing and the race weekends.

“We knew that we were coming to a track where historically the Hondas suffer,” said Marquez.

“We know that we’re one of the bikes who are normally more constant with race pace, but the problem was the front tyre. It was too soft for us.

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“That’s not why I crashed [in the Doha GP], though – I made a small mistake and I was too inside on the kerb.

“It hasn’t been an easy two weeks for us, but I’m competitive and we need to be positive now when we go to a track that can be better for us”

As Marquez suggested, part of LCR’s front tyre problem came from Michelin’s allocation at the two Qatar races.

Alex Marquez LCR Honda Qatar MotoGP 2021

Honda was among the teams disgruntled about the selection throughout the time in Qatar – along with the struggling KTM squads – and said none of the front tyres available “really suited” its bikes.

LCR team principal Lucio Cecchinello is staying optimistic that the Qatar disaster was a track and tyre specific situation.

The former racer is adamant that despite this rocky start to the year, there should be better times ahead for his squad in the near future if the return to European tracks gives Nakagami and Marquez a more amenable and competitive bike/tyre package.

“Every time in life when you are facing tough moments, you have to roll up the sleeves of your shirt and look forward to the next challenge,” Cecchinello told The Race.

“Definitely, yes, we have had some difficulties during the test here, and quite disappointing races. I’m pretty frustrated.

“I trust that we need to wait to arrive in Europe before we put the finger on it.

Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda Qatar MotoGP 2021

“In this track, our Honda hasn’t been competitive and we’ve always struggled a lot here in winter testing.

“For some unknown reason, our competitors look more stable. They feel like the track is more hospitable for them.

“Before we get crazy, we have to maintain our calm and remember that the reality is that we’re only missing half a second to be in the top five, which is realistically our target with both riders.

“The problem these days is that half a second is 10 or 15 positions!”

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