The 2013 Moto2 world champion endured a tough first year on the Honda in 2021, scoring just one podium and finishing 42 points behind team-mate Marc Marquez – who missed four grands prix, but still won three races while recovering from the arm injury that forced him to sit out the entire 2020 campaign.
Following his switch from KTM for 2021, Espargaro battled with Honda’s lack of rear traction that crucially stopped him from utilising his normal riding style of using the rear brake on corner entry.
But Honda’s radically revised 2022 bike has been showered in praise by Espargaro, who led the Mandalika test by 0.014 seconds having topped the first and final day.
“It’s turned completely,” Espargaro says of the Honda.
“Now I can apply my riding style, my rear brake which I missed so much last year.
“There are so many things where I can ride as I like, as I’ve been riding all my career and last year I couldn’t, I was struggling quite a lot with the rear.
“This bike has changed a lot, the bike is faster in one lap, is much more stable on the [race] rhythm.
“What is important is I struggle in a place like this where the temperature is so high, and we are still competitive.
“Knowing this is a test and the race weekend is completely different, we have been competitive in both circuits.”
Pol Espargaro, Repsol Honda Team
Photo by: MotoGP
Espargaro noted Honda’s pre-season has been made more successful by the fact all four RC213V riders have been using identical bikes.
Last year Espargaro expressed frustration at the fact every Honda rider was using a different bike, which he felt slowed development.
“This was a great approach of the pre-season, all the riders of Honda are using the same bike,” he added.
“Everyone with a different way of riding, it’s seeing the good potential of the bike.
“Everyone is happy, there is no one saying the old bike is better, which is amazing. We are all following the same aerodynamic package.
“We are a more homogeneous team than last year, which for me is the key of the evolution of MotoGP.
“In these last years, Ducati has done it a lot and we have seen their gains. And I think this year Honda is building not just one team, but it’s building the factory and I think that’s the key to success.”