Red Bull factory KTM rider Pol Espargaro was eager to point out the work done by the KTM factory in order to him to achieve the factory’s first dry MotoGP front row start under the sun in Misano.
The Spaniard has been competitive from the first practice session, benefitting from finishing himself behind Yamaha riders all weekend, towing his way to a spot directly into Q2. Despite a stall at the end of the pitlane at the end of qualifying, on his final run, Espargaro round himself behind Quartararo on the Frenchman’s flying lap.
After firing himself to the top spot, it was short lived as Maverick Vinales soon went faster by 0.295 seconds to secure the pole position. Despite missing out on the pole, his time was good enough to hold onto second spot from Quartararo. Espargaro was very keen to praise his team, stating he believes this wouldn’t have been achievable without them, calling this front row start better than his only other, a third place at Phillip Island in 2016, whilst with Tech3.
“It’s amazing to be here after so, so long, in my career,” said Espargaro.
“Now feeling a bit different to that time, with a different brand which were very used to being in that situation, but now it is completely different. A new motorbike from two and a half years ago, an amazing crew behind this project, a lot of support from a lot of very good people around.
“To be here today is much more special than that day. That day was the first one in my career in MotoGP and this one is the second one, but this feels better than the first one.
“So, I just wanted to take a moment thank all the people that makes the bike work so well here, because I have been fast. Without that bike that machine today, it would be impossible. So, thanks to those people who give a lot of hours, effort and sweat, and hopefully we keep improving as we are doing.”
Whilst the best qualifying position since his move to KTM, Espargaro admitted that he is realistic with his expectations of what he can achieve in the race.
“Honestly, I felt good this morning. I had the hand of Maverick to do the lap time and I discovered I could do something like that. I went into the pit and said it would be the fastest time of the weekend for me because I couldn’t improve, because it was close to perfection,” he said.
“Then in the afternoon, Fabio gave me a hand again, I could do a lap, he stop in T3 because he had a problem in the front and in T4 is where I was fast, so I didn’t need his support anymore, so I could push in T4. I was surprised, but anyway what matters is tomorrows race.
“What we did in FP4 was very nice, very used tyres front and rear, almost race distance, and the lap time was not bad. For sure, we need to be realistic, not to fight these super riders. Maybe to be around the first laps with fresh tyres and drop a little by the end of the race. What is sure is tomorrow I’m going to have the best race of my lap and I am going to enjoy it for sure.”
It hasn’t just been Espargaro who has been strong this weekend for KTM, with team-mate Johann Zarco qualifying in eighth place. When asked why the RC-16 was working so well this weekend, Espargaro said: “I would say that first of all we are working huge, and sometimes you have your rewards. But we have been here in the test, normally when we go to all the tracks in the season, we didn’t ride there from one year to another.
“When we are changing the bike quite often, we are keep improving every race, so we don’t know the bike when we go to the places, especially in electronics. We are better on brakes, we are fast on the straights and more corner speed, so we need to change it all.
“So, we start from zero. If we have two days testing, and this year we have Dani Pedrosa who is helping us so much, we can more of less prepare for the weekend. When we have problems, we know more or less how to improve them.”