KTM breaching top six felt "strange" to Espargaro

Pol Espargaro says it felt “super-strange” to see KTM competing with Yamaha and Honda after taking the team’s best-ever MotoGP qualifying position last weekend at Phillip Island.

KTM breaching top six felt "strange" to Espargaro
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Maverick Viñales, Yamaha Factory Racing, Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, Milleri
Maverick Viñales, Yamaha Factory Racing, Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, Bradley Smith, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Espargaro put the Austrian marque on the front two rows of a premier class grid for the first time in Australia last weekend, setting the sixth-quickest time in Q2, 0.644s behind poleman Marc Marquez.

He went on to match his and KTM’s best race result of the year on Sunday with a strong ride to ninth position, 16 seconds adrift of Marquez at the chequered flag.

Espargaro described his qualifying performance as a “small win” for the team, and said seeing KTM’s name in amongst the more established manufacturers on the timesheets was a surreal experience.

“When I finished I was checking the list, Yamaha, Honda, KTM,” said Espargaro. “It looks super-strange. I’m super-pleased with that because the guys have done an amazing job during all this year.

“It’s in small moments like these ones where you show the potential of the bike. I think we have won this weekend. It’s a small win but a win for us.

“This bike has improved so much on entry into the corners and change of direction. We also saw the top speed is huge [340km/h], faster than Ducatis, this is amazing.

“The bike is amazing enter corners, there are a lot of faster corners here where you need a lot of confidence, and we are able to do that with the KTM.”

Espargaro’s qualifying performance was almost matched by teammate Bradley Smith, who continued his strong one-lap form from Motegi to line up ninth on the grid.

The Briton went on to lead Espargaro for most of the race, although he slipped behind the Spaniard with three laps to go, matching his best finish of the season in 10th.

Espargaro said Smith’s resurgence in the last couple of races, following confirmation he will stay with the team in 2018, shows there is still more potential for him to extract from the KTM package.                 

“Every time my teammate is competitive, I need to be more competitive,” said Espargaro. “It’s a fight between us. We push each other to the limit.

“When I’m fast, I’m showing Bradley what he can do with this bike, and when Bradley is fast, he is showing me what I can do with this bike.

“Bradley for sure did an amazing lap [in qualifying], so for sure in some corners he is faster than me. This is nice to check and to improve myself as well.”

Additional reporting by Andrew van Leeuwen

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