MotoGP

Espargaro: KTM MotoGP race pace gains ‘unbelievable’

KTM's "amazing" race pace gains have left Pol Espargaro encouraged heading into the second MotoGP pre-season test in Qatar. 
Espargaro: KTM MotoGP race pace gains ‘unbelievable’

Pol Espargaro has hailed the “unbelievable” gains made by the KTM MotoGP squad over the winter, adding it has taken an “amazing step” in terms of race pace. 

The Spaniard endured an injury-hit 2018 campaign as KTM finished ninth in the teams’ standings but returned from a three-round absence to record the Red Bull-backed outfit’s first MotoGP podium at the season finale in Valencia.

Having concluded running during the first pre-season test of 2019 at Sepang, the scene of the first of several big injuries he suffered last year, Espargaro was encouraged by KTM’s performance having spent much of Friday testing a number of new parts.

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“This is unbelievable, an amazing step,” Espargaro said following the final day of action at the opening pre-season test. 

“Everyone has done a bigger step and still what we are missing is in one lap. In one lap I think we are not performing as we should be but the step we did in the rhythm is quite impressive. 

Asked where he thought the biggest gains had been made, Espargaro replied: “I think in catching the grip. 

“We were missing quite a lot of grip when the tyres started to spin and by some electronics and by some rear settings we could improve this grip and make the bike performance better over several laps, not for one lap. 

“For one lap we have improved a little - we see that in the lap time - it’s a little bit faster and without some mistakes it could be a little bit better. 

“But about rhythm and consistency we are much, much better and that’s why I am happy because the points are on Sunday.”

New stablemate Johann Zarco outpaced Espargaro for the first time as he headed the KTM quartet in 17th place in Friday’s timesheets. The Frenchman, who has switched from Tech 3 Yamaha, said he was satisfied by the progress he made as he continues to adapt to the RC16.

“We are happy with what we did, but we still have a lot of work,” he explained. 

“Overall I have improved my feeling and my control of the bike over five hard days. We will see what I can do in Losail. 

“It will be interesting to see if we can adapt quicker in Qatar than we did here. The lap-time was better than I expected and we reached good points in our plan.” 

MotoGP pre-season testing continues in Qatar on February 23-25 ahead of the opening round of the new season at Losail on March 10. 

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