After domination from Fenton Seabright in qualifying, it looked like Race 1 could be his to lose but it became a classic group fight at the front in Round 2 of the British Talent Cup, with Cameron Horsman taking to the top step in another solid performance from the now-points leader. Key rival and previous Championship leader Scott Ogden wasn’t far behind, however, and he made serious gains through the field after a tough qualifying to cross the line second. Seabright, after a tougher Round 1 at Silverstone, took his first podium of the year from pole.
The man of the moment in Moto2™ has to be Jorge Navarro (Lightech Speed Up). Over the past three Grands Prix, the Spaniard has racked up two pole positions and three podium finishes to drag himself into contention for the World Championship – now eleven points adrift of Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP40) at the top of the table.
“You look at his social media accounts and interviews and he’s obviously hyping himself up, wanting to get that podium and be a top finisher and as the weekend progresses, again it works against you. Because you start getting flustered, getting worked up and telling yourself ‘why am I not at the front? If he’s doing it, why can’t I do it?’ That was always a big thing with myself, I was always saying ‘if they’re doing it, why can’t I?’. It can work for you sometimes, but it can also work against you sometimes.”
Edwards: “I guess that that’s possible because I think we feel like, being American, the home of Grand Prix racing is Europe based and around that area typically, that’s our feeling. Even though we do Malaysia, Japan, Australian and all that stuff, but let’s just say that’s home base. But yeah let’s say we’re racing in the US and going to Laguna, Indy or here in COTA it was always a little bit special. I mean hell I could get in my truck and drive here, it’s two and a half hours, it’s awesome. That’s the one good thing about it. I may as well be going to Europe if I’m flying to Laguna it’s quite a way away so yeah that aspects good. And friends, family – nobody has to catch a flight, just jump in a car and hop up.”
“Yeah I’m a little bit disappointed because I wanted to race here in front of the French crowd but the first race will be at the Sachsenring,” commented De Puniet. “I tried the bike here last year, I was alone on the track so I wanted to fight in front, like I said before, the crowd. But finally, we will go to the Sachsenring after testing after the Barcelona MotoGP. So everything should be ready to have a great fight.”
The likes of Charlie Farrer and Rhys Irwin, meanwhile, showed top consistency to score big. Farrer took a fourth and a sixth and Irwin two P5s, so they’ll be looking to move forward and take a podium from those foundations. 2018 podium finisher Seabright, though, will definitely be one looking for more.
2019 MotoGP – Round Five – Le Mans
The Red Bull KTM pitbox at Le Mans was full of smiles and high-fives after Pol Espargaro took the KTM RC16 to 6th place at round five of MotoGP, the best dry weather result for the crew in their third year in the premier class.
Team-mate Johann Zarco managed 13th, equalling his highest classification so far, at his home Grand Prix and in front of many fans under grey skies in France.
27 intense laps of the Le Mans circuit yielded another small milestone in KTM’s young MotoGP history as all four bikes graced the top fifteen and scored points.
Pol made a positive start and then chased the rear wheel of Valentino Rossi in the second half of the race, relatively safe ahead of Franco Morbidelli in seventh.
Espargaro crossed the finish line less than six-seconds behind winner Marc Marquez.
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Team Manager
“To fight in the top ten – for sixth place – and be only six seconds behind the race winner in dry conditions and no excuses: you can only be proud. We’re proud of Pol for how he made that result but also for all the people who have worked so hard on this project. We are still at the beginning of season-three but over the winter the comments from all our riders and test riders meant some ideas that took time to find technical answers and after Jerez we had some, and it was an achievement. We felt we had good performance and Friday here was amazing. Things did not work out as expected for qualifying but Pol did a great job and so did everyone around him and us. We’re still not happy that Johann cannot perform like Pol but I think we started to do the right things with him here and this was the first time where he said he felt comfortable and the lap-time was coming. Now we have to work hard to put that into a dry setting and to ‘make’ the bike more for him. He is more motivated and I think Jean-Michel Bayle helps him a lot. For the first time in history we have all KTMs in the championship points and I’m happy that Hafizh made it and Miguel did it again. It was a very good day and we’ll go to Mugello to try and beat it.”
Zarco was kept busy in mid-pack but his run to 13th was cheered by much of the public at the fences and represented his joint-best result in his fifth GP with the RC16.
Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin also both scored points with finishes of 15th and 14th respectively. Oliveira would have snared 14th spot but was penalised for exceeding track limits and dropped behind his teammate in the rankings.
Hervé Poncharal – Red Bull KTM Tech3 Team Manager
“Altogether it was a very positive weekend in France for the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team. We have gathered a lot of very important information. Thanks to the weather we could ride on the wet for the very first time, which was good and we could see that both of our riders were quite competitive. So, this is something we’ve done now and we can look into the future in a more optimistic way – in terms of weather. The race was quite strong. We didn’t gain too many positions at the start, but we kept a very decent rhythm. We were right behind Johann (Zarco) and I think the three KTM of Johann, Miguel and Hafizh did very similar times lap after lap after lap, which were quite interesting. In the end, I’m really glad for Hafizh, who was right behind Miguel very long and thanks to a penalty for Miguel, that he caught by going through a chicane, Hafizh managed to catch two points. I think this is very important for him to be with Miguel and Johann the whole race and he scored his very first points of the season. We know how important it is not to finish last and to be close to the guys you are fighting with. So, we are happy for Hafizh. Miguel did a strong weekend. As usual, we are very happy with what he did as well. One has to finish in front of the other, Miguel crossed the line in front of Hafizh, but due to the penalty Hafizh was in front of him eventually. At the end of the day, they are good teammates, they are good guys and the most important is; we’ve been competitive all through the weekend, much, much better than the previous round in Spain. KTM could be pleased, I think, because this is the best result from Pol (Espargaro) in a dry race and this is also the first time of the year, where we have the four guys inside the points. So, it’s is a good weekend for Red Bull KTM Tech3, but also for KTM. I’d like to thank them one more time. We have more work to do, more catch-up to do, but we are a happy team tonight. We worked hard and this is the way we do, what we have to do, which is growing, improving and bringing KTM closer to the top guys, which will happen soon. So, thanks to everyone for the hard work, thanks to the two riders and their dedication in this project. Have a few days off and see you in Mugello!”
Pol Espargaro is now inside the MotoGP Championship Top Ten with a tally of 31-points across the opening five rounds of MotoGP season 2019.
Pol Espargaro – P6
“Simply a stunning result and almost unbelievable after less than two and a half years. We are showing that we are on the way. I am so proud of this project. We are there because we were fifth, and we were there during the whole race. The competition is so high here with the best riders in the world and we are just five seconds from the winner and that factory. It is amazing and for sure gives us wings to keep working and be better in the next races to keep fighting for the top ten. I had so much fun today and was on the limit from start to the end and it was amazing to see we were catching Vale in some places and Petrucci needed to hit me to overtake me. This makes me feel really proud.”
Johann Zarco – P13
“A tough race today. I had a good start and was controlling the bike well but lap-after-lap I was the end of my power because I still don’t have the optimum feeling. I’m happy with 13th position because it is still some points. Overall the weekend had a few good things and I will keep this in mind for the next race. I wanted to be in the top ten and I was close at the beginning of the race but I could not follow the pace. It was a shame. Pol did fantastically this weekend and that is great for KTM and for him. I still need to work because he proved that this can take you somewhere. We need time and I said that at the beginning of the season. I felt the quality of the bike this weekend and we have things to work on, so we leave France with a little bit of a smile.”
Hafizh Syahrin – P14
“I enjoyed the race. In the beginning it was a bit difficult to find the speed but lap-by-lap I found a rhythm and I tried to fight with Miguel and stay close to him. Finally, he made a mistake and I ended up being 14th. These two points have a huge meaning for me and I want to dedicate them to my family and everybody around me but especially the French fans because they always appreciate all of us riders. It’s the home GP for the team and I never give up. I also want to thank my team because they always trusted in me and also never gave up to help me, to improve my bike, my riding style with the new machine.”
Miguel Oliveira – P15
“It has been a hard race today. All weekend we didn’t have so much dry time, so obviously the setting was not perfect. Anyway, we managed to make some progress I was able to go a little bit faster than this morning. I struggled in the race with a couple of things, but in general I would say, the result was a bit better than Jerez, which for me is the only positive today. I’m quite upset with my penalty. Anyway, we move on to the next round now.”
KTM hope for even more success at the Gran Premio D’Italia around the majestic sweeps and turns of Mugello that will take place in the first weekend will take place across the first weekend in June.
|16||J Mir||Suzuki||1 Lap|
|DNF||T Nakagami||Honda||9 Laps|
|DNF||A Iannone||Aprilia||19 Laps|
|DNF||M Viñales||Yamaha||21 Laps|
|DNF||F Bagnaia||Ducati||21 Laps|
|DNF||T Rabat||Ducati||25 Laps|
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder and Jorge Martin, alongside Red Bull KTM Tech 3’s Marco Bezzecchi, continue to work on the new chassis that was first used in Le Mans over the weekend. Both Binder and Martin say the new frame has solved some front-end issues but both continue to struggle with rear grip. After three podiums in a row, Jorge Navarro continued to work on his setup, admitting he wasn’t trying anything new on his Speed Up ahead of Mugello.
“It is clear that Jack wants that place, but you have to see if that place will be there,” comments Guidotti. “Jack has no contract for next year and we have to evaluate other solutions if he wanted to go to the official team or another part if we couldn’t meet his needs. We need to have an overview of the market and of those who want to switch from Moto2 to MotoGP having the right credentials to do so. But we do not focus on a rider in particular and we want, if possible, to stay with the current setup. We and Ducati do not have the situation of the riders in hand, they could decide and choose to leave.
And the French GP was looking very good for Viñales. He ended a dry Friday at the top of the timesheets, then went quickest in a wet FP3 session to prove he had hot pace in both conditions. A third in FP4 consolidated that the Yamaha rider would be a contender for at least the podium if qualifying went to plan, but, unfortunately, it didn’t.