Career-first podium for the Spaniard amid historical weekend for KTM.
Just its second year of contesting the MotoGP World Championship, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing has earned its maiden premier class podium thanks to Pol Espargaro at yesterday’s finale in Valencia, Spain.
Despite crashing early on in the rain-filled and red flag encounter, Spanish ace Espargao recovered from the incident and managed to push through the treacherous conditions, ultimately winding up in third to be credited his first podium in the MotoGP ranks.
“It’s unreal,” Espargaro stated. “I felt good all weekend in wet and dry conditions. I was playing around all weekend with a few Yamahas and I was fast – I could do good lap-times. To always be in the top eight was building my confidence up. It was wild out there. The red flag was like a ‘message’ because the bike was still working after that big crash and I said to myself ‘man, this is your opportunity, take it’.
“I just pushed and Valentino was so fast, super-fast. I stayed in that position and was safe, then I fought with Dani but could finally finish in third position. After this year it is unbelievable for me, for my team, wife and all the crew around me.
“Finally we are super-happy with the results for KTM today. You don’t know how much effort and investment they are putting in the project and for them to finish the year in those positions was amazing.”
KTM motorsport director Pit Beirer commented: “I said all year that we are better than we could prove on paper because we had injured riders and we were not so lucky. We fell into a big hole in Sachsenring at a time when we were first in warm-up with a new bike and we thought ‘now we’ll make progress’ but Pol injured himself at the next race. Everything went wrong.
“There was a critical moment two months ago when we looked at the new bike and elements like the chassis and, together with strong people at the factory, we decided to stick to the plan because we were sure we were on the right way. It was important not to lose the direction and today was the first big payback. We had Pol completely free of pain and with a good feeling.
“In this sport you need super-fit riders to compete on this level. This is a big payback for the whole company. I think every single department in KTM was somehow integrated to make this project work and the whole race team and everybody else put in so many hours. Third place is perhaps more than we expected today but this is the best way to give something back to racing people: a result. It means so much and it is difficult to find the right words how I feel.”
It was a historical weekend for the Austrian manufacturer as it secured podiums across all three categories – MotoGP-bound Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) claimed victory in Moto2, while youthful Turkish talent Can Oncu (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was triumphant in Moto3 while on debut in the class, becoming the first to do so since 1991 while also being the youngest grand prix winner at 15 years and 115 days old.