MotoGP’s newest pole-sitter Pol Espargaro says he “couldn’t imagine” securing KTM’s first ever premier class pole after struggling for one lap speed during practice at the Red Bull Ring.
Espargaro secured the top spot by just 0.022 ahead of Takaaki Nakagami in a close Styrian GP qualifying that saw the top ten covered by just 0.286, bagging KTM’s debut premier class pole position just two weeks after its first win at Brno with rookie Brad Binder.
While feeling confident about his RC16’s race performance after practice, the Spaniard wasn’t so happy over the shape his machine was in over a single tour, admitting to “making a lot of mistakes” during his low-fuel runs at the end of FP3 on Saturday morning.
“Yeah unbelievable, I feel really pleased with it,” said Espargaro.
“I was not imagining that we could get the pole position; I was trying for maybe the first or second row as that would have been amazing for us.
“We were struggling during the weekend to make fast single laps, we have a good rhythm over longer runs but on the fast laps I was missing the last tenth I needed and making quite a lot of mistakes at the end of FP3 this morning.
“I knew I could do an OK lap in qualifying, I was trying to stay off the green (astro) parts because it was very easy to go on there, I’m just super pleased and happy.”
Espargaro looked set for his maiden premier class win in the early stages of the Austrian GP last weekend, before the red flag period that came as a result of Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli’s huge crash at around a thirds-distance wrecked his strategy.
KTM and Espargaro had failed to save a spare fresh medium rear tyre for the race unlike most of their rivals, meaning Espargaro was forced to contest the restarted contest with a soft tyre instead-causing him to fall back through the field shortly after race got going again.
He eventually ended his race after colliding with Tech 3’s Miguel Oliveira at Turn 4, while team-mate Binder brought the second factory KTM bike home in fourth position.