KTM’s Pol Espargaro reckons the lack of dry running ahead of the European Grand Prix at Valencia was “perfect” for the Austrian manufacturer to fight for victory.
Having secured his second pole of the year in a qualifying session hit with mixed conditions, the Spaniard quickly found himself overrun by Suzuki pairing Alex Rins and Joan Mir, the former passing him for the lead at Turn 11 on the second lap before the latter pounced to take second away at the same corner two laps later.
From this moment on though Espargaro was able to keep pace with the leaders, eventually taking the chequered flag third just 1.2 seconds from winner Mir to secure his fourth rostrum result of the season.
Espargaro says KTM’s impressive race performance was down to its rivals being unable to “properly set-up their bikes” across the mostly-wet practice sessions on Friday and Saturday morning, stating that in normal conditions they are sometimes “on another level” relative to KTM.
“I’m relaxed because when you give your 100% and know you couldn’t do better you feel very pleased,” said Espargaro.
“From Friday I wanted rain,rain,rain until Sunday morning.
“This was the perfect situation for us because we knew that in these conditions we would have a good chance to have a good race, especially at the end, as if the others have time to properly set up the bikes and dial in the electronics then they are sometimes on another level.
“In these conditions the rider matters a little more as you have to manage the bike a bit more, so I’m happy as we gave everything today and this is the reward.”
Espargaro revealed he and his team were split on which front tyre to go with ahead of the European GP encounter as the sun started to make its presence felt, though believed his eventual choice of the hard front “worked perfectly”.
“There was a moment just before the race when the sun was appearing and the track was getting hot, we weren’t sure whether to go with the medium or hard (front tyre), and I said ‘no it’s going to be like Barcelona where we used the harder compound and then crashed’,” continued Espargaro.
“But we opted for the hard tyre and it worked perfectly, I was able to catch the Suzuki’s on the brakes, but then they were turning a bit better with the medium and also because their bike is strong in that point (of the corner).
“They (Suzuki) have their strong points and we have our good points, we need to try and maximise the strong points of our bike every weekend and for them today the medium tyre was better as it allowed them to turn faster and accelerate earlier.
“For us though if we cannot stop the bike we cannot do a good laptime, so we needed to use the hard tyre and it worked to perfection as we expected, I had to really risk on the brakes but it’s what I need to make speed so in the end it was good.
“The team was amazing and the bike was very good, so I’m very pleased with that result.”
While the ’13 Moto2 world champion was officially ruled out of title contention following championship leader Mir’s win, he remains in firm contention for the runners-up spot.
He currently sits seventh overall in the riders standings, though only 19 points down on Rins and Petronas SRT Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo with two rounds remaining.
His best points finish so far in his premier class career was sixth with Tech 3 on a satellite Yamaha M1 in his debut year in ’14, while his best end-of-year result with KTM to date was 11th last season.