Pol Espargaro: Le Mans result proves KTM's rivals are 'not gods'
Pol Espargaro says finishing the MotoGP French Grand Prix just 5.9 seconds from race winner Marc Marquez in sixth proves KTM's rivals are “not gods”.
Espargaro - who trailed Marquez by 32s in last year's Le Mans race - was unable to set a lap in qualifying due to a crash in Q2, but leaped up from 12th to sixth at the start and remained there for the entire 27 laps to secure KTM's best-ever dry weather result.
Hailing the result as “stunning”, Espargaro – though remaining grounded – believes KTM can be podium contenders this season if it can improve “a few things” with the RC16.
“To see us there in that spot and see Valentino [Rossi] was in front of me, and he was pushing and he was not able to make a lot of gap to us - just in 27 laps two seconds – [and to see] Honda, Marc just pulling five seconds on us is simply stunning,” said Espargaro.
“We have seen they are not gods, and with a good bike, with a good performance all of the weekend, we can be there fighting.
“Just we need a few things to be improved, and if we improve them I think we can fight for the podium even in other tracks.
“But we need to keep our feet on the ground. Next race is Mugello and we will try to do same or similar and to improve the results of last races and last year.”
KTM has taken a radically different approach to its chassis and suspension set-up compared to its rivals, in that it is the only manufacturer running a steel trellis frame design and WP suspension.
Espargaro admits he is “happy to shout about” his Le Mans result to those who said KTM would have to alter its chassis and suspension philosophy to be competitive.
“The improvements we tested on Wednesday at Jerez were really, really good,” he added.
“Unluckily we couldn't have it for the race in Jerez and couldn't take profit of it. But we've seen a big performance [gain] in testing on the Wednesday when we were alone.
“I'm super pleased about that, and super happy to see this tubular chassis and WP suspension working.
“I'm happy to shout out about it to those who said it would never work. It's working.”