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Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro talks exclusively to motogp.com about testing, being a satellite rider and the importance of 2016.
After lifting the 2013 Moto2™ World Championship Pol Espargaro is now preparing for his third season in MotoGP™. After finishing as the top satellite rider in his debut season, 2015 was not quite as fruitful. This means that the 2016 season, in which he will once again have Bradley Smith as his teammate, could be a decisive one in terms of his career. Adding to that pressure is the addition of Michelin tyres and the spec Magneti Marelli ECU this season. The younger of the Espargaro brothers chatted to motogp.com ahead of the Phillip Island test:
How are you feeling after Sepang, heading into the Phillip Island test?
“Right now we can’t really say whether things are good or bad, because Sepang was the first test of the year and there are still many things to improve on, especially the electronics and tyres, as we have not had as much private testing time as some other teams, because we are not a factory team. We need more track time to collect data and learn more about the electronics and tyres.
The Sepang test wasn’t the best in my career, but we are heading in the right direction. We knew that Ducati would be fast as they had some private tests during the season, like Suzuki, and in this respect this is an area where we miss out because we are a satellite team. The factory team’s engineers have been able to catch up, but we are still working on the issues and we are still a little behind. We need more time, but it is true that in Sepang I didn’t have a great feeling, and the times were not the best, but we have to be patient.”
What are you trying to work on to improve?
“I don’t think there is much to improve with my riding at this point. The thing we need to improve is the feeling with the new electronics and tyres. Once we have that sorted we can work on what I can do and how to get the most out of the Yamaha. Until we have these issues sorted, we cannot really work on anything, and yet things are still going quite well for us.”
According to Hervé Poncharal (Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team Principle), this will an important year for you and Smith in terms of your career, do you share that view?
“Yes of course. I think it is almost better for Bradley and myself – plus our mechanics and sponsors – to know this, as it means this year our careers depend on our results. Everything is going to depend on us doing a good job, and we know that – if things are not working, we will have to change. I do not see this as any extra pressure. We must give 100% as we did in my debut season when I finished as the top satellite rider and secured sixth in the championship standings. Although last year did not go as planned, my fifth in Valencia and a number of other results showed where we can be. You have to be positive and think that everything will go well.”
Do you think the new electronics will help satellite teams by levelling the playing field?
“With Ducati I think you are seeing exactly that, the satellite teams are a lot closer to the factory team, which is what is supposed to happen with the new electronics. For us though, it was the opposite. I think we are further away from where we were last year. I remember at the 2015 Sepang test I was only 0.5s off the pace of Jorge (Lorenzo) and 0.3s behind Valentino (Rossi). This year the gap to Jorge was two seconds and Valentino one, which is much worse than last year. Instead of getting closer, we seem to be moving further apart.
“I do not know if this is because we are a satellite team and it just takes us a lot longer to do the same as the factory team, but it is clear we still have a lot of work to do to improve this aspect. We have to get closer to the satellite Ducatis, who are supposed to be our biggest rivals, but right now that will be hard as some of them were even quicker than Valentino.”
What do you think of the new Michelin tyres? Did you notice the improvement of the front that several riders mentioned at Sepang?
“Michelin have been working very hard and it was definitely an improvement. The rear tyre is the one we are having problems with at the moment, as evident by Baz’s crash on the Ducati at Sepang. That was not good and we must find out why that happened to improve safety for all of the riders. That does not take away from the work Michelin have done with the front. At each test they have brought new tyres and you can tell from the fact that there were a lot fewer crashes than at Valencia and the tests last year that they have improved a lot. I am happy with this improvement, but they must now pay more attention to the rear tyre to ensure an accident like the one we saw in Sepang does not happen again.”
How did you find the hard tyre in Sepang?
“We did not quite get the performance out of it we expected. We thought it would last longer and have less grip, but the difference was too much, more than I would have liked. My teammate did well on the hard tyre and there are some riders that seemed not to notice as big a difference, but in my case I simply did not like it, although it was a good decision to withdraw the soft option for the safety of the riders. The soft had a lot more grip and personally, I could have even done race distance on that tyre, because we put in a lot of laps and had no problems. It was a pity that Baz had that issue really…”
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