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It was a much-improved weekend for the new factory KTM project at the Sachsenring following a tough Dutch GP, and the three riders out on track – Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith and wildcard and test rider Mika Kallio – all found huge positives.
Espargaro took the team into Q2 from the first qualifying session and put in a stunning performance to line up seventh on the grid, then came home in the points as race day dawned dry. Smith also took points just behind his teammate, with wildcard Mika Kallio crossing the line in P16 and all three machines up in the battle: “the weekend was amazing for the project.”
Pol Espargaro, P13: "Honestly it was a great weekend as we did a good job in qualifying but really, the team did a superb job really from the start on Friday. The bike works so well from the beginning, but, for sure we are always able to do a little bit more and ultimately it was a shame that we couldn't beat Petrucci as I was ahead of him for a bit. We must be happy with this weekend as without a tyre problem over the last few laps we are less than 30 seconds off the winner after 30 laps which is very good indeed for the project. We now move on for the test this week at Aragon where we can find some more things with the bike. This is just the beginning..."
Bradley Smith, P14: "After a disappointing Assen we've come back to something that we knew, tried and tested with a setting this morning that I felt happier with. In the race I struggled a little bit in the opening ten laps and that's an area where I personally need to work on plus getting the bike to my kind of feeling, but then after that was when I really started to find my form. I'm pleased with the outcome as it was a proper race with eventually the third KTM only a short gap behind the points. In general, a great weekend for us and the whole KTM project as we've learnt an awful lot by having three riders out on track but the great thing is we're going to go to Aragon now for a two day test with all of us there to continue the progress and keep the ball rolling. Overall I'm pleased with the outcome, putting right last week with a solid performance and finish before we head into part two of the season."
Mika Kallio, P16: "I enjoyed being back on the bike this weekend and I enjoyed racing again. I can say that even though I have been away from the races for a while, with only the Valencia race last November under my belt, it's not so easy to handle the start situation, the first corners with everyone fighting but it went very well. When I saw that I could keep the position and then catch guys at the beginning, I felt really satisfied with the pace that we had. It's a bit of a shame we couldn't finish in the position where we should be as if you see the best lap time I did (12th) it is better than Valentino and better than Pol and better than Bradley. I believe that at least we could be in this higher group where Pol was were it not for the problem with the front end after the half way point of the race. It would have been great to finish there but...next time it's better."
Mike Leitner, Team Manager MotoGP: "The weekend was amazing for the project, for KTM, for all three riders. We always had some highlights through all of the sessions for one of the three riders and in the end in the race, points for Pol after having a full on battle that was very important for him. He nearly got 12th back at the line after being in 12th with a few laps remaining. With Bradley he was fighting with Miller and came 14th. We know this isn't an easy place (MotoGP) but the guys here in the garage and at our HQ in Austria are working so hard behind the scenes. They are pushing all the time and it's so motivating to have this team behind this project 100%. This was the closest result for the lead KTM in terms of time since we started in Qatar as we were just over a second a lap back of the winner. This not only positive but what the riders are looking at because it looks like we can come a little closer. We know we have to work hard but we must always be reminded we are in our rookie season and the long term target is obviously higher than 'just points' so this is a very good sign. Mika was super this weekend as he did a great job. Unfortunately in the race he had an issue with the front tyre but after not racing for a while he did very well in the group he was in. What we saw from him in the dry warm up was quick stuff. He was always fast proving he is a good test rider for us so...he's still a racer and this is superb to see."
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