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After a promising start to pre-season testing in Sepang, Pol Espargaro’s hopes of a smooth 2018 came crashing down to earth, quite literally, on the second day with a heavy crash causing him to miss the remainder of the test, and the following one in Thailand due to a hernia on his spine.
“We cannot say that the crash in Malaysia was related with my hernia,” says Espargaro, although he is confident that he will be back for Qatar. “I don’t know what condition I will be in, but I will be there for the Qatar Test. I have started training, but I still have pain in my back.”
Despite not being in Thailand, the Spaniard followed as closely as he could: “I followed through the live timing of motogp.com and all the interviews. I also spoke with my mechanics”.
He also spoke about the team’s incredible rate of progress and new parts from the test: “KTM never stops: they bring a lot of stuff. The test went well. They tested two chassis, new swingarms… Some manufacturers destroyed their tyres, they couldn’t complete 20 laps. We could, but we know the conditions for the race will be different”.
A top five or six in the races would be a great result.
In terms of results for this season, Espargaro is keen to consistently break into the top 10 for this season, after two best finishes of ninth in Brno and Australia in KTM’s debut year. “The second year is always the most difficult and it will be long and tough. Our main objective is to be in the top 10, where we finished last year. This would mean that we have done a good job in the winter. We have been speaking with the team and top five or six in the races would be a great result.”
Regarding his future with the Austrian manufacturer, the 26-year-old has made it clear that he wants to continue his relationship with the team, but knows that having a top rider as a teammate would be great for the team: “I’m delighted here and I have a really good relationship. As soon as I ask for something, they bring it to me. It is a completely different way of working compared to the Japanese, and I like it. [A renewal] would be good for me and for the factory. We have spoken many times about it and both parties are very happy.
“If Marc came to the team and beat me to win, I would be proud because it is a bike that I have been with since it was born.”
“Without a doubt. KTM wants to win. I would love to have, for example, Marc or Dani, or any other, as a teammate. I don’t know if the bike is already prepared for them because they are used to riding a bike that can win races, and I think that the bike is a bit far from that. Sooner or later, the bike will be a race winner.
“In a hypothetical case that Marc came to the team and beat me to win, I would be proud because it is a bike that I have been with since it was born.”