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It was a weekend to remember for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Pol Espargaro. Yes, it didn’t match the jubilant scenes in Valencia at the close of the 2018 season, but it wasn’t far off. A best ever result in qualifying on Saturday followed up with a best ever result in dry conditions 24 hours later.
Starting fifth on the grid, Espargaro clinched eighth across the line at a circuit the KTM isn’t supposed to be suited to. Prior to the weekend, the Austrian factory had only mustered three points from Austin but now, COTA is a track that, for the meantime, will bring fond memories for all associated.
Menudo fin de semana en Austin! P5 en parrilla y P8 en carrera! Exprimiendo la KTM al máximo! Jerez, allá vaaaamooos!!! ???? // What a weekend! P5 in qualy and P8 in the race! Working hard to put the orange rocket in the top! Here we go, Jerez! ????❤️ #AmericasGP pic.twitter.com/9b0kUubJZY— Pol Espargaró (@polespargaro) April 15, 2019
“It was the race I expected. We were starting from fifth but as I said yesterday, we had to be realistic,” said the former Moto2™ World Champion. “I knew my fight would be with maybe the Petronas Yamaha guys or the satellite Ducatis. We were there in the pack; we had a good rhythm only dropping at the end because of the tyres.
“Always in this track, with the bumps especially, it’s so demanding for the bikes and for the riders. We were 16 seconds quicker this year than last year so wow, that’s pretty fast. We are ninth in the championship, we overtook Aprilia.”
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Sitting inside the top ten in the championship is some achievement for Espargaro, especially when you take into consideration the factory counterparts he’s challenging or even beating. LCR Castrol Honda’s Cal Crutchlow is just a point ahead, whereas the Spaniard is in front of both Petronas Yamaha SRT riders and the factory Monster Energy Yamaha of Maverick Viñales.
“We take these first races out, they’re always the most difficult for us and we go now to Jerez with some improvements on the bike. It’s all very positive for the future. Normally Jerez is better for us, it’s not good to talk too much beforehand because when you get to the GP everything can change. We are quite positive though after what we have done.
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“I’m excited about what the guys are trying in the factory. I’m super proud when I look at the results from last year or two years ago and what we are able to do now and what we are achieving. It also feels like the people in the paddock are also seeing our work. I have everything I need to keep pushing.”
The future certainly looks bright for KTM with Espargaro now consistently battling inside the top ten, his teammate Johann Zarco adapting more and more with the new bike and with two young pretenders in the Red Bull KTM Tech 3 garage, Miguel Oliveira in particular, who look ready to spring a surprise at any moment. There is no doubt that KTM’s trajectory is only going in one direction and at some rate too.
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