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Double top ten for KTM, Pol 20 seconds closer to winner

Espargaro and Zarco secured P7 and P10 respectively in Barcelona as the Austrian manufacturer continue to close the gap to the top factories

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing scored a double top ten at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, the third time it’s happened in the two and a half years they’ve been competing in the premier class.

Australia 2017 was the first time the Austrian manufacturer got a double top ten with current star Pol Espargaro and former rider Bradley Smith finishing 9th and 10th respectively, with the other coming with the same two riders at last season’s rain-soaked Valencia GP. A race neither Espargaro or KTM will forget in a hurry.

Rider round-up: Catalunya MotoGP™ Test

And it’s been a very strong start to this season with Espargaro achieving five top ten finishes in the seven rounds, including at the French GP where the Spaniard picked up KTM’s best ever dry MotoGP™ result. The number 44 couldn’t quite match that P6 on home turf in Barcelona, but there was one particular thing that Espargaro noted to be “just stunning” about KTM’s continued progress.

“Yeah it’s been a difficult weekend and we previewed the race just how it was – a lot of crashes and the rhythm wasn’t unbelievably fast but I was just trying to stay on the bike, not spinning so much, trying to keep the tyres fresh until the end and it was just a crazy job out there,” reflected the 2013 Moto2™ World Champion.

“(We were) surviving a lot, finally we didn’t crash and we finish seventh but I think the most important thing is we finished 16 seconds off Marquez, and last year we were 36. 20 seconds faster. This is just stunning, it’s unbelievable.”

In 15 mins: Catalan Grand Prix MotoGP™ highlights

With the soaring heat, conditions were tricky as track temperatures rose above 50 degrees Celsius. Track temperatures were 45 degrees Celsius last season and despite Espargaro’s overall race time being just two seconds quicker in 2019 than it was in 2018, to have closed down the gap to the race winner by 20 seconds is yet another indication that KTM are coming.

But what about Zarco? The Frenchman finished tenth in Barcelona – his best KTM result so far - as he continues to get comfortable on the RC16 after switching from Yamaha machinery last season. The double Moto2™ World Champion was in good spirits after the race, with Zarco saying he experienced his best feelings on a bike in a long time.

“It was a good race for me. I chose the hard rear tyre, and I got a good feeling immediately and I think this tyre helped me overall on the second part of the race, I was strong,” commented the number 5 rider.

“At the end I got some problems again, I struggled to control the bike but at least, I think, I did one of the strongest races from the beginning of the season. I have been lucky to see many crashes and catch all the positions I can. It was complicated conditions, it was hot, there was fighting and mistakes so yes by best feeling in a long time and I’m happy that I got this top ten, even if there are not many riders finishing.”

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After completing Monday's post-GP test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the legendary TT Circuit Assen is up next for the orange army. Espargaro has finished 11th and 12th there on a KTM, with Zarco picking up an eighth last season and a P14 in 2018. Will we see both KTM factory riders challenging the top ten in the Netherlands?

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