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9 days ago
By motogp.com

Pol inches from pole in a sensational Saturday for KTM

A MotoGP™ front row will be blessed with a splash of orange in Misano tomorrow thanks to Pol Espargaro’s storming second place

A jubilant Pit Beirer, an ecstatic Pol Espargaro and a resurgent Johann Zarco were three vital ingredients in a day to remember for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing at the Grand Prix Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini. For the first time in MotoGP™, we’ll see an orange machine in the middle of the front row of the grid.

With the chequered flag out, Espargaro crossed the line and to the surprise of everyone, after being down in the third sector, leapt to the top of the timesheets. A late charge from Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales stopped a debut pole for Pol; not that it affected his mood.

“I have no words; I cannot explain how I feel,” said Espargaro. “I’m super proud to be where I am with a KTM, it’s simply unbelievable. We did a great lap and when I crossed the line, I was thinking about all the work we’ve done, all the suffering the group has had, being on the back of the grid just two years ago, and to see where we are now is just unbelievable. I can’t explain it.”

It’ll be just the third time in the Spaniard’s six-year MotoGP™ career that he will start from the front row, matching his career-best result coming in his debut season back in 2014 when he qualified second for the French Grand Prix. Clear track ahead of him ahead of a MotoGP™ is an unfamiliar sight, but one he’ll certainly enjoy.  

“It’s been a very good weekend for us, we’ve had a good rhythm with a used tyre. I think we’ve never worked as well as this in FP4, I did 22 laps on the rear tyre and I was still achieving a good lap time. We’ve been working a lot on the race, it’s like we knew somehow that the qualifying could be nice, and we were preparing for a good race. Tomorrow, I don’t want to make mistakes in the first laps as it’ll be super important to stay there. We’ve done half of the work; the other half is tomorrow.”

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“It’s been a very good weekend for us, we’ve had a good rhythm with a used tyre. I think we’ve never worked as well as this in FP4, I did 22 laps on the rear tyre and I was still achieving a good lap time. We’ve been working a lot on the race, it’s like we knew somehow that the qualifying could be nice, and we were preparing for a good race. Tomorrow, I don’t want to make mistakes in the first laps as it’ll be super important to stay there. We’ve done half of the work; the other half is tomorrow.”

“I’ve been making some really good starts this year, normally overtaking three guys, but now I’ll be on the front row so maybe the nerves will play with me a bit. But I’ll look start like I have been and try to follow those guys at the front, it will be very difficult because straight away they’re so fast but who knows.”

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MotoGP™ Q2 at the San Marino GP: The fight for pole position

Meanwhile, smiles in the Johann Zarco side of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing box have been few and far between this season, but there were definitely some visible grins this afternoon. The Frenchman had his best dry qualifying for the Austrian factory by some margin after ending the session eighth on the timesheets.

However, as has been the case for the former Moto2™ World Champion in 2019, when he takes one step forward, he’s been taking two steps back. Well, in this case, three steps back as he incurred a three-place grid penalty for taking out Miguel Oliveira at the British Grand Prix.

All eyes though will be on the number 44 of Pol Espargaro as he rightly takes his place in the middle of the front row at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. After springing a Saturday surprise, can KTM and Pol go one better tomorrow?

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