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27 days ago
By motogp.com

KTM rookies soar to Friday top 10

Along with the experienced Pol Espargaro, Iker Lecuona and Brad Binder impressed to claim provisional automatic Q2 places in Jerez

KTM’s RC-16 improvements over the last year really shone through during Free Practice Friday at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was able to claim P8 in FP1 but behind the Spaniard was two impressive rookies in the form of Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing).

Red Bull KTM Tech3 Team Manager Herve Poncharal mentioned how KTM and his team have closed the gap to the leading factories in 2020 to motogp.com pitlane reporter Simon Crafar on Thursday in Jerez, and his rider Lecuona certainly backed that up with a stunning showing on Friday. P9 and P12 in the two sessions show the Spaniard has a real chance of pushing for the top 10.

 

 

“For sure, it’s a really good for me and the team. They’ve done a really good job today,” began Lecuona. “This morning I was working towards a fast lap and then put in a new tyre. I went alone and improved a lot to finish in the top nine, which is really, really good for me because I struggled a lot at the Jerez Test on Wednesday. So, to have this speed with the bike is really important for me and the team.

“In the afternoon, I worked for the race because it’s the right conditions. I didn’t use any news tyres but I was again able to go quite fast, so I’m feeling really good with the bike. I’m quite happy about today. On Wednesday I struggled in some points so Thursday morning and afternoon I worked hard with my team and watched all of the footage, the onboards, checked the data, I did everything to try and improve today and I managed to, so I’m really happy.”

2019 Moto2™ runner-up Binder also enjoyed a great day, finishing FP2 up in third place – ahead of reigning World Champion Marc Marquez – after claiming P10 in the opening Free Practice of the weekend. How did the South African feel about his opening day of competitive MotoGP™ action?

 

“Today was really good. To start off straight away in the top 10 was really good, to be honest I didn’t expect it. The feeling was great as well, already the feeling on the bike was good in the test but mainly today I think we made a good step forward and eyah it was just a really good day. This afternoon I felt good on the old tyres, I put in the new tyres and managed to improve quite a lot so looking forward to tomorrow and just going to try and keep the progress going.

“So far I think the track has been working really well for our bike. There are quite a lot of hard braking points here actually and yeah, I’ve gone straight a lot these last few days that’s for sure, but I’m trying to find the limit. I’m still brand-new and I’ve got a lot of learning to do still.”

Espargaro was also in high spirits after initially thinking the KTM would struggle in the high temperatures, but Friday’s running has proved that it isn’t the case. The Spaniard was happy with his work, but more interestingly, Espargaro was very happy to see how quick the pace of Binder and Lecuona was.

The number 44 then touched upon KTM’s improvements and what the rookies’ performances mean for the Austrian factory: “Last year and in the past years, I was hearing that the bike was made for me or that everyone needed to adapt to myself. But to see these young guys come in – especially Iker you know. He’s a guy that hasn’t ridden so much, even in Moto2™ so he’s quite neutral in that case, and he’s able to be fast with this bike.

The number 44 then touched upon KTM’s improvements and what the rookies’ performances mean for the Austrian factory: “Last year and in the past years, I was hearing that the bike was made for me or that everyone needed to adapt to myself. But to see these young guys come in – especially Iker you know. He’s a guy that hasn’t ridden so much, even in Moto2™ so he’s quite neutral in that case, and he’s able to be fast with this bike.

“After Zarco, KTM was quite worried how the bike was made, if it was good or bad or how it was just suiting my style so much. But this is proof that everyone can be fast with this bike. Dani is fast in the test, Iker is fast, Miguel is super fast as well, Brad is showing good pace and good performance so I’m happy because it’s my baby, so everyone is going fast with it and it’s part of my job, so… Everything looks good for Sunday to enjoy a little with some of the top guys. It’s a little bit early and we are still missing one day, everyone is going to improve for sure, but it looks promising.”

Watch out for the four KTMs for the rest of the weekend. The orange army is looking like they can upset a few of the odds in qualifying and in Sunday’s race.

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