2019 MotoGP – Round Five – Le Mans
The Red Bull KTM pitbox at Le Mans was full of smiles and high-fives after Pol Espargaro took the KTM RC16 to 6th place at round five of MotoGP, the best dry weather result for the crew in their third year in the premier class.
Team-mate Johann Zarco managed 13th, equalling his highest classification so far, at his home Grand Prix and in front of many fans under grey skies in France.
27 intense laps of the Le Mans circuit yielded another small milestone in KTM’s young MotoGP history as all four bikes graced the top fifteen and scored points.
Pol made a positive start and then chased the rear wheel of Valentino Rossi in the second half of the race, relatively safe ahead of Franco Morbidelli in seventh.
Espargaro crossed the finish line less than six-seconds behind winner Marc Marquez.
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Team Manager
“To fight in the top ten – for sixth place – and be only six seconds behind the race winner in dry conditions and no excuses: you can only be proud. We’re proud of Pol for how he made that result but also for all the people who have worked so hard on this project. We are still at the beginning of season-three but over the winter the comments from all our riders and test riders meant some ideas that took time to find technical answers and after Jerez we had some, and it was an achievement. We felt we had good performance and Friday here was amazing. Things did not work out as expected for qualifying but Pol did a great job and so did everyone around him and us. We’re still not happy that Johann cannot perform like Pol but I think we started to do the right things with him here and this was the first time where he said he felt comfortable and the lap-time was coming. Now we have to work hard to put that into a dry setting and to ‘make’ the bike more for him. He is more motivated and I think Jean-Michel Bayle helps him a lot. For the first time in history we have all KTMs in the championship points and I’m happy that Hafizh made it and Miguel did it again. It was a very good day and we’ll go to Mugello to try and beat it.”
Zarco was kept busy in mid-pack but his run to 13th was cheered by much of the public at the fences and represented his joint-best result in his fifth GP with the RC16.
Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin also both scored points with finishes of 15th and 14th respectively. Oliveira would have snared 14th spot but was penalised for exceeding track limits and dropped behind his teammate in the rankings.
Hervé Poncharal – Red Bull KTM Tech3 Team Manager
“Altogether it was a very positive weekend in France for the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team. We have gathered a lot of very important information. Thanks to the weather we could ride on the wet for the very first time, which was good and we could see that both of our riders were quite competitive. So, this is something we’ve done now and we can look into the future in a more optimistic way – in terms of weather. The race was quite strong. We didn’t gain too many positions at the start, but we kept a very decent rhythm. We were right behind Johann (Zarco) and I think the three KTM of Johann, Miguel and Hafizh did very similar times lap after lap after lap, which were quite interesting. In the end, I’m really glad for Hafizh, who was right behind Miguel very long and thanks to a penalty for Miguel, that he caught by going through a chicane, Hafizh managed to catch two points. I think this is very important for him to be with Miguel and Johann the whole race and he scored his very first points of the season. We know how important it is not to finish last and to be close to the guys you are fighting with. So, we are happy for Hafizh. Miguel did a strong weekend. As usual, we are very happy with what he did as well. One has to finish in front of the other, Miguel crossed the line in front of Hafizh, but due to the penalty Hafizh was in front of him eventually. At the end of the day, they are good teammates, they are good guys and the most important is; we’ve been competitive all through the weekend, much, much better than the previous round in Spain. KTM could be pleased, I think, because this is the best result from Pol (Espargaro) in a dry race and this is also the first time of the year, where we have the four guys inside the points. So, it’s is a good weekend for Red Bull KTM Tech3, but also for KTM. I’d like to thank them one more time. We have more work to do, more catch-up to do, but we are a happy team tonight. We worked hard and this is the way we do, what we have to do, which is growing, improving and bringing KTM closer to the top guys, which will happen soon. So, thanks to everyone for the hard work, thanks to the two riders and their dedication in this project. Have a few days off and see you in Mugello!”
Pol Espargaro is now inside the MotoGP Championship Top Ten with a tally of 31-points across the opening five rounds of MotoGP season 2019.
Pol Espargaro – P6
“Simply a stunning result and almost unbelievable after less than two and a half years. We are showing that we are on the way. I am so proud of this project. We are there because we were fifth, and we were there during the whole race. The competition is so high here with the best riders in the world and we are just five seconds from the winner and that factory. It is amazing and for sure gives us wings to keep working and be better in the next races to keep fighting for the top ten. I had so much fun today and was on the limit from start to the end and it was amazing to see we were catching Vale in some places and Petrucci needed to hit me to overtake me. This makes me feel really proud.”
Johann Zarco – P13
“A tough race today. I had a good start and was controlling the bike well but lap-after-lap I was the end of my power because I still don’t have the optimum feeling. I’m happy with 13th position because it is still some points. Overall the weekend had a few good things and I will keep this in mind for the next race. I wanted to be in the top ten and I was close at the beginning of the race but I could not follow the pace. It was a shame. Pol did fantastically this weekend and that is great for KTM and for him. I still need to work because he proved that this can take you somewhere. We need time and I said that at the beginning of the season. I felt the quality of the bike this weekend and we have things to work on, so we leave France with a little bit of a smile.”
Hafizh Syahrin – P14
“I enjoyed the race. In the beginning it was a bit difficult to find the speed but lap-by-lap I found a rhythm and I tried to fight with Miguel and stay close to him. Finally, he made a mistake and I ended up being 14th. These two points have a huge meaning for me and I want to dedicate them to my family and everybody around me but especially the French fans because they always appreciate all of us riders. It’s the home GP for the team and I never give up. I also want to thank my team because they always trusted in me and also never gave up to help me, to improve my bike, my riding style with the new machine.”
Miguel Oliveira – P15
“It has been a hard race today. All weekend we didn’t have so much dry time, so obviously the setting was not perfect. Anyway, we managed to make some progress I was able to go a little bit faster than this morning. I struggled in the race with a couple of things, but in general I would say, the result was a bit better than Jerez, which for me is the only positive today. I’m quite upset with my penalty. Anyway, we move on to the next round now.”
KTM hope for even more success at the Gran Premio D’Italia around the majestic sweeps and turns of Mugello that will take place in the first weekend will take place across the first weekend in June.
|16||J Mir||Suzuki||1 Lap|
|DNF||T Nakagami||Honda||9 Laps|
|DNF||A Iannone||Aprilia||19 Laps|
|DNF||M Viñales||Yamaha||21 Laps|
|DNF||F Bagnaia||Ducati||21 Laps|
|DNF||T Rabat||Ducati||25 Laps|
MotoGP World Championship Standings