Phillip Island with Pol Espargaro
Interview by Patrick Galang
Images by TDJ Media
There has been a lot to look forward to for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro for the 2020 season. After achieving some great results last season (2019), reducing the time gap to the leading riders and manufacturers, combined with strong outings during pre-season testing, 2020 was looking good for the Spaniard and the Austrian factory.
But with the world health crisis keeping everyone at home, we flash back to the Australian GP last year when Pat caught up with Pol as he gives us a detailed insight on what goes into a lap around the famous Phillip Island circuit.
Take it away Pol!
Okay, let’s go. Turn 1 Doohan corner! Is probably one of the most difficult corner entries of all the tracks on the calendar. Because if you check from the start/finish line to the first corner you can see that the track is not completely flat so it makes it difficult. But then the wind, that affects so much how you go into the corner, and add the speed…the speed is huge and you need to carry that to the entry of the corner.
If you get a good exit out of the last corner, I think top speed is around 325km/h. But, it’s very difficult to say where to brake because it depends so much on the wind. Normally, we can brake a little bit later, but we are trying to anticipate the wind to prepare the entry of the corner. Because the wind is always taking you out from your line.
The first corner you need to force quite a lot to go into it. It’s also important to be fast through the corner so you can carry it through the exit. But be careful if you have a lot of spin into the rear wheel. Sometimes, this generates too much temperature on the tyre and you get a floating feeling on the rear when you turn in for the second corner.
So for the second corner you need to go into the corner very, very fast and deep inside. Sometimes you need to open the lines to make the turn rounder. You need to attack the inside of the corner then you go outside a little. Not so much because the camber of the track is a little bit tricky.
In corner two we have two problems. The rear spin becomes very aggressive and once we take the outside kerb we have a big wheelie.
Then, the wind is coming right from the sea. The problem is that when you have wheelie (the wheelie is not so high) the wind can get you a bit off line. The front wheel is moving quite a lot so your anti-wheelie needs to be at a good setting. Also because you need that front contact to go into corner three which is super fast.
This is the kind of place where you need to trust a lot in your bike. Exiting from the second corner you have the wheelie then you have the wind and so the front tyre is never really touching down.
So in one movement you need to put the pressure in the front tyre to turn. There is a problem here if you spend too much time with the front wheel up as it cools down quite a lot. And because you don’t have contact at the front, the bike is not turning as fast as you need. So that’s why also the anti-wheelie works a lot in this part of the track.
This is also one of the places you need to be really carefully with the throttle. Because it’s where you burn a lot of tyre. To do it for one or two laps is not a big problem but for a race it’s huge. And corner three is when you can really open the throttle through the corner.
In corner four, the hardest braking of the track, even harder than on the corner ten. It’s tricky because when it’s cold, the temperature and wind is cooling down the front tyre so much when you’re ask a lot from your front. You need to really be carefully especially with the harder compounds.
But it’s a very nice place to overtake, especially at the end of race when you are fighting with the others.
Acceleration out of four is not very tricky but you know the front is always dancing a little getting to corner six which is very similar to corner two.
Corner six is very tricky on the exit. We have more grip than in corner two. At Siberia the problem is that when you spin a little, then you’re pushed to the outside kerb and with the wind you have a lot of pumping.
We have seen in many images when you exit, that the riders start to pump and quite aggressively.
And then the front is never going down it’s always going more. It gets very critical, so you need to be very smooth.
Turn 7 and 8
Then turn 7 and 8 again is very tricky and fast, like in corner three. You need to trust a lot in the front especially on the change of direction.
For me it’s one of the most difficult and nice corners of the year, together with the last corner. You don’t see the end, goes up and goes down. The other problem is because of the camber of the track you are spinning in a very high lean angle. So you need to have a very good electronics in that place. Otherwise you spin a lot and you destroy so much of your rear tyre.
At the beginning of the race we can use our initial torque and traction control mapping only for four or five laps just to try to overtake. But if you take a little bit too long, you put too much on the tyre and then it’s gone.
In a race it’s so important to be very gentle with the throttle and do not smash it when you are in the hill going down. Just hold the throttle to be prepared for corner ten. If you are flat out, when you shut the throttle, the rear is completely sideways and you need to come back in to use the line to brake into the corner ten.
So corner ten, you have the tendency to go very deep inside very fast, but as much as you can, wait to go in into the apex of the corner, it’s better.
This is the kind of the place where your mind is saying that you need to go fast in to gain time. But then when you are in turn eleven you realize that you need to wait a little bit more.
If you are too wide in the exit of ten, then you are eating into eleven, so you need to try to anticipate the braking and entry into ten. If you do this then the speed in corner eleven is going to be faster if you are coming in from out wide.
It’s better to go from outside to inside eleven, which is a place that you spend a lot of time with the throttle. Again, traction control management is very important because you’re spinning a lot. Also, short-shift into eleven to reduce the spin.
At turn eleven, if you generate too much spin, then the tyre temperature goes up and can affect turn twelve.
In turn twelve you need all the power and all the grip to generate a lot of high speed at the end of the straight. So if you spin a lot in eleven, you pay it in twelve. You need to be careful and for me, corner eleven and the last corner is the most fun corner. It’s super fast and you cannot see the end in sight.
It’s magical and wow! One of the corners when you stop, you are shaking, you know, the adrenaline goes super high!
Then it’s full gas on Gardner Straight. It’s fantastic here!