Espargaro 6th in Valencia for best MotoGP Qualification position of 2018

QUALIFYING 19th Rd. MotoGP 2018 – Communitat Valenciana - Ricardo Tormo (ESP)
Pol Espargaro KTM RC16 MotoGP Valencia

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MotoGP encountered late autumnal conditions and freakish storms at the flat Ricardo Tormo Circuit outside the city of Valencia and for the traditional last round of the FIM World Championship on Spanish soil. Rain covered the venue on Thursday and Friday, which meant three of four Free Practice sessions were held in wet conditions.

Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith were smart with their tyre allocation and used their experience in the conditions (particularly on a treacherous Friday) to maximise set-up, grip and potential with the RC16 racebikes. The pair hovered around the inside or on the fringes of the top ten; Espargaro earning direct entry to Q2 after another soaked FP3 this morning.

Both riders and the rest of the MotoGP grid negotiated rapidly drying Valencian asphalt for FP4 – Smith especially finding form to hit the top five - and then into the Q1 and Q2 chronos. Bradley suffered a braking issue at a key time that limited his potential and he disappointingly could do no better than 22nd.

Espargaro registered eight laps and his seventh was the strongest, leaving him just over two tenths of a second away from Maverick Viñales Pole Position strike. His 6th place means the second row of the grid and strong possibilities for KTM to round-off their second Grand Prix year on a bright note from 14.00 tomorrow.

Espargaro: “With everything we have been through this season this feels a bit more than a [great] qualification session for us. It means quite a lot and I’m feeling happy, and for the boys in the pitbox. I think we did the maximum today – just two tenths from first place – and we didn’t expect to be so close in the dry. We were always in the top ten in the wet and in very tricky conditions. We are good here and it means we need to think about what we can copy for the other circuits. Most of it is to with the fact that I am coming back to my normal speed. I think we are in a position for a nice result. I don't think we have had an opportunity like this so far with KTM but we must take it calmly tomorrow.”

Smith: “I had a brake issue in qualification. I went P2 straight away and came in to the box because I believed the Medium tyre would be the right choice for the second half of the practice. I was throwing down red helmets in the first part of the lap but lacked brake pressure when I came to Turn 12 and ran into the gravel. I tried everything to try and get something in the rest of the session but it was impossible. You just have to look at Pol’s pace to see the KTM is working well today. I felt really good in the dry and was doing a good job around the top five-six in FP4 so to be 22nd doesn't seem fair but it is what it is and I will have to make my way through the pack tomorrow.”

Sebastian Risse, Technical Director MotoGP: “It has been an awesome day and weekend up until now because Pol has been there in every session. Wet conditions and dry are obviously different things but he has a small look at the dry in FP4 and went for it in Qualification and did brilliantly. Whether it is wet or dry he has the speed and we see ourselves back to the sort of level we were reaching last year: we’ve enjoying it and it was time for it! With Bradley we struggled a lot in qualifying and we have to analyse why. He couldn't get a clean run or a proper lap-time and we need to check the full reason because up until then he had been going well. The positives outweigh the negatives. We’re hopeful for tomorrow. At one stage I think we would have preferred it if the race was wet but now we’ll face whatever comes.”

Moto2 & Moto3

Swiss Innovative Investors Sam Lowes was the highest placed KTM runner in Moto2 with 7th position and was just half a second from Luca Marini’s Pole lap. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s
Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder settled for 10th and 11th on the grid in the last race of the Moto2 era with the current engine specification.

Red Bull KTM Ajo’s star rookie, Can Oncu, made an immediate impression in Qualification Practice for Moto3 by rising as high as 2nd position on the timing screens. The Turk suffered a slow speed tumble in the sessions that were some of the wettest of the day but forced a decent lap in the crucial QP period. He was bettered by Nakarin Atiratphuvapat and John McPhee in the last few seconds but will head the second row of the grid and is ahead of five other KTM RS250 GP bikes in the top ten.

Oncu: “At the start of qualifying I knew I could set a good time, because I believed in myself. We have worked very hard for this weekend and, finally, we achieved a great result, so I'm very happy with this fourth position. I can only thank the entire team. Now it's time to enjoy the race tomorrow and get the best possible result from my first GP as a World Championship rider."

Races: November 18, 2018 – Moto3 11:00 | Moto2 12:20 | MotoGP 14:00 CET

Results Qualifying MotoGP Ricardo Tormo Circuit 2018

1. Maverick Viñales (SPA), Yamaha 1:31.312
2. Alex Rins (SPA), Suzuki +0.068
3. Andrea Dovizoso (ITA), Ducati +0.080
4. Danilo Petrucci (ITA), Ducati +0.102
5. Marc Marquez (SPA), Honda +0.130
6. Pol Espargaro (SPA), KTM +0.265
22. Bradley Smith (GBR), KTM +1.629

Results Qualifying Moto2 Ricardo Tormo Circuit 2018

1. Luca Marini (ITA), Kalex 1:35.777
2. Xavi Vierge (SPA), Kalex +0.027
3. Marcel Schrotter (GER), Kalex +0.168
4. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Kalex +0.396
5. Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA), Kalex +0.493
6. Sam Lowes (GBR), KTM +0.588
Other KTM
10. Miguel Oliveira (POR), KTM +0.652
11. Brad Binder (RSA), KTM +0.687

Results Qualifying Moto3 Ricardo Tormo Circuit 2018

1. Tony Arbolino (ITA), Honda 1:46.773
2. Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (THA), Honda +0.244
3. John McPhee (GBR), KTM +0.343
4. Can Oncu (GBR), KTM +0.563
5. Aron Canet (SPA), Honda +0.658
Other KTM
6. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA), KTM +1.003
7. Marcoz Ramirez (SPA), KTM +1.010
8. Jakub Kornfeil (CZE), KTM +1.023
9. Albert Arenas (SPA), KTM +1.053
10.Raul Fernandez (SPA), KTM +1.107
19. Darryn Binder (RSA), KTM +1.999


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