After qualifying fifth on the grid for the Monster Energy Grand Prix České republiky Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was able to mix it inside the top six for the opening half of the race, before tyre wear eventually led the Spaniard to finish P11.
In extremely tricky qualifying conditions, both Espargaro and teammate Johann Zarco shone to get both factory KTMs inside the top five in Q2, having progressed through Q1. The Frenchman scored KTM their first premier class front row start with a P3, but Zarco couldn’t get the launch on a damp track and quickly slipped back outside the top 10. Espargaro though did get a decent start and slotted himself into fifth, just ahead of Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP).
Espargaro kept Rossi at bay for the opening handful of laps before ‘The Doctor’ and the fast-starting Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) got the better of him, with Espargaro slipping back due to tyre wear.
“Overall the weekend was not so bad because yesterday we showed some good performance in the qualifying but yeah today the first laps, I managed to do a good start in the tricky conditions, especially on the start it was still a little bit wet,” began Pol, who goes onto explain his tyre woes as he slowly dropped down the pecking order.
“Then I managed to stay behind the top guys for a few laps, I lost one spot with Valentino and then I keep behind Valentino some laps, then I lose again to Cal and again to Petrucci. At the beginning of the race with the tyre quite fresh I could manage to stay with them but as soon as it started to drop I couldn’t do anything, I was spinning a lot and especially spinning on the straights so I couldn’t do much by the end of the race.
“It feels like if I push too much at the beginning then at the end I pay, then if I don’t push at the beginning I can’t push enough at the end to catch back. So I am a little bit tired, we have a full day of testing tomorrow to try and improve the problem.”
Despite the tyre troubles, the signs are there for KTM that consistent good results aren't too far away. And next up is the Austrian factory’s home Grand Prix as MotoGP™ head to Spielberg and the Red Bull Ring this weekend. Can KTM find something to improve their tyre degradation issues at the Brno test ahead their biggest weekend of the year?