Pol Espargarò experienced a decidedly bitter eve of the Austrian Grand Prix. On the one hand there was the victory of KTM in Brno by Brad Binder, who undoubtedly gave the team enthusiasm and confidence, but on the other hand there was also the disappointment of not having been the rider to give the Austrian manufacturer its first win in MotoGP. In the middle there is also what the other riders are saying, including some grumbling about the rapidly emerging new orange bike that everyone expected to be faster than in 2019, but not up to this point.
The reality is that what we saw in Brno represents a confirmation of what we had glimpsed at Jerez and that is that KTM has really arrived in the small group of bikes that can be considered as winning bikes. If there is one thing that seems to have bothered Pol Espargarò however in the days following Brno, it is that some observers indicate the Michelin tyres, others the new chassis and even more Pedrosa, as the reasons for this competitiveness. Almost all of them seem to forget the riders who are racing on the track and are simply going very fast, like Pol himself, Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira.
"In the end, we were simply faster than everyone else - explained Espargarò - when Yamaha wins, no one complains about top speed. When Ducati wins, they don't complain about the lack of rear grip. Our bike is fantastic now and it's fun, because it means that we are all working very well. Maybe it also depends on us riders that we are doing a good job, no? The bike is not the only thing that counts in this sport, if it were like that, Quartararo wouldn’t have won in Spain, but the Yamaha engineers. If Dovizioso had won, would a Ducati engineer have won? And when does Marquez wins with the Honda? Is it him or the bike? But we only talk about him. When they win, it's because the riders are all good and fast. If, on the other hand, the KTM wins, it does so only because the bike is fast. The riders are fast, the bike works well and that's all, for me it's very simple. "
Can you identify a single aspect in which this KTM is objectively a step ahead of the previous one?
“I can't find a single thing. There hasn't been a change we have made that has made us say 'here we are, now we're winning'. As well as the fact that our engine is not incredibly faster than it was already in 2019 . Last year we worked a lot on the electronics, our engine is objectively more powerful. The chassis also gave us more continuity. But in reality, there was no change that alone could change the values on the track, as much as rather a series of changes which we all guessed right. Maybe in the Czech Republic the weather and track conditions were more suited to our needs, more than for others ".
In hindsight it's easy to reason like that, but are you worried about the future? The Honda has been suffering a lot while the KTM flew at Brno. Any second thoughts?
"I'll tell you next year, at the end of the year. I have no idea now. Marc wasn’t at Brno, so the best Honda rider on the track was missing. Hard to say, now I'm happy that the KTM is working well, but next year will be another story. We'll see what happens, for now I'm happy with how it's going this season. "
Austria will say a lot about what your competitive level can really be until the end of the World Championship...
"We will see how it goes in these races, but only at the end of the championship will we understand what our level really is. It makes no sense to say now that the KTM is the best bike on the grid just because of how we went in Brno. If we can repeat those performances every weekend until the end of the season, then I'll agree in saying that ours is the best bike on the track. But for now, I prefer to go slow and see what happens. "
However, the victory changed expectations. Now you are aiming high, it has almost become an obligation…
"Of course, the motivation is skyrocketing now. Seeing the KTM win at Brno is an incredible push, also because Miguel and I were very fast too. This leads KTM to push even more. The tyres are the same for everyone, they have the same construction and the same compounds for all the manufacturers. That's how it works in MotoGP, we are simply now making better use of them than the other riders, our electronics work better, just like our rivals did when they were faster than us in the past and we were just faster all weekend. "
The private tests have helped you and you have exploited them well…
"We have the concessions; we can do more tests and we take advantage of them. There isn't much to say in my opinion, they are simply the rules. Aprilia has the same possibilities, but they don't use them in the same way. We use what we can, these are the rules ".
Are you worried about racing a wet GP, or maybe you think back to Valencia in 2018?
"It's hard to predict anything about the weather, but at least we will all race in the same conditions. I think we can be fast in both dry and rainy conditions, so I'm not worried. I'm actually looking forward to racing this weekend."