Red Bull KTM’s Pol Espargaro entered Q2 and clocked the 11th fastest lap in Qualification for the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana. The Spaniard will tackle the nineteenth race of the season from a slot on the fourth row of the grid.
For the eighteenth consecutive year the largely flat and compact Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, eastern Spain, hosted the finale of MotoGP. The nineteenth round of 2019 was also the fourth time the series was being entertained in Spain but despite sunny skies moderate temperatures meant some challenging track conditions.
Pol Espargaro survived a hair-raising slide on his principal time attack in Q1. At almost 180kmph through Turn 10 he controlled the ‘moment’ and edged his way into Q2; amazingly only five thousandths of a second behind Alex Rins. In the following session – to determine the final top twelve ranking of the season – Espargaro rose as high as 6th on the timing screens and ended the afternoon 11th.
Teammate Mika Kallio – the man that began KTM’s MotoGP story with a wildcard appearance at the 2016 edition of Valencian Grand Prix – is 17th on the grid and equalled his best qualifying ranking since joining the race team six events ago.
Red Bull KTM Tech3 debutant Iker Lecuona progressed in speed and confidence in every outing with the KTM RC16. The 19 year old class rookie was satisfied with 19th spot; less than two seconds from Fabio Quartararo’s pole position chrono and ahead of teammate Hafizh Syahrin who placed 22nd.
The Moto3 race will open the Grand Prix at 11.00 Sunday morning CET. The 27 laps (108km distance) of MotoGP begins at 14.00.
Pol Espargaro: “We’ve been struggling on Fridays lately and we could turn the situation round a little here. I think we are in a bit better shape here than in Malaysia. We have a better feeling so it will be a different scenario for the race where we can fight with the others. I could manage to stay on the bike in Q1 after that big moment! I lost two tenths on that lap but could stay in Q2 so I was super-pleased. Then in the Q2 with the Hard tyre we did a 30.9 and qualified 11th, not too far from the front. The only thing that annoys me today is that we did not get enough tyres for what we wanted to do in Q2. We could have made 5th on the grid.”
Mika Kallio: “Today was somehow OK in terms of results but I still don’t have full confidence to push the bike to the limit. Still, we are 17th and hopefully we can bring home some points tomorrow. It’s not easy to manage the situation and it is hard to repeat the same lap-times. We have to see if we can still find something for tomorrow.”
Iker Lecuona: “Today went a lot better than yesterday. I improved a lot in FP3. I progressed and understood the bike a lot better, plus I managed to follow some other riders on track, which was very important. This afternoon in FP4, I worked towards the race distance with used tyres and I was very consistent. So, I’m ready for my first race. In Qualifying I tried to push as hard as I could and I went faster than I expected myself, to be honest. I left some other riders behind me again, so I’m very happy.”
Hafizh Syahrin: “I felt a bit better this afternoon than in FP3 this morning. To be honest, I don’t have 100% confidence to the front as it was bumping a bit during the Qualifying, so I couldn’t go a lot faster. There was not much I could do. Tomorrow we try to do our best, stay on the bike and aim to enjoy the last race.”
Moto2 & Moto3
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Jorge Martin took 2nd position in qualification for Moto2 and the classification represented a season-best for the Spaniard. It will allow the RC12 rider to enjoy his second front row start of 2019. Martin was under than two hundredths of a second from the Pole Position distinction earned by Jorge Navarro. Brad Binder, who set the pace on Friday, was 7th.
Mugen Race’s Andrea Migno used his KTM RC4 to take his first Moto3 Pole Position in three years. The Italian was two tenths of a second faster than Marcos Ramirez and less than half a second ahead of teammate Jaume Masia. The third KTM in the top four belonged to local favourite Aron Canet.