Red Bull KTM ended their third season of MotoGP competition at an overcast Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia with Pol Espargaro scoring 10th position as three RC16s breached the top fifteen. Brad Binder claimed Moto2 honours for the third Grand Prix in a row and finished as runner-up in the FIM World Championship standings, only 3 points from the top.
The final round of nineteen in 2019 MotoGP took place at the staple venue of the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia. 27 laps of action brought the season to a close in front of 99,000 spectators and in cool temperatures that barely rose above fifteen degrees.
Pol Espargaro launched from 11th place and the fourth row of the grid (having lodged the team’s fourteenth Q2 appearance of 2019 on Saturday) and settled into the group disputing slots on the periphery of the top ten. Again the KTM rider found himself in the company of his brother, Aleix, and on this occasion the elder Espargaro was able to prevail. Pol crossed the finish line just two tenths of a second away from 9th but having secured his eighth top ten classification (seven results better than 2018). Espargaro ends 2019 with seventeen points scoring results (one DNF and one DNS). His total of 100 points is his highest yet and for KTM in the premier class.
Mika Kallio completed his six-race fill-in role with 12th position in Valencia. The Fin set-off from his joint-best qualification position of 17th and posted points for the third time.
Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Iker Lecuona made his MotoGP debut and ahead of a full 2020 campaign with the team. The Spaniard improved his pace on every outing with the RC16 during the weekend. He rode from 19th spot to within MotoGP points by mid-race distance but then lost control on Turn 6. Teammate Hafizh Syahrin finalised his KTM MotoGP career with 15th and his sixth set of points.
Pol Espargaro: “It was not a race like we wanted today. We were missing a lot of grip, traction and turning. We have been faster this year than 2017 in the qualifying, even with my ‘highside’ we were faster on one lap and that’s fantastic because we have gained a lot in stopping but we are struggling a lot on the grip side. The year has finished and we took 100 points in the championship, which is not bad, 11th position and it was not a bad season but we need to improve for 2020. We did three good years but next year it should be better, it must be better. We need to fight for that top six-seven in the championship constantly and be more consistent.”
Mika Kallio: “Yesterday I said I needed to collect some points and we managed to do it but there was some help from other guys crashing in front of me so I’m still not that satisfied with 12th position. I could not feel the grip from the tyres today. I want to say thanks to KTM for letting me ride these six races. It was a nice journey but not as successful as I wanted it to be. Anyway I enjoyed it and we got some points today. The atmosphere was there all the time and that was nice.”
Hafizh Syahrin: “2019 is done, I’m really, really sorry to my team, especially my crew, because they were pushing so hard, but for me it was very difficult to find the rhythm to be consistent compared to my first year in MotoGP. I tried my best! This race was very slow for me. One point is better than nothing in the end, but we were hoping for a lot better race pace. Anyway, thank you to everybody to support me and believe in me and also especially Hervé for giving me this opportunity for two years. I will try to come back stronger, so this is part of my journey now.”
Iker Lecuona: “It was my first race in MotoGP and second because I was fast all the weekend with the team, that helped me a lot, so thanks for all the good work! I crashed [and] honestly, I don’t know what happened because I didn’t brake later or change the line but first [Danilo] Petrucci crashed in this corner, then [Johann] Zarco in the same place and behind it was me. I’m just sorry for the team. Now we continue working for next year!”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “It has been a long season but with some highlights for us. Pol’s result of 10th was our tenth top ten finish of the year and eleventh in the championship is good, very good actually, and the first time we managed to get three digits for points. Pol made a great season and the team did a good job all year, even if it was a difficult race today and hard conditions. It is tough to make Q2 and we did it fourteen times: this is an indicator that our package becomes more and more competitive and we are playing more and more in the top ten. We have to say thanks to Mika; he managed to get into the points and did these last six races for us. On the Tech3 side Iker did a great job through all the sessions and not crashing in difficult conditions. He made his first race experience and did good lap-times. It will be an experience he can take into the winter and he will be focussed for next year. Hafizh is leaving so thanks for all his effort he did this year. We wish him all the best in the Moto2 and Brad comes the other way and we’re excited to start our project with him. From Tuesday the new season starts and we are looking forward to it already.”
Moto2 & Moto3
For the fourth time in the last six races Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder triumphed in the Moto2 class. The South African fought with Thomas Luthi for most of the distance but was able to make a small gap entering the last lap and aced his third Grand Prix in a row. With the success Binder also confirmed second place in the championship. Teammate Jorge Martin registered a well-earned 5th.
Brad Binder: “What an incredible last three races for the team and I, and what a year. It started off so hard but we kept focussed and worked through everything to come back, and to win the last three races was amazing. Tom had some great pace today and I really struggled to pass him. I had to really dig deep. It is an amazing feeling to win three in a row.”
Andrea Migno was part of a tight tussle for victory in Moto3. The Italian was only five thousandths of a second from Sergio Garcia and the chequered flag with his Mugen Race KTM RC4 but was nevertheless content with his second podium outing of 2019. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Can Öncü rounded-off his debut Grand Prix year with 12th place; his best result.
2020 begins in a matter of hours with the MotoGP grid forming up again on Tuesday for the first of two days testing in Valencia.