The Gran Premio Red Bull de España produced some strong performances by the Red Bull KTM collective as Pol Espargaro vied for a podium finish, Brad Binder impressed with his speed in his debut outing in the premier class and Miguel Oliveira equaled his best MotoGP classification.
Temperatures hovered at 55 degrees across the asphalt of the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto for the first of thirteen rounds in 2020 MotoGP and the opening episode of two 'closed-door' events at the compact Spanish circuit. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Red Bull KTM Tech3 showed increased competitiveness and excellent speed with the KTM RC16 after 25 intense laps of MotoGP’s return to action.
Pol Espargaro finished 6th and was less than a second from 3rd position. The Spaniard fought inside the leading group from the first moments of the race and strived to overtake Jack Miller and Andrea Dovizioso. A final corner attempt to snatch 4th position meant he allowed Franco Morbidelli just enough space to sneak through. Esparagaro was 6th at the finish line. The difference was just three tenths of a second from 4th.
Espargaro was joined in the opening laps by excellent rookie Brad Binder. The South African ensured that the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing bikes formation-flew in the midst of the top ten. A mistake under braking on lap seven saw the Moto3 and Moto2 race winner run off track and lose time down to last place but he then set a fiery pace to work his way back to 13th.
Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira banished some tricky moments in practice and qualification to ride steadily and effectively to 8th spot: equaling his highest MotoGP ranking yet, set at the 2019 Grand Prix of Austria. Teammate Iker Lecuona was also on the fringes of the top ten but suffered with heat exhaustion and had to withdraw from the last quarter of the race distance.
Pol Espargaro: “It’s been a very good day and I’m happy with the result but you always want more! We were just one second from the podium: very close. I needed to be closer to the guys in front to pass but the front tire temperature was growing like crazy-fast in a few corners. We normal struggle at Jerez so to take this result and in these temperatures is very good. We are happy and now we are convinced we can get push for better in the short-term. All four KTMs on the grid are powerful and strong, especially on the race pace. We are in the game now.”
Brad Binder: “In general, it is not too bad. I’m super-happy with the way the bike is. I need to say sorry to my team because today we could have done a good job and taken a good result but at the end of the day we live and we learn. I made a mistake and I won’t do it again. I knew I could be there in that group with the guys, I didn’t know I would be able to sit there quite comfortably. That was a bit of a shock for sure. I’m really happy that my training in the off-season worked because this is a whole new ball game. I must be happy. The whole package is working so well so I must say thanks to KTM for all their work and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do in the next races. Let’s keep our heads up and keep this work ethic going.”
Miguel Oliveira: “It was a very, very happy ending to the weekend. After struggling a little bit in the practices, I think we deserved this good result. To start the season with a top ten is better than we expected. For sure, we still have a lot of work to do for the next race but I’m glad for my performance and I am really, really happy to give this result to the team. It’s also my first race after Motegi in October last year. I’m just happy and hope we can improve next weekend.”
Iker Lecuona: “To be honest, I already regret my decision to return to the garage. It was only five laps to go, I should have just taken a bit of speed out and try to finish the race as the points would have been in reach anyway. I missed out on what could have been a possible top 10 result but I felt really dizzy and didn’t want to risk a crash or put someone else in danger, so I stopped. Before that, I was quite strong, managed to be close to Miguel all the time.”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager: “We’ve started an unusual season with such a long time between the races and a lot of things have happened since last November. We knew our bike from the winter tests would perform better than last year, but we haven’t been able to show it until this weekend. This is a result of all the excellent effort from everybody at the factory and all those connected to the project. When it comes to the riders then Pol made a very clever race. This short season means that a mistake in the first GP would have been costly but he still gave the maximum. Brad was outstanding to be in the leading group and until he saved his crash. His comeback and lap-times were amazing. It was a big lesson for him. Miguel struggled in the sessions but was already better from warm-up and managed a super 8th position. We could have had three bikes in the top ten. Iker learned how tough this category can be and how the bikes and the riders push to the limit. He showed us that he’s fast but still needs to get prepared for MotoGP. We are not worried though; he is the youngest in our group and he will pick it up.”
Moto2 & Moto3
Red Bull KTM Ajo celebrated a double podium result in Moto2 with Tetsuta Nagashima finishing 2nd and grabbing a second trophy after his win in Qatar while Jorge Martin followed up his Pole Position on Saturday with his third top three classification in just his second Moto2 term.
In Moto3 Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3’s Albert Arenas blasted to his second Grand Prix victory in a row after emerging from a chaotic race with many riders vying for podium positions. The Spaniard – who conquered the opening event in Qatar in March – headed three other KTM RC4s in the top six with SKY Racing Team VR46’s Andrea Migno in 4th and the Italian was followed by teammate Celestino Vietti and Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Raul Fernandez.
Albert Arenas: “Incredible! This race was amazing and really hard in the heat and with the tire, but I knew I had a good feeling when the tire dropped. I could keep the corner speed, even with the wheel spin. I’m really happy for the team; we made a late change to the set-up before the race and it worked. On the last lap I knew a podium finish would be a good result but also I knew if I did right things at the right moment then victory would be possible.”
MotoGP remains in Spain and will tackle Jerez again but this time for the Gran Premio Red Bull de Andalucía on July 26th.