Red Bull KTM picked up more MotoGP points as both Pol Espargaro and Johann Zarco finished 11th and 14th respectively at a warm Brno for the Monster Energy Ceske republiky today. Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Miguel Oliviera was the third RC16 rider in the top fifteen with a creditable 13th.
MotoGP clicked into the second half of the 2019 campaign with the visit to the popular and demanding Automotodrom Brno circuit and where a wet and complicated day of qualification changed to largely summery conditions for the tenth round of nineteen.
The 50th Grand Prix at Brno started brilliantly for KTM with the manufacturer’s best qualification results in their short two-and-a-half year spell in the premier class: Johann Zarco obtaining the KTM RC16’s first front row position with 3rd and Pol Espargaro equalling a previous best with 5th place.
On Sunday afternoon a freak shower on part of the track caused a 40 minute delay and plenty of consternation among the teams and riders as the grid formed up. The race was shortened from 21 to 20 laps and declared a ‘Flag to Flag’ sprint.
Espargaro initially ran within the top five as Zarco could not ace a start to head the pack. The Spaniard struggled with rear tyre grip to slip just outside the top ten while Zarco defeated Stefan Bradl to place just behind Oliveira. The Portuguese’s teammate, Hafizh Syahrin, crashed out in the first laps.
Pol Espargaro: “Qualifying went very well, and today we could keep the rhythm near the front for the first four-five laps after making a good start in very tricky conditions. Then we had some wheel-spin as the tyre dropped, mostly on the straights, and it meant we lost some positions. I tried to go with Valentino [Rossi], [Danilo] Petrucci and [Cal] Crutchlow but it was complicated. I was losing a lot each lap. So, some positives and negatives today and we’re looking forward to tomorrow to see if we can make some improvements. We have a big target for next weekend.”
Johann Zarco: “Not the plan we had. The start was a disaster. I think I had some spin because I was on the right side of the track where there were some wet patches. It was the right decision to wait forty minutes and start the race with the slick. I messed-up the start but it was good to fight and I did my best to be as constant as possible. In the end it was good to be in the points and to beat the guy I was racing with at the end. I want to say I am happy but it is because I did not finish the last two races and that is the most disappointing thing. Compared to yesterday 14th is not so satisfying but it’s where I am at the moment.”
Miguel Oliveira: “It was a nice race: difficult for everyone, especially to manage the grip of the rear tyre. The pace was the best I could do. We did a great job after having only one day of practice in the dry, the team gave me a nice bike to ride, so I’m really happy for that. The gap to the first is not so big, it’s the second-best gap that we had all season. We are definitely on a line of improvement and we just need to keep working like this.”
Hafizh Syahrin: “I’m very disappointed. It was a really good race. I felt confident and I was one of the only three riders to choose the hard tyre in front but for some reason we suddenly lost the front. Plus, the start was strange. I tried to put in the launch control, but it was not working and also the dashboard was a bit confused, so I needed to start without launch control, which was very difficult for me. But on the first lap I was really strong and on the second one, I caught back up with the group. I arrived in 15th and knew I would be able to pass Aleix [Espargaro], but first I tried to stay with Maverick [Viñales] and to pull away a little bit and then the crash happened. That’s racing, I feel sorry for everyone.”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “In general the weekend for KTM was not so bad but for sure our target was the top ten. Pol nearly did it but lost the rear tyre quite dramatically after mid-race distance and could not keep his position. He did a great job and we need to work harder so our tyre life stays longer. Johann rode well to get a good position on the grid but the bad luck with the weather meant it was very wet on that side and it affected him to focus and make a good start. He scored two points and all of us are not so happy with that but it’s where we are right now. Miguel had a decent race and we had three bikes in the points. Tomorrow we’ll test and try some items to improve lap-times and stability for the race. Next week is our home GP and we are focussed on our target there and to finish in a good position.”
Moto2 & Moto3
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder tumbled from a top ten position in Moto2 while teammate Jorge Martin rode to 13th place. Iker Lecuona was the highest RC12 runner with 10th spot. Moto3 featured at least twelve riders in the leading group and tussling for podium honours. Victory went to Sterilgarda Max Racing Team’s Aron Canet for the fifth time this season and Bester Capital Dubai’s Jaume Masia registered 4th. Canet leads Moto3 by 3 points from Lorenzo Dalla Porta. Brno saw Can Öncü in action with his twin brother, Deniz, for the first time in Red Bull KTM Ajo colours. Can continues to improve his speed and was at the back of the principal gaggle, eventually coming home in 14th for just his second batch of GP points in 2019. Deniz managed 18th on his FIM World Championship debut.
Brno cannot rest just yet. All the MotoGP teams will gather for the IRTA test on Monday and then a busy and eagerly awaited home Grand Prix lies in store for KTM next week; the myWorld Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich, taking place once more at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.