Pol Espargaro has admitted the decision to allow him to race in the Malaysian MotoGP race at Sepang was “for sure not safe” as he felt “wasted” after a recently sustained neck injury.
The Spaniard was collected by an errant Hector Barbera in morning warm-up and cracked a bone in his neck, leaving him flailing in the closing stages of the 20-lap race.
Having fractured a metatarsal in free practice a year ago, Espargaro went into the race injured for the second year running. After, he candidly spoke of his mental state being nowhere close to ready for the demands of a 40-minute race.
“For sure I'm not a lucky man at this track! I don't really like the track. Plus everything; the heat, the humidity. Today the pace was not fast. It was more about the physical conditions. I was wasted. I took some pills for the pain and I wasn't ready for this race. It hurts but it wasn't the pain here. It was more in the head. Now I'm just floating!
“Already I started good, and I was a bit lucky in the first corner and in the second corner, I was in a good position at the moment, and I overtake some riders. And I was happy, because at least I did a good start.
“Then I push two or three laps, but I did some 2m 3.0s already with a new tyre and I was not there, I feel like I was not OK, I just went wide a lot of the race, and other riders started to overtake me, and I started to be worse, worse, worse. And at one stage when I saw two or three laps to the end, I was not there. I cannot remember even the last six laps, so I was just riding, just on the bike."
Asked whether he felt his presence in the race was safe, he added, “The last ten laps, for sure was not safe. To me it was not safe, because I think on the straight I was doing 300kph, and normally we should do 325, 326.
“So yes, I was not even on the bike, not giving full throttle. I was not good, but I just wanted to finish the race, I was just playing for the tenth place in the championship – OK, it's not the best place, but better tenth than eleventh. And I'm a rider, all the riders want to race, I never stop in one race. So if I thought that I can, even if it's bad, I had to continue.”
Describing the incident with Barbera on Sunday morning, Espargaro felt the move by his countryman was crazy. Indeed the Avintia Ducati rider earned one penalty point for the incident, forcing him to start the race from the back of the grid.
“I don't understand why. Valentino was in front. Already he was following but he was two seconds off. Then I was arriving. He was doing 2m 2-3s, I was doing 2m 1-1.5s. I was faster than him, overtake him really clean and for sure I went a little bit wide, close the line and he opened the throttle to avoid me overtaking him. Maybe in one race it's not really fair but it's ok. In the warm-up… It was really too crazy.
“If we could start the race in the warm up, I was really good, my rhythm was really good, I was comfortable. But everything was just going worse and worse after the crash, we were in the Clinica a lot of time, I have no time, and everything was going to the opposite.”
Espargaro will have an MRI scan on the injury when he returns to Barcelona this week.