Pol Espargaro has said he has been able to ride his Yamaha M1 as he wishes in Valencia as his aggressive style paid off in Friday free practice as he ended Friday with the seventh fastest MotoGP time.
Coming to the close of what has been an ultimately trying year, Espargaro was able to find a level of grip with the asymmetric front and the medium rear tyre that allowed him to finish the day eight places ahead of team-mate Bradley Smith.
Not feeling any ill effects from a cracked bone in his neck sustained during a collision with Hector Barbera in Sepang, Espargaro's fastest time of the day was less than 0.2s slower than that of Valentino Rossi.
Speaking on Friday evening, the 2013 Moto2 world champion joked this change of feeling has arrived too late in the season.
“I don't know what's different. It's really strange, because here we found really good grip from the first lap, and the bike is working really good. It's strange, because normally when I want to push, my lap time is worse, but here it is the opposite. When I want to push, my lap time is coming. My feelings are really good, and I have a really good pace with the bike.
“When I arrive in the box I am smiling, because I'm enjoying riding the bike, and normally this doesn't happen. It's a pity that this arrive last race of the year. I'm a little bit late! But finally, we have a race like this, but still tomorrow, all the riders have to improve, and it's just the beginning.
“There is an asymmetric front, and an extra soft and a soft. I cannot use the soft front also. Vale and Jorge, I heard they can use it, they can manage, but finally they did the lap time with the asymmetric, so... Maybe they feel better for the race with the soft compound, but I think it makes no sense to speak of the soft, the harder compound of the front.”
Espargaro cut ten flying laps on Friday afternoon, of which only three were in the 1m 31s bracket. Still, the Catalan feels that with his tyre compound he has a good consistency for Sunday's 30-lap race.
“Normally when I go harder, for me it's better to turn the bike. But maybe because I'm fast the softer compound is working better for me. Maybe tomorrow, with more rubber on track, more grip on track, maybe the harder of the front tires is working better, but it will be too late, because we chose the allocation already. Today, we made a lot of laps on the asymmetric front and the soft rear, and we can manage for the race, and I feel really good.”
Looking ahead to Saturday, Espargaro pinpointed corner entry as an area in need of improving.
“Entering some corners we are a little bit weak, not on the brakes, but the factory riders manage to roll off entering in the corners and they are able to enter a bit faster. But what I lose in the entry, because we have good grip on the rear, I can recover that. I am a little bit slower entry, but faster exit. At least normally, this riding style for me is not good, because the grip is not good, but here, because the grip is good, because I lose a bit on the entry I can recover on the exit, so I'm not really too far from then.”