Pol Espargaro ‘back to my roots’, ‘DNA match’

Pol Espargaro is going ‘back to his roots’ in 2023 as he not only returns to Tech3, where he began his MotoGP career, but also KTM, headlining the new GASGAS branded project.
Pol Espargaro (Sebas Romero)
Pol Espargaro (Sebas Romero)

The Spaniard had formed KTM’s inaugural 2017 MotoGP line-up alongside ex-Tech3 team-mate Bradley Smith and went on to lead the squad for the next four seasons.

Espargaro celebrated the first pole and podium for the orange manufacturer, while his fifth place in the 2020 standings (five rostrums) is yet to be beaten by a KTM MotoGP rider.

But the honour of KTM's first MotoGP win went to rookie Brad Binder, with Miguel Oliveira then handing Tech3 KTM two victories at the end of the same 2020 season, with Espargaro lured away to Repsol Honda for 2021.

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Joining Marc Marquez with high hopes of fighting for race wins and the world title, Espargaro instead found himself on perhaps the least competitive RCV of the MotoGP era.

The #44 salvaged just two podiums in two seasons at HRC, including a dire 2022 campaign where - after leading for much of the Qatar season opener – he only finished in the top ten once thereafter.

Barely able to hide his frustration at a lack of development parts to try and improve his situation, Espargaro finished just one point (56) and one place (16th) higher than he had managed on an RC16 in KTM’s debut 2017 season.

But having left KTM on good terms, and with the Austrian factory keen to sign riders with experience of other MotoGP brands to push the plateauing RC16 project upwards again, Espargaro has been welcomed back to headline the GASGAS Tech3 team, where he will be joined by reigning Moto2 champion Augusto Fernandez.

RC16 'almost ready to fight for something really great'

“I feel like I am coming back to my roots. With Tech3 and the new brand we have a GASGAS ‘mood’: friendly, close to people and we’re really hard workers, so I believe that if we fight and push together as a team we will be there,” Espargaro said.

The fired-up 31-year-old was the fastest of the RC16 riders - Tech3 will continue to use factory-spec KTMs - at last month’s Sepang test, although 13th place suggests there is still plenty of development work ahead for a bike that hasn’t won in the dry since Catalunya 2021.

Nonetheless, Espargaro is confident: “We will be right at the top. I think the potential is high on this bike. For sure we have a lot of work to do because the level in MotoGP right now is super-high but I think we can reach it.

“In Valencia for the first test [last November], I felt the DNA of the bike and when it matches your own DNA it makes you feel so good! The bike is almost ready to fight for something really great this year.”

The final pre-season test takes place on March 11-12 at Portimao, when the Tech3 riders will make their track debut with their new GASGAS livery.

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