Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro made their race debuts with the prototype 2019 KTM package during Sunday's San Marino MotoGP.

While Espargaro was unable to reach the flag due to a lack of strength on his return from back and collarbone injuries, Smith crossed the finish line in 16th place.

It marked the first full grand prix distance for the new engine since wild-card Mika Kallio at May's Spanish Grand Prix.

"We turned up with no testing here, with a new package and at one of our hardest tracks of last year," Smith said. "We'd not done a full race with this bike, so to finally get that out of the way and see how everything behaves and handles, it's been interesting."

Singapore #6 - 5 Talking Points

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"Yeah, we were using the new package bike," confirmed Espargaro, who rode for 17 of 27 laps before pulling in to save some strength for private testing on Monday and Tuesday.

"The turning is better. For the race distance and physical condition it's better, even if it doesn’t look like it now! To keep the tyre a little bit fresher, it's also better.

"All the package helps you to ride and it's turning a little bit more, which is what we were asking for. Today was not a bike problem, it was a Pol problem."

Smith had received two of the new-spec engines for practice at Brno, but technical issues saw him switch back to the standard version for the Czech race, plus the following Red Bull Ring and Silverstone events.

He then received a third new-spec engine from Friday afternoon at Misano, and this time used it in the race.

"Obviously we're working on turning," Smith said of the new package, which also includes unspecified chassis modifications. "I tried a slightly different set-up this weekend to see if we can get the same or a little better grip. But then you sacrifice a little bit of your turning and braking stability. So it's a trade off at the moment.

"We're still learning exactly what the right things to do are and also learning which tyre works, because I think the soft tyre maybe wasn't the one for our bike today. But you go the safe option when you're going into a race [with this package] for the first time.

"It's weird to be doing this [testing] is the middle of a season! But we have to for the longevity of the project."

Smith held off Ducati wild-card Michele Pirro for the first half of the race, then spent the last lap battling to keep full-time Ducati star Jorge Lorenzo at bay, the Spaniard remounting in front of Smith after falling from second place.

"I was there for the first half, so I can be proud of that," Smith said. "I held Pirro behind me, a dude that's been doing numerous laps around this place on a great bike. Bradl, who has been testing here and is on a full factory Honda. I was there with Aleix, who was testing here. Nakagami as well, who was having a good weekend.

"So from that point of view, really happy, but I just wasn't able to stay [with them]. I started to have a few moments and it was like, 'okay, do I want to throw this or get as much information as possible?' From then, I just basically set my own rhythm.

"Then Jorge got up just in front of me. I was able to pass him and hold him off on the last lap. We're talking about a guy that crashed, but I still went for it. On the last lap of 27 I'm still trying to keep a dude behind me for 16th. Because if someone was to crash on the last lap it would have been a point."

Indeed Smith, now confirmed as an Aprilia test and wild-card rider for 2019, felt his last lap pace proved just how much he had been pushing during the grand prix.

"I was setting a rhythm of '35.2-'35.3 and then, going absolutely all-out to keep Jorge behind, I did a '35.1. So I only had 0.1s in the pocket. I was stretching this bike as much as I could.

"I think we were 1.7s behind [the best race lap], which is higher than we usually are but it was also an amazing pace up front.

"Valentino got left behind by nearly 20 seconds. Maverick by 16. So the pace by the front boys was phenomenal. Jorge after 25 laps did a '32.9. Faster than my qualifying lap. The pace was unreal.

"That's where we’ve got to get to and that's where our focus needs to be.

"16th is not a bad result. The big picture is that we've got work to do and we know it. But I also feel more confident going into the next race at Aragon, where we’ve had two days of testing."

Meanwhile, Smith did not take part in KTM's post-race testing at Misano.

"Basically Pol needs to ride more and confirm all the things I did at Aragon and Randy [de Puniet] needs to be out as a test rider, trying all the things ready for next season.

"It was decided that we can't stretch four bikes across three riders, so the best thing for everybody was to do two and two.

"I don’t really lose anything because it's a test after a grand prix. It'd be nice to work on the bike, but I'm not going to be riding this bike on this track in the next 18 months! So it makes sense."

With Aleix Espargaro scoring two points for Aprilia at Misano, KTM is now a reduced 12-points ahead of the Italian factory in the fight to avoid last place in the constructors' championship.



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