Both Red Bull KTM riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro see Phillip Island as their best shot ar a strong result to end 2018 given the team’s impressive pace both in last year’s race and in previous tests.

The KTM duo pulled out a surprise double Q2 effort in qualifying last year with Espargaro claiming sixth place ahead of Smith in ninth, while both riders held on to grab top ten spots in the race – the only time the Austrian MotoGP manufacturer has achieved the feat since joining the premier class full-time at the start of 2017.

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Having both finished in the points in Motegi last weekend, for the first time since Mugello, confidence is high in the KTM camp knowing the Australian track suits the strengths of the RC16 package.

“If you look at our test here from winter it was already good then at last year turning up for the GP it was spectacular considering the season we were having,” Smith said. “It went very, very well here with both of us in Q2 and comfortably inside the top 10.

“We’ll see what happens here. I’m not expecting miracles here of course but it would be nice if the Ducati struggled like they did last year because that will give us a chance to be in the mix.”

Both Smith and Espargaro pinpointed the KTM’s strengths in retaining high corner speed as well as under braking being key to last year’s success.

“It is quite rider demanding and not about everything on the motorbike,” Espargaro said. “We saw on the test when the bike was so weak for example in Qatar we still were quite close to the top here at Phillip Island. It means that the bike does not have such a big importance like other tracks. Also because our bike is really nice at corner entry and braking with fast corners.

“Our ability to run in with more speed is our strong point,” Smith said. “The bike still feels very stable in those types of areas so I can’t believe why that would change. Like I said even at the winter tests I felt like that was one of our strong points.

“If we can unlock that, the only thing when I look back at the data from last year, the final ten laps we really struggled with destroying the rear tyre so a bit more using our common sense with good strategy and looking after the tyre that will hopefully make it last a little bit longer in the race.”

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