Pol Espargaro says he's more emotional and satisfied by securing his and Red Bull KTM’s first-ever MotoGP podium than his previous race wins and world title given the fight to reach it in the premier class.

Espargaro mastered the wet conditions to charge to third place to take his maiden MotoGP podium. which also acts as KTM’s first premier class rostrum, despite his crash in the opening race before the red flag only to remount and make the second start on his repaired RC16.

It caps a 2018 campaign captured by contrasting emotions from his painful crash at Brno which ruled him out of three rounds, while battling the collarbone injury on his comeback, to taking his first points since the Japanese round.

“It is unreal. In the first race if felt good and during all the weekend in the wet conditions,” Espargaro said. “Even in the dry or when conditions were not 100% I tried but in the wet I felt good. I was playing all weekend with some Yamahas and I was fast and could do good lap times always inside the top eight.

“I was building everything up over the weekend and then in the race we are really good at the starts. When I released the clutch I knew it was my best start which was my target because the spray doesn’t allow you to see so much, especially on the first few laps I didn’t want to lose time as I knew that I had enough speed to be up there.

“I was fighting against Marc [Marquez] and I saw he was fighting a problem with his rear tyre. I knew he didn’t have the same grip as me or the rest of the guys so I tried to overtake him from inside and outside but Marc was braking so hard and the Honda was really good under acceleration so I couldn’t.

“For some reason I was so fast in sector two and when you are so fast there I tried in that place and had an amazing crash, highside, and the bike lost its fairing. It was wild and I don’t know how I did it because I couldn’t see on the straights and had a problem with my neck and couldn’t manage the speeds without the fairing. Then the red flag was like a message.

“I said to myself this was my opportunity so I must take it.

Having been able to use fresh wet tyres on his repaired KTM for the 14-lap sprint restart, Espargaro powered through the order into fourth and with Valentino Rossi crashing out of second place it provided him with his first podium since his victory at the 2013 Japanese Moto2 Grand Prix.

“In the second race I had new tyres and maybe I should have continued with the medium front as I was struggling with brakes and then in the first race I was really good,” he said. “To finish in third place after everything I went through this year is unbelievable. With my team, my wife and all my crew, it is just unreal.”

Reflecting on ending his podium drought, as well as being part of a historic day for KTM who claimed victory in Valencia with Miguel Oliveria in Moto2 and Can Oncu – the youngest ever Grand Prix winner in history – in Moto3, he explained how the third place gave him more to savour compared to his title-winning successes from earlier in his career.

“In Moto2 and 125cc I was on the podium and winning there and as humans we are so stupid that we get used to these good things when they happen,” he said. “When I was world champion I enjoyed it so much and it was amazing but because you’ve been winning many times it is emotional but not as much as today.

“What we did today was so difficult and we’ve tried so many times with this new bike. It was so unreal that it makes me super emotional and more emotional than winning a world championship even if it is just a third place. It has been amazing.”

 

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