Pol Espargaro was satisfied with his pace on used tyres during the final MotoGP test of the year at Jerez, but the KTM rider could only go a few tenths faster with a new soft rear tyre.

That meant the Spaniard was just 17th on the overall timesheets (+1.199s), although still the top RC16 rider.

"With a used tyre, our pace is not bad, but we struggled to make a fast lap," Espargaro confirmed.

"Qualifying is super important and it is in our mentality to improve in that area because we are weak there."

Espargaro, who gave KTM its first MotoGP podium in the wet Valencia season finale, explained that he was close to the used-tyre pace of their rivals but unable to join them in the 1m 38s on new rubber.

"It’s strange because we can do high ‘39s as a rhythm, without risking a crash," he said. "I pushed for one lap and did a 39.4s, but then we put a new tyre and I could not get beyond '39.1. With our rhythm we should be in '38.5-6, at least, on a new tyre."

A mid '38 would have put Espargaro tenth on the timesheets, around half-a-second from Honda's Takaaki Nakagami.

"We see that the Ducatis and other guys, when they want to push they can do a ‘38s middle or low, and a ‘39s middle or high is their rhythm. But we cannot do the same as them in one lap. We know why and we need to work on that."

The reason, Espargaro said, is a lack of grip as the first touch of the throttle is applied, with electronics a possible factor.

"I think we have a problem on the initial 20% of throttle," he said. "We are not sticking the soft rear tyre on the ground. We have seen some guys using the medium rear and we were not able to use it just because this initial grip is not nice.

"This initial [throttle movement] is making us spin, go to the kerbs too fast and not stay on the line we wish.

"When you put a new tyre, you are asking for this initial throttle grip, to try to turn the bike faster, to make more corner speed and take the throttle earlier to not spin at the end of the corner.

"So this is what we are concerned about."

Initial throttle grip was just one of many areas Espargaro worked on during his final laps of 2018.

"We tried everything from the bottom of the bike to the top!" he smiled.

"Also, because we are trying to improve so many areas, to do one fast lap was difficult, because the bike is 'alive', it's changing a lot during all the day."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

KTM swingarm, more aluminium than carbon...

A post shared by Peter McLaren (@mclarenmotogp) on

One of the most visible KTM developments was the use of a carbon-fibre reinforced swingarm.

However Espargaro had been well briefed on avoiding comment: "Yeah… we are working on all the bike!"

A general area long targeted for improvement is the RC16's turning ability.

"We were trying different parameters in the engine that helped with the turning, also when the tyre grip drops a lot," Espargaro said.

"With the chassis we made some modifications which I think will be an improvement in the future and the swingarm also. The WP guys have been working quite a lot with suspension and they have some ideas for the future."

Espargaro said he had been working "in different areas" compared to new team-mate Johann Zarco and, "now we need to mix our impressions and try to make a better bike" for 2019.

"I think in Valencia, Johann had some problems entering the corners and he has improved quite a lot in that area from what I heard. I’m happy about that," Espargaro added.

"We’ll have some meetings to see what areas Johann wants to work on as well, so we can work together to improve this bike."

Espargaro, Zarco - plus the new Tech3 satellite KTM project with Hafizh Syahrin and Miguel Oliveira - will next be on track, alongside their 2019 rivals, at Sepang in February.

However the KTM test team is set to conduct its last track outing at Jerez in mid-December, when Dani Pedrosa is tipped to make his debut alongside Mika Kallio.

 

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