Pol Espargaro felt Friday afternoon’s fine performance at Mugello confirmed the progress KTM has made in recent weeks, and was “super pleased” that considerable bike changes are now working at a variety of tracks.

Still buoyed by his tremendous sixth place at Le Mans a fortnight ago, Espargaro was fourth fastest on the time sheets in FP2, just 0.234s back of surprise pace setter Francesco Bagnaia.

Using the new engine configuration and carbon swingarm that powered him to KTM’s best ever dry weather result, Espargaro was a full second faster on soft tyres than his quickest time at the Tuscan track last year.

“We had some problems on the first run and also the last with a problem we have been having a bit too long and which I cannot explain too much,” he said. “But then I felt quite good with the bike and the medium tyre we are using here was the same we used for the test in Jerez and I felt really good.

“Here not so much, so we needed to change some settings on the bike on the rear. Actually everything worked for FP2. We put the soft tyre and I felt much better and I could do that lap.

“I did not want to destroy everything with one crash. Yeah, I’m super-pleased with the result and coming from Le Mans with what we have done it’s like ‘yeah, this is real…’

“It was just one lap which was quite on the limit and I don't know if everyone was on the limit like me but anyway we did it and I’m super-pleased and happy with what we have done in Le Mans and Jerez is working at tracks like this one.

“Whatever happens tomorrow a 1m 46.9 is a very fast lap-time and we are one second faster than last year. We have done the job and it is a matter of trying to improve a little and get closer to the top guys.

“I don't think Bagnaia was easy riding but Marc did not use the soft tyre.”

Does he feel the benefit of the carbon fibre swingarm here as he did at Mugello? “At this race I don't think we are gaining as much before with it,” he said. “We need much more info with the one we have for these kinds of places where the speed is so high and there are small bumps the carbon swingarm is more reactive, more aggressive.

“When you have a small shaking it becomes more aggressive and we need to improve that more for tomorrow.

“This is one of our main problems for tomorrow but we knew we’d be testing all the new stuff that is coming during the race weekends so it can happen that you arrive in one place and you have some problems that you don't expect and you need to improve.”

And the engine? “I’m pleased with it,” he said. “In Le Mans it was good and fast on the straight, maybe not in second or third gear like the Honda during the weekend but closer to the Ducati and better than Yamaha which was nice.

“Today I have overtaken Valentino like he had stopped – I felt a little bit bad because their bike is not so fast on the straight – and our bike is going super good there. I’m happy. It is what you need here: a fast bike that is also fast in the corner”

Where does KTM go next? “We still have a problem where we release the brakes. For example Petrucci overtook me in the last race, Morbidelli tried many times and I was hitting him, also Valentino in exactly the same corner.

“It is with the way to release brakes and they are all turning a bit better than me. If we don't have a good grip on the rear we cannot turn with it. So, we are still not amazing there and in second and third gear we need to have some more power.”

 

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