Pol Espargaro admits he didn’t feel his qualifying lap to take second place for the San Marino MotoGP had been possible but poured credit on both his Red Bull KTM crew and his rival front-row starters.

The Spanish rider has claimed his first front row since the 2016 Australian round, plus KTM’s first-ever in dry conditions, having almost stunned the entire paddock by taking pole position.

Espargaro’s 1m 32.560s secured him a shock provisional pole until Maverick Vinales produced his own final lap to beat him to top spot.

But the final result did little to dampen Espargaro’s delight and he says he actually gained a tow off Vinales in FP3 – to secure his automatic Q2 spot – plus a similar tow from Fabio Quartararo on his final qualifying lap to help him to notch up the surprising lap time.

“I felt good this morning as I had a hand off Maverick to do the lap time,” Espargaro said. “But I went into the pits and said to my guys that it would be the fastest lap of the weekend for me because I couldn’t improve. That was close to perfection.

“Then in the afternoon Fabio gave me a hand again and I could do a lap. He started to slow in sector three as he had some problem with the front and then in sector four is where I was fast so I didn’t need his support anymore.

“I could push in sector four and the better lap time came which surprised me but at the end what matters is tomorrow’s race. What we did in FP4 was very nice on very, very used tyres front and rear and almost on a full race distance and the lap time was not bad.

“For sure we need to be realistic not to fight against these super riders but maybe to be around in the first laps with fresh tyres and then drop a little by the end of the race. What is sure is that tomorrow I will have one of the best views of my life and I am going to enjoy it at the beginning of the race that is for sure.”

Espargaro also feels the development work KTM completed at the recent two-day Misano test, plus the support from test rider Dani Pedrosa, gave him the tools to get the Austrian brand up to speed faster against its more experienced rivals.

“When we go to tracks during the season we don’t ride there for one year to the other so it means we are changing the bike quite often as we keep improving every single race,” he said.

“We didn’t know the bike when we go to these places, especially the electronics, because we are improving a lot and we are better on brakes, faster on the straights and have more corner speed so we need to change it all. So we start from zero.

“So, if we have two days of testing, this year we have Dani Pedrosa who is helping us so much, with the two days testing we can prepare the weekend and then we have more info. When we have problems we know more or less how to improve on them so already this info that we have with the two-day test helps us a lot.

“This is what the big factories feel when they go to a track we’ve not been to for one year so hopefully in the future we can keep these new bikes coming. That is what we need to do now, keep improving.”

Espargaro hails his achievement as one of the proudest moments of his racing career having equalled his best qualifying result in the premier class – having also taken second place at the 2014 French round.

“To be here with good track conditions, hot and a normal track but it is a little bit slippery, but everything is the same for everyone so to be here doing that and knowing how much we’ve worked together with Mike Leitner and all the crew,” he said.

“To achieve that moment is unbelievable so when I arrived to Parc Ferme and saw the two Yamahas and our orange rocket in the middle I was fully proud of that moment which was unbelievable.”

 

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