Pol Espargaro says adapting from a satellite rider to a factory rider when he joined Red Bull KTM came as his biggest lesson in MotoGP which involved a complete change in approach.

After graduating as Moto2 world champion in 2013 and going on to be top rookie in MotoGP with Tech3 Yamaha in 2014, Espargaro made his most important career move to date by joining KTM’s new MotoGP project in 2017 having found his progress stalled at Yamaha with no space at the factory team.

Three years into his time at the Austrian manufacturer the 28-year-old has consistently climbed up the MotoGP pecking order and managed to break into triple figures for points scored in 2019 despite missing the Aragon round through injury.

With Espargaro now KTM’s vastly more experienced rider, as the brand takes on two MotoGP rookies in Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona for 2020 while Miguel Oliveira will start only his second season in the premier class, the bulk of development work with the RC16 relies on him with assistance from test rider Dani Pedrosa.

Reflecting on his time at KTM during a Red Bull winter fitness tests programme at its Athlete Performance Centre in Austria, Espargaro says he needed a complete change in mentality when he became a factory rider having spent his previous three seasons as a satellite Yamaha rider at Tech3.

“My biggest learning point was when I arrived at KTM. This was really MotoGP. Before I was at another factory as a satellite rider and I was not developing anything, I would just get the bike and riding with a setting that other riders had given to me so I was not learning,” Espargaro said.

“I was given everything but it was masked already so when I arrived at KTM I needed to swap the mentality and start to do everything. From the setting of the electronics, different chassis, notice the differences and develop a bike which is very, very tricky to do in MotoGP. I faced a hard and difficult reality in KTM but it has helped me a lot to grow.”

Having secured both his and KTM’s maiden MotoGP podium at the wet 2018 final round at Valencia, Espargaro has added greater consistency to his performances with the RC16 this season.

Eight top 10 finishes in 2019 comfortably surpassed his previous best with KTM while just a single DNF (in Austria due to a mechanical issue on Lap 1) demonstrated the competitiveness and reliability of KTM’s package as it looks to take its fight to the front.

While developments to the RC16 have been under the spotlight including a heavily revised chassis debuted at last month’s post-season tests, Espargaro has also undergone searches for physical improvements with the help of fitness trainers at Red Bull due to the unrelenting demand from a MotoGP machine on a rider.

“Every single year you try to be a little bit better, that is why I am here,” Espargaro said. “That is why I am changing my diet, trying to be more professional, trying to learn the maximum and I can do that here at the APC.

“I am trying to be like a sponge, taking in everything and then choosing the best ones that are working for me. Every year there are new things coming and you can learn more and be a little bit better.”