'Pol is going there and, deep inside himself, he is sure he can challenge Marc'.

Those were the words of Herve Poncharal on Pol Espargaro's expected move to Repsol Honda next season, to take on current six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez.

Espargaro joined MotoGP with Poncharal's then Tech3 Yamaha team, as the reigning Moto2 champion, in 2014.

The Spaniard stayed for three years, finishing a best of sixth in the world championship (during his rookie season) but just missing out on a podium by the time he moved with team-mate Bradley Smith to the new factory KTM project.

Espargaro has been the Austrian factory's lead rider ever since, breaking his rostrum drought in the Valencia rain in 2018 and claiming the RC16's best dry result of sixth at Le Mans last season, on the way to eleventh in the world championship.

Such efforts look to have caught the eye of Repsol Honda, which now looks set to place Espargaro alongside Marquez in 2021.

"Pol is an incredible, charming person. He is always in a good mood, always pushing, always positive, seeing the glass half full," Poncharal told Crash.net.

"It was not very easy with the Yamaha because he's an aggressive rider and the M1 needs to be ridden very smoothly. But honestly we had a great time together when he was riding with us.

"He learned a lot, I believe, and I was very happy to see him taking the lead role as a factory rider when he joined KTM. I didn't know what to think about it when he first went there, but Pol was so happy with this new role. Development, pushing. I think KTM owes a lot to what Pol did.

"But he's also been growing a lot and it will be interesting to see him on a Honda, which is - I don't want to say a similar machine to the KTM - but which is quite close in terms of spec and riding style.

"I know he started racing with Marc as a youngster. So he knows Marc very well and they've been pushing each other all through their careers up to MotoGP. We all remember their Moto2 seasons and battles.

"So it's a good story. These two guys have got a common history. A common career. And now we will see both of them on the same bike, in the same team, with a similar aggressive style.

"Of course, you can also imagine that if Pol is going there [to Repsol Honda] it's not to prepare his retirement. Pol is telling us, 'I feel the best in my career' in terms of riding, fitness and strength.

"So I know Marc is the number one at the moment, but Pol is going there and, deep inside himself, he is sure he can challenge Marc. We have to wait for 2021 but that's going to be something very interesting, to see 93 and 44 side-by-side on the same bikes.

"There's going to be a lot of excitement. We already have a lot of things to look forward to in '21 and that's going to be one more!"

Miguel Oliveira will move from Tech3 to take over Espargaro's place at the official KTM team next season, with MotoGP race winner Danilo Petrucci arriving from Ducati to join Poncharal's squad alongside Iker Lecuona.

From this season Tech3 will have the same specification of RC16 machinery as the factory team.

 

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