Announced as a future Repsol Honda rider in June, before the delayed 2020 MotoGP World Championship had begun, initially created a 'not nice' situation for Pol Espargaro and KTM.

A breakdown in trust might even have resulted in Espargaro being frozen out of bike development and losing access to the latest RC16 parts this season.

But team and rider soon cleared the air and the Spaniard 'really appreciated' full technical support until his Portimao farewell, including delivery of the new holeshot/ride-height device.

In return, Espargaro pushed 'to the limit' to improve the bike he would be leaving - rewarding KTM with five podiums, two pole positions and a new high of fifth overall in the world championship along the way.

The RC16 also went on to claim its first three race wins this year, in the hands of Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira.

"This is mature from KTM’s part and also mine," Espargaro said of KTM's openness in providing him with new parts until the very end. "For years we have had full confidence between us and when the news [about the Repsol Honda move came out] for sure at the beginning it was not nice.

"But after we sat down together and I said to them I still wanted to make the best results. I don’t know what will happen next year, but this year the bike is performing well and I wanted to take profit from such hard work done in the past.

"Mike [Leitner, team manager] told me that I could have the full confidence of KTM and the full new package.

"For sure in the tests, I don’t have the full info, which I understand, but as soon as there is something new then they are thinking of me to develop it because they know they can trust me, I will not tell lies and I will go to the limit, as I’m doing.

"It’s a win-win situation. A benefit to them and to me. It’s really mature and I really appreciate it."

With KTM making the biggest step of any manufacturer this season, Espargaro admits there is 'reason to be afraid' of facing the RC16 as a rival next year.

"It’s clear this factory exists to win and almost everything we try works," he said. "The [holeshot/ride height] device we are using now works pretty good and the bike is at a great level.

"Can it be improved? Yes, there are many parts that can be improved and there are clear paths [to take] that was not always the case a few years ago when we were missing grip and had to experiment rather than develop.

"Now they know where to work, it is a fast bike getting faster, and there is reason to be afraid of it next year."

KTM 'punched over our weight, we’ll keep swinging'

KTM came into 2020, its fourth year in the premier-class, with a best dry MotoGP result of sixth place.

But the Covid-shortened season ended with 3 KTM wins (2 Oliveira, 1 Binder), 8 podiums (5 Espargaro, 2 Oliveira, 1 Binder) 3 pole positions (2 Espargaro, 1 Oliveira) and 4 fastest laps (2: Binder, 1 Espargaro, 1 Oliveira).

"All the statistics speak for themselves. I cannot describe how rewarding it has been to see our riders develop, our teams, our machinery: the whole programme has taken big steps forward," said KTM Motorsports Director Pit Beirer.

"The credit goes to every single person who played their part, whether that was in difficult conditions at the circuit or at home here in the factory. We punched over our weight in 2020 and we’ll keep swinging for more next season and for the years to come.”

Oliveira will move across from Tech3 to replace Espargaro at the factory team next season, partnering rookie of the year Binder, while Ducati race winner Danilo Petrucci joins Tech3 alongside Iker Lecuona.

 

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