Red Bull KTM Factory Racing saw all three riders classify in the top thirteen of a sizzling and unpredictable Gran Premio Red Bull de España with Mika Kallio taking a updated version of the KTM RC16 to a season-best 10th position, Pol Espargaro less than two seconds behind and Bradley Smith notching a 2018 highest finish of 13th. KTM were also victorious in the Moto3 category with a full podium sweep and were present on the Moto2 rostrum with Miguel Oliveira.
Almost 70,000 spectators cooked in early summer sunshine at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto for the fourth round of nineteen in the 2018 MotoGP contest. Track temperatures crept up to 45 degrees by the time of the 25 lap premier class race in the middle of the afternoon in southern Spain.
In a dramatic affair that was lined with incident and accident, Mika Kallio took the updated spec of the KTM RC16 to a top ten ranking and just beat Pol Espargaro. The Spaniard had to defend his slot from a last corner attack from Bradley Smith as the duo defied rear grip issues to battle to the final moments. All three riders were within 21 seconds of race winner Marc Marquez.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing will remain in Spain with two busy days of testing slated for Monday and Tuesday.
Kallio: “It is always nice to be the best KTM. Even to finish in the top ten is a brilliant result, although we know a few guys crashed today. The best thing for me is to see the gap to the front; I’m really satisfied with that. Now we are starting to get closer to the level where we finished last season. Slowly we are coming back and that’s positive. Of course we have been testing this bike before, here and in Mugello, and we had an idea how it would work over long distance. The other guys started to suffer more with grip and were spinning out of the corners more than me. This was a really good point of the new bike.”
Espargaro: “We had a clear direction with the tyres yesterday then today everything in the race changed; it is like a gamble. I didn’t feel good from the first lap and thought ‘wow, it is going to be a long race’. I was trying, and in the end Mika overtook me: it is a good sign that the things coming are working well. I want to start to develop the new toys for the future and it will be fun for us. I would love to use it but KTM is over-working and what we are doing nobody has done before. It is pretty crazy that Mika is using the updated bike in Jerez. I don’t like that he is in front of me today…but we need to take it as positive.”
Smith: “The opening half of the race was pretty good and then (Alvaro) Bautista and Maverick (Viñales) started to up their pace a little bit. I tried to go with them but got a bit nervous and stressed on the bike. I spent half the race digging-in-deep. Pol and I then duked until the last corner: I was off the track! To the white line and everything. I was going for the pass; whether it stuck or not was another matter. It was a bit of a shame to lose a place but I was pleased with my pace. It is nice to see our ’updated bike looking strong and Mika threw some good sectors at the end. It is looking like the right direction. Let’s see how this test goes and the team have some good ideas for progress.”
Mike Leitner (Team Manager MotoGP): “Before we started the MotoGP race it was great to see an all-KTM podium in Moto3 and Miguel (Oliveira) did a great race in difficult conditions in Moto2. MotoGP was a bit crazy and we said to the riders before ‘please keep focused because it will be a long race and demanding on the tyres’. We saw some crashes and mistakes and the guys did great to keep concentration and make their best pace. It was good to see three bikes in the points and that Mika was ahead as he’s using a slightly different set-up on the bike, which is very positive for the future. The team did a great job to bring all the bikes home with points. Now we must look to the test, and to work on some items where we normally don’t have any time in the (Grand Prix) sessions. There will be some long days but also necessary to make the next step. It is especially good to get so close to the leader on a difficult track like Jerez; we still need to work to make that gap smaller.”