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The new KTM factory team was able to take a number of positives away from the weekend in #argentina. Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith started at 18th and 19th on the grid and they both completed the 25-lap race safely. They also improved on their results in the opening round in Qatar on a circuit that was new for the team and the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike. Both the factory riders and the team manager agreed that while there is still a long way to go in the long development journey, steps had been taken in the right direction.
Espargaro: “What is the most important for the guys and the whole team is that this is the first time in history that KTM has taken points in #motogp. We must be happy. But on the other side, I think we had the opportunity to do a little more. We are missing some speed in the straight to overtake the two guys I was fighting with, (Hector) Barbera and Tito (Rabat). It was a shame because I felt faster and we were faster today. We could have been in front of them at the end of the race, but it was impossible to do it. We still have some weak points, but on the other side, I congratulate the guys, they are doing a good job. We are making steps, for sure we are still far away but we are starting to see the light.”
Smith: “Today was a great day for us as a team because we scored our first points with both riders. We made a good step forward from Qatar because there we weren’t able to fight with the group ahead of us. Here we could both stay with Barbera and Tito for most of the race, so we improved by another 3-4 seconds. I was really pleased with my race. All weekend I was struggling to do one minute 41 (lap times) but then in the race they were all mid to low 41s so I was happy with that. Of course we need to continue to improve but right now we have to be happy with what we are doing race-by-race. The next one in Austin (USA) is going to be tough for us. We have no data or information, there are 22 corners and it’s quite a technical layout so it’s going to be difficult.”
Mike Leitner (Team Manager MotoGP): “Everybody should take all these positive things from what has happened here, and I think the company especially should be motivated because we clearly see that there is a future. If we do the correct things, we will have more interesting races where we can fight with the other manufacturers and riders. This is what was super positive about today because for the first time Pol was directly fighting with other riders. He could see the strong and the weak points of the bike even better and the lap times were acceptable. This was a brand new track for us, and we have to be realistic. A lot of tracks we go to now will be new for us. We can only take the positives with us and try to learn, and to improve. Then next year when we come back to these places we will have already reached another level in our package.”
The result in #moto2 was reason to celebrate for Red Bull KTM Ajo coming in only their second race in the class. Miguel Oliveira set the tone of the weekend in qualifying to start on pole and he got away well at the start. While he was nudged out of the lead at first corner he quickly settled into third place as the front three riders progressively distanced themselves from the rest of the pack. Then, in the final lap when eventual winner Franco Morbidelli (ITA) and Alex Marquez (ESP) were locked in last-minute combat, Marquez crashed out and handed Oliveira the second place. Red Bull KTM Ajo teammate Brad Binder started at 24th on the grid and had a confidence-building race to finish ninth. The result earned the South African rider his first championship points in the intermediate class.
Oliveira: "Getting this second position today in #argentina is fantastic. The start of the race was not easy, since I had a few scares when I was in the leading group. Then two riders escaped ahead of me and I wasn’t able to keep up. Little by little I tried to catch them because I think I had better pace, but I didn’t know if it was good enough to pass them. I tried and never gave up.”
Top KTM rider in the #moto3 at Argentina’s Termas di Rio Hondo circuit was German rider Philipp Oettl who finished fourth but was squarely in podium contention up until the final lap. Close behind him in fifth place was Andrea Migno (ITA), while Spanish rider Juanfran Guevara was ninth. It was a very difficult day for the Red Bull KTM Ajo duo Niccolo Antonelli (ITA) and Bo Bendsneyder (NED). Antonelli crashed out in the second lap of the 21-lap race as the innocent victim of a race incident with another rider. Bendsneyder rode out the race between places 21-23.
Bendsneyder: “The race was tough. We struggled a lot throughout the weekend, as we didn't have the same feeling that we had in either preseason testing or Qatar. This was a hard weekend for us, but we never give up. We will work harder than ever for the coming races. I think that we have learnt a lot over these days, so now we have to look to Austin. I like that circuit, so we'll see what we can do.”
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