KTM shone under the Aragon sun in Spain today as the Red Bull KTM MotoGP Factory Racing team again took a top ten finish in the team’s debut year as Pol Espargaro took tenth position a tantalising 14 seconds behind the outright winner of the race. For the KTM RC16 it is the bike’s fourth top ten finish. Reinforcing Espargaro’s pace was test rider Mika Kallio who was right on his back wheel in 11th place. In Moto2, pole position man Miguel Oliveira came home in third just 0.5 seconds behind the winner, for the Portuguese it was his sixth podium of the season as the KTM Moto2 gains mileage in its debut season. Teammate Brad Binder stormed to a top 5 finish after starting as 20th on the grid. Moto3 was as close as always with the top 8 over the line in less than 0.75 seconds, the leading KTM being Marcos Ramirez in seventh. The next MotoGP is in three weeks time in Japan but the MotoGP team stays on at Aragon for a two day private test Tuesday and Wednesday.
The fourth top ten for the KTM RC16 motorcycle was taken as Pol Espargaro came home in tenth spot today, but what was more significant for the fledgling KTM MotoGP project was the fact he was just 14 seconds behind the winner of the race after 24 laps of the 5.078 km circuit with such a wide range and type of corners and straights within one lap.
KTM MotoGP test rider Mika Kallio, in only his third wild card race of the season, excelled once more just as he did at Spielberg, this time finishing in 11th place just three seconds behind Espargaro.
Bradley Smith didn’t quite have the pace of his team mates but looks towards a very important two day test that now follows on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Aragon circuit with all three riders again looking to further develop, enhance and fine tune the latest parts produced by KTM Motorsport in Austria before the Asian trio of races in Japan, Australia and Malaysia.
Espargaro: “It’s been a great day to get another top ten and just fourteen seconds from the top is amazing. The whole team has done such a good job to be competitive race by race and everyday at a new track it feels better. That is in part to the test team and Mika who today did a great start and then another strong race to be right on my tail. The championship has never been so tight at this level but Red Bull and KTM had the strength to come to this championship in 2017 and they are showing that they are in the hunt during this ultra competitive season. For me this is so impressive.”
Kallio: “I think we can be satisfied with that! Of course I would’ve liked to be top ten but Pol got me towards the end of the race and I couldn’t quite follow him, but this is still great for our garage and KTM MotoGP team. Remember, this is still only the third race for me this year. I had the fast guys at the front in view at the halfway point of the race and the gap to the leaders was only seven seconds at that point; my lap times were comparable too to those guys so we are very happy to have this pace. We still need to find better rear tyre life for the second half of the race, but hey, if you can see the faces of the team in the garage and all the guys around me it’s brilliant. They’ve done such a great job this weekend with no mistakes so just like Austria, they’ve repeated that as we were 19 seconds back from first place then, and today we did the same.”
Smith: “I’m pleased with today to turn around things from practice. Starting from the back row wasn’t easy but with the soft tyre I could get myself into contention; the bad news is that it maybe wasn’t the best of tyre choices in the long run. It was a gamble but towards the end it wasn’t to be as it’s frustrating to miss out on a points scoring finish. Now we all look forward to the test on Tuesday and Wednesday to put together a solid package for the fly-away races.”
Pit Bierer (KTM Motorsport Director): “To be fourteen seconds behind the winner is a result we couldn’t even dream of at the start of the season, but you could feel all weekend it was something special in the air. We were competitive in every practice for really good positions and not by fluke circumstances as our guys were fast the whole weekend. Qualifying wasn’t quite there but the race was fantastic. There is a now a new time in our books which is fourteen seconds back of the win, and to do this on a long track, on a hot day without anyone gifting us places, was a fantastic day and another milestone for the KTM MotoGP project.”
KTM’s Miguel Oliveira has reasserted himself into third position in the Moto2 world championship today with his sixth podium position of the season so far. The Portuguese dominated qualifying to start from pole position with the KTM Moto2 bike and constantly run in the top positions before closing in on the top two in the final laps. Indeed, such was his pace, if there were another two laps he may have battled for the outright win, but the pace was there. All of this is all the more impressive as after a wet Friday, Oliviera had done more laps at Aragon testing the MotoGP bike than on his own Moto2 KTM.
Team mate Brad Binder started twentieth but once again showed his stellar form to cut through to fifth at the flag, just 4.3 seconds from the winner. After his early season injury problems, the world is being reminded of how fast Binder can be.
Oliveira: “It has been a very good and a very solid weekend. This podium is very important for us after not being able to score points at Misano. I felt very strong all weekend, but at the beginning of the race we lost some time that we weren’t able to recover later on. Anyway, overall it has been a very positive Grand Prix for us. Now we have three races in a row that I like a lot, where I usually get good results, so I will be very focused and we will give everything at Motegi.”
Binder: “To start from 20th position of the grid and finish 5th is reason to be more than happy. This morning in the warmup I felt much more comfortable than yesterday; we took a step forward and I went almost 3 tenths faster than in qualifying. Before starting the race I was a bit nervous, because I knew that if I worked hard and everything was perfect, I could have the opportunity to get close to the riders at the front. At first it was difficult because it’s hard to pass riders on the opening corners here, but I was patient and overtook riders steadily. I can’t thank my team enough for what they have done today. I felt that I had the best bike on the grid. We have a test tomorrow, in which we will try some things and I would like to improve my riding as well; I think we can take another step forward.”
The Moto3 race was shortened due to autumnal fog delaying proceedings early in the day, but the race was yet again another thriller that resulted in the top 15 over the line in 2.5 seconds. The leading KTM RC250 GP rider was Spain’s Marcos Ramirez, seventh, who was one spot ahead of the ultra impressive 17 year old Dennis Foggia who rode in only his second ever Grand Prix to be eighth. Foggia leads the Spanish based Junior World Championship at present.
Both Red Bull Ajo riders Bo Bendsneyder and Niccolo Antonelli were just 2.6 seconds behind the winner, but incredibly didn’t score points, so tight was the race.
Aki Ajo: (Team Manager Moto3): “It was another difficult weekend in Moto3. Friday was very positive, Saturday wasn’t a bad day for us, except for the lap times in the qualifying. Although we know that it is a challenge in this class, we have to start from better positions on the grid. Today in the race we weren’t far from the front, but we have to find some solutions because we just didn’t manage to catch them, although our pace is not bad at all.”
Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup
Aleix Viu took his second Red Bull MotoGP Rookies win of the season and stole second place overall in the Cup from Can Öncü who slid off with two and a bit laps to go. A season of action was packed into the final 15 laps of 2017 with everyone having learnt to extract the maximum from the KTM RC 250 RBs.
Kazuki Masaki had already wrapped up the Cup with race victory on Saturday, just as well he did as today the 17-year-old Japanese couldn’t miss the sliding machine of fellow countryman Ai Ogura who crashed in front of him on lap 8. Though a lap behind, Masaki remounted and then set the fastest lap of the race on lap 11.
“I am very happy to end the year like that,” grinned Viu, the 16-year-old Spaniard. “I felt more confident on the bike than yesterday, the track had changed and there was more grip. I needed to make the break that I couldn’t do yesterday, it was my last Rookies Cup race and I gave everything. When I got ahead I didn’t think about what was happening behind, I just pushed. The bike was great and I am so happy to end my time in the Rookies with another win, it’s been an incredible three years.”
Next Race:October 15, 2017 – Twin Ring Motegi (JAP)
Results Race MotoGP MotorLand Aragon 2017
1. Marc Marquez (ESP), Honda, 42:06.816 min (23 laps)
2. Dani Pedrosa (ESP), Honda, +0.879 sec
3. Jorge Lorenzo (ITA), Ducati, +2.028
4. Maverick Vinales (ESP), Yamaha, +5.256
5. Valentino Rossi (ITA), Yamaha, +5.882 10. Pol Espargaro (ESP), KTM, +14.075
11. Mika Kallio (FIN), KTM, +17.192
19. Bradley Smith (GBR), KTM, +36.296