Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team emerged from Argentina and the second round of nineteen in 2018 MotoGP with Pol Espargaro grabbing a well-earned 11th place finish in what was another thrilling episode in the young Grand Prix campaign. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Miguel Oliveira finished 3rd in Moto2 and Marco Bezzecchi won the first race for KTM in Moto3.
Two days of practice and qualification with a variable climate and degrees of grip of the flat and twisty Termas de Rio Hondo racetrack also marked an astounding Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina today. Despite the upheaval of a race that was initially declared ‘Wet’ but then delayed with almost the entire grid opting for a dry tyre set-up as the Argentine tarmac dried, Pol Espargaro kept his nerve and battled from the lower reaches of the top twenty to finally reach a decent 11th position on his KTM RC16 and bag five points for the factory crew.
Through the 25 laps of the second MotoGP dash of the season the Spaniard fought from an initial slot of sixteenth to capture his best classification of 2018 yet. Bradley Smith set off from the seventh row of the grid and was poised in the higher echelon of the leaderboard. The Brit was as high as ninth but then faded back to seventeenth after some contact with other riders (on what was a tricky layout for overtaking) and he crashed at Turn 1 seven circulations from the flag.
Pol Espargaro: “You always want more but overall after the crazy situation with the rain and the delayed start procedure – and to finish eleventh is still not our wish or place – but I think we did OK. At the moment when grip is low we struggle a bit more than the rest so it hasn’t been an easy weekend in the dry. I think 11th is not a bad result but we want more and we need to improve our bike to be where we want to be and we have a long way to go. But we will work hard and now look to Austin.”
Bradley Smih: “It was a shame. It was an exciting start to the race and I think I made up twelve positions in the first laps. I was fully committed in the patchy conditions. Unfortunately I had a few situations where riders hit me and I lost a lot of ground. I tried to get my head down and start to come forwards, and my lap-times were coming down but I got too greedy in the first corner and went off-line. I lost the front. It was a frustrating way to end the race but there are a lot of positives from this weekend. I found a good feeling with the bike from FP1 and the performance was there in the race so I need to keep doing the same things and fingers crossed in Austin things will turn out well.”
Mike Leitner (Team Manager MotoGP): “We see how difficult it was for us to miss Pol in pre-season testing. We had to come out of the ‘hole’ we found ourselves in, especially after Losail, and we did it. A big thanks to every single person who never gave up around us, and this result shows that the race is on Sunday and it is the last laps that really count. You can have some dark moments and ups-and-downs in the sessions through a weekend but you have to keep the belief because the points can come.”
Moto2 & Moto3
A fantastic battle in Moto2 saw Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Miguel Oliveira confirming 3rd position. The Portuguese was involved in a race-long scrap with Mattia Pasini and Xavi Vierge and he ended with his first podium result of the campaign on the KTM Moto2. Teammate Brad Binder crashed out after a collision with Jorge Navarro.
Oliveira: “I left a lot of doors open! I knew it was a one-line race without many spots to overtake. I felt strong and my speed was there. I wasn’t too defensive and was unlucky to get pushed out and lost time three laps until the end. Anyway the situation is positive and we take many points home. We’re at a good performance level and I’m happy with the podium.”Binder: “It has definitely not been a good day for me. I think I made a good start, but there were few dry lines and it was difficult to overtake without touching the wet patches. Everything was going well, but unfortunately, I was behind another rider, who braked several metres earlier than he had done on the previous lap. I didn’t expect it and I collided with him. I apologise to Navarro. We have to reset and go for the next race in Austin.”
A frantic and typically unpredictable Moto3 far culminated with a maiden victory for Marco Bezzecchi on his Redox PruestelGP KTM RC250 GP; the Italian crossed the finish line almost five seconds ahead of Aron Canet.
Staying within the same region of the world, MotoGP ventures north and to the epic setting of ‘COTA’ in Texas for round three and the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in two weeks time.
Next Race: April 22, 2018 – Austin (USA)
Results MotoGP Termas de Río Hondo 2018
1. Cal Crutchlow (GBR), Honda, 40:36.342 min (24 laps)
2. Johann Zarco (FRA), Yamaha, +0.251 sec
3. Alex Rins (ESP), Honda, +2.501
4. Jack Miller (AUS), Ducati, +4.390
5. Maverick Vinales (ESP), Yamaha, +14.941 KTM 11. Pol Espargaro (ESP), KTM, +31.022 DNF Bradley Smith (GBR), KTM, +7 laps
Standings MotoGP 2018 after 2 of 19 rounds
1. Crutchlow, 38 points
2. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA), Ducati, 35
3. Zarco, 28
4. Vinales, 21
5. Marc Marquez (ESP), Honda, 20 KTM 15. Espargaro, 5
22. Smith, 0
Results Moto2 Termas de Río Hondo 2018
1. Mattia Pasini (ITA), Kalex, 40:37.538 min (23 laps)
2. Xavi Vierge (ESP), Kalex, +0.850 sec 3. Miguel Oliveira (POR), KTM, +1.414
4. Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA), Kalex, +5.178
5. Alex Marquez (ESP), Kalex, +5.431 KTM
8. Dominique Aegerter (SUI), KTM, +13.460 DNF Brad Binder (RSA), KTM, +22 laps
Standings Moto2 2018 after 2 of 19 rounds
1. Pasini,38 points
2. Balderrssari, 33
3. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA), Kalex, 32
4. Vierge, 28 5. Oliveira , 17 10. Binder, 10
Results Moto3 Termas de Río Hondo 2018 1. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA), KTM, 41:43.822 min (21 laps)
2. Aron Canet (ESP), Honda, +4.689 sec
3. Fabio di Giannantonio (ITA), Honda, +4.963
4. Enea Bastianini (ITA), Honda, +5.818
5. Adam Norrodin (MAL), Honda, +9.112 KTM 9. Gabriel Rodrigo (ARG), KTM, +16.573 22. Darryn Binder (RSA), KTM, +1:17.384
Standings Moto3 2018 after 2 of 19 rounds
1. Canet, 40 points
2. Jorge Martin (ESP), Honda, 30
3. Bezzecchi, 27
4. Di Giannantonio, 26
5. Lorenzo Dalla Porta (ITA), Honda, 25 KTM
7. Rodrigo, 18 25. Binder