Espargaro battled with “big names” on factory bikes but the Oliveira-Zarco collision ended what could have been a dream KTM weekend

KTM had quite a rollercoaster GoPro British Grand Prix. At one end, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was fighting with the factory Ducatis of Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), plus the factory Honda of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Castrol Honda) for sixth place. Yet at the other, Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) were forced to sit and watch Espargaro’s scrap after the Frenchman wiped out the Portuguese rookie in the early stages.

From Pol’s perspective, though, fighting with “big names and big bikes” at Silverstone was another clear indication of the progress the Austrian factory are making. In 2018, Espargaro managed just one top ten finish – his wet weather podium at the final round of the season. So far in 2019, he has six to his name with still seven rounds remaining. No surprise then that following his ninth-place finish he was feeling quite positive.

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“We were in the group for sixth with Miller, Petrucci and Crutchlow,” said Espargaro, after missing out on a sixth-place by under two seconds. “We must be proud to be in that group with those big names and big bikes. I think we took some good points; we overtook Nakagami again in the Championship but unluckily Morbidelli overtook us again. We are playing for the top ten in the Championship, which is very difficult, but we’ll keep trying.

“We are in a good progression. We are testing new things and the bike is getting better and better. The only problem is we are using new bikes very often and it’s very difficult to get used to; to find the limit with the new bikes. KTM is super involved with this project together with Red Bull and we’re doing a good job. Today, to finish in that position with two factory Ducatis and a factory Honda is amazing.”

Smiles in one orange garage then but there was frustration in two others. Following on from a career-best MotoGP™ finish in Austria, rookie Miguel Oliveira was hunting down a “really strong top ten” finish. It wasn’t to be, however, as on lap nine his factory counterpart Johann Zarco took them both out at The Loop.

Oliveira was not best pleased with the coming together: “It was quite clear on the images. So early in the race, I wasn’t expecting a move like that. I couldn’t understand who the rider was that hit me and when I realised it was Johann, I was a bit disappointed because, first of all, we share the same brand and it’s never good for the project when you see two riders coming together like that, especially for those kinds of positions. I thought we had a good pace and I was in a good position to finish in the points, possibly a really strong top ten, but it came to a short end. It’s unfortunate but we need to turn the page and focus on what’s next.

Zarco was extremely apologetic towards the rookie when explaining the incident: “I was well in control and tried to overtake Miguel at that very slow corner. I went in thinking he would see me, as during Practice I could overtake a few riders at that corner. Unfortunately, he saw me but a little bit too late. I went to speak with him and I’m really sorry to destroy his race as also for him it was a good race, fighting for the top ten.”

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