MotoGP™ rookie Pol Espargaro produced a strong performance at the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team’s home Grand Prix in Le Mans, finishing in fourth position for his best result yet in the premier class.
The reigning Moto2™ World Champion qualified on the front row of the grid in second at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France and, as the lights turned to green on Sunday, he made a good start to cross the line inside the leading pack for the first lap.
The 22 year-old Spaniard found consistent race pace to match the experienced leading riders before surging through to second, joining the battle at the front. He then became embroiled in a fierce fight with Stefan Bradl but saw off the Honda rider to expertly maintain the third position during the latter stages of the 28-lap sprint. Eventually, he crossed the line in a well-deserved fourth.
Espargaro’s performance was tantalisingly close to Alvaro Bautista, who in third was only half a second in front. The result saw Espargaro elevated to seventh in the World Championship standings.
He commented, “After the qualifying I thought things couldn’t get better, but luckily I was also able to perform well over the whole race distance. Nevertheless, it was hard to believe that I found myself in third position halfway through the race, but at this stage I started to be more confident about a top five finish and when I heard the noise of Dani Pedrosa’s engine as he was catching up during the last laps, I just kept my head down aiming to take the fourth position over the line.”
On his rapid adaptation to the premier class, which has seen him get right on the pace after just five rounds in MotoGP, he added: “We are getting better but there is still a lot to improve because at Jerez we were 27 seconds behind, but here we finished within three seconds of Marc (Marquez). It means we did a great weekend with great work on the bike and great rhythm. I’m so happy. I’m really comfortable with the bike, but we can’t stop, we have to keep working and I think we’re going the right way.”
Espargaro’s boss, Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team Manager Herve Poncharal, was also pleased with his work, commenting, “During the week Pol called me and said I can’t wait for Le Mans because he knew it would be better than the previous races. The Jerez test was very important to him and the knowledge he has gained helped him to qualify really well and ahead of everyone but (Marc) Marquez, which is a huge achievement.”
“We were a bit unsure about how the race would go but Pol got a beautiful start and unfortunately couldn’t catch (Alvaro) Bautista at the end but second in the qualifying and fourth in the race is very good and ahead of both (Jorge) Lorenzo and (Dani) Pedrosa. It’s was a tough race, but we can be really proud of the how Pol did and all the team’s work.”