Pol Espargaro has expressed his pride at achieving a fifth podium of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship season for KTM, the Spaniard securing third position after only just getting away with avoiding the wayward Takaaki Nakagami when he crashed out of contention in the closing stages.
Matching his result from the first Valencia race a weekend earlier, third place means only newly crowned champion Joan Mir has stepped on the podium on more occasions than Espargaro in 2020, a remarkable achievement given KTM had managed just a single rostrum in the three seasons prior to this one.
He did have some fortune on the way though, Espargaro – who briefly ran second after an excellent start from fifth on the grid – on the verage of being overtaken by Nakagami with nine laps remaining, only for the Japanese rider to lose his Honda on the bumps in his attempts to overtake at the final corner.
Regardless, with Espargaro now seventh overall – only five points from fourth – and the Red Bull Factory KTM team third in the teams’ standings, with one round remaining he is feeling very proud of the Austrian’s manufacturer’s significant upturn in performance this year.
“Nine races, five podiums doesn’t sound real,” he said. “It really feels like we are dreaming after four hard years working for that. We feel very proud, especially in these back-to-back races where everyone can get the best from their package, the bikes, the riders, the knowledge of the track in different conditions and everyone is on their limit.
“It means we are working well and we are doing good things, so I am really proud of what we are achieving. We are set up well in the championship, not far from the top guys, so I am really proud.
Reflecting on his close call with Nakagami, Espargaro suggests his strength in the final corner where the LCR Honda rider attempted to pass ultimately may have led to him finding the limit and crashing out.
“That was close, very close! During the laps I was catching the two in front and I was risking it, but [the last corner] was one of my strongest corners, so I could still brake quite late. Then when Taka attacked me there, I thought [laughs] ‘OK man, show me what you can do…’
“He went inside and tried to keep the same line, to avoid I could overtake him on the exit even if he was strong, but then he crashed and I was lucky. I lost one second in the lap because I felt so lucky in my helmet so I lost more time by just being nervous, and I lost the guys.”