Spaniard Pol Espargaro has admitted he faces a tough battle to defeat new Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate Bradley Smith in the 2014 MotoGP world championship.
Reigning Moto2 world champion Espargaro has impressed during his first winter testing campaign on board Yamaha’s YZR-M1 and at the final test in Qatar he just finished ahead of Briton Smith.
His pre-season campaign ended in painful fashion though when he broke his left collarbone in a crash on the final night of a non-factory squad test in Doha earlier this month.
Smith is preparing for his second season in MotoGP and after establishing himself as a consistent top 10 finisher in 2013, he is hoping to take the next step by emulating Cal Crutchlow to become the top non-factory rider this season.
Espargaro, who defeated Scott Redding to claim the 2013 Moto2 title, says Smith’s consistent form in winter testing highlighted just how difficult it will be to beat the Oxfordshire rider.
Espargaro told MCN: “It will be hard to beat him. Last year he was learning and finally he did some great races and some good results. It is going to be so difficult to beat him and now he is riding strong. The experience he has of this bike is the good point because it takes a lot of time to come in and learn. It will be difficult but one of my targets is to be in front of him.”
Assessing his personal hopes for his rookie season in the premier class, Espargaro said he was unsure of his true potential and added: “It is difficult to say right now because I don’t know what I can do. I know that I can do well on this bike and I can be strong but I am not right now. I don’t know how many races it will take to be at 100% with the bike but my goal is to be the first of the non-factory bikes. This is my objective but I know it is going to be so difficult.”