The factory KTM squad of Johann Zarco and Pol Espargaro have made a big step forwards at the first of 2019’s tests, with palpable relief from the Frenchman after a difficult start to his time with the Austrian manufacturer at the end of last year. Finally starting to make progress with the RC16 after a leap from the factory over winter, he’s says his apprehension has turned into relief after three days on track.
“To be able to do many laps under the two-minute mark means I’m really happy. There’s still room to go, but we did a lot of good work and there’s still things to come. All my comments have been really clear and we’ve understood everything I’ve done – and when we compare to the others I can understand even better. We’re not missing only one thing, but the place where it’ll be the hardest to improve is still the traction on the exit of the corners, and that’s coming from a mix of everything.”
That’ll come as welcome relief to senior figures in Austria, with CEO Stefan Pierer admitting at the team’s launch earlier this week that there’s a clear goal now for the season ahead.
“Racing is the core content of our DNA. That means forced innovation every week or every two weeks. We see on the TV or the internet how many tenths of a second are missing and that really drives us to do everything what we can in the end to touch the top of the podium. That's our philosophy and that has driven us to success over the last thirty years but in this racing world we are still beginners: this is our third year. This is a five-year programme and by the end we want to see podiums and for the upcoming racing season I’d like to see single digit results; that's realistic because we are still collecting data and we miss all the experience of our competitors. For 2019 – in gambler’s speak – it’s ‘all in’.”