After the high of matching KTM's best dry MotoGP finish of sixth and being just one-second from the podium in the season opener, Pol Espargaro's chances of repeating the feat were dealt a severe blow when he fell during qualifying for the second Jerez event.

That left Espargaro 12th on the grid, compared to fifth one week earlier, and he soon found himself being 'boiled' by the pack in the baking heat.

"My mistakes started yesterday and I was paying for it today," Espargaro said. "On the first laps I was fighting with guys I should not have been fighting with. We lost around 5-6 seconds [to the leaders] and when a factory bike takes 5-6 seconds from you at the beginning, how can you recover?

"It was my fault but that started from yesterday. We said yesterday it would be hard to overtake, the front tyre gets super-hot when you are behind someone and the pressure goes up. It is impossible to pass on the brakes. I am using the brakes 100%.

"Our pace at the beginning was not too far from the top guys. I saw them close but then I made a mistake trying to overtake Petrucci and Zarco and my brother overtook me.

"I was then fighting with them trying to overtake them and I boiled myself completely just by being behind them. There was amazing heat. I had the feeling at mid-race that the heat was beating me.

"My brother crashed in front of me and also Petrucci, so I thought it was better to finish and take the points in this short championship. It was definitely the toughest race of my life.

"For me, the heat was way-worse than Malaysia or Thailand. I’ve actually never felt anything so bad and so hot as this race. I’ve never felt my hands burning like they were here.

"The first race I could manage, here in this race – after four laps – I was completely cooked. I was trying to take air on the straight because I couldn’t breathe and have never felt that before in Malaysia or Thailand, even when injured."

Accidents and technical problems ahead at least allowed Espargaro to salvage seventh place, albeit a distant 17.5s from Petronas Yamaha race winner Fabio Quartararo compared to 6.9s a week before.

The 7-6 results also mean Espargaro left Jerez tied for fourth place in the world championship with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda).

"If someone would have said to us before coming to Jerez that we would have 4th in the championship after these two rounds we would never have believed them! This is the job KTM have done in the winter," Espargaro said.

"Not only is the bike performing good, but we have seen factories like Yamaha not finishing. They were struggling a lot with the engines, also Aprilia and Ducati. No-one at KTM had a problem with the engine.

"This shows it is a team sport and it is not an individual sport like it seems on the TV. It is team work and thanks to that we are fourth in the championship. For sure in pre-season we did not think we would be in the top 6-7 so easily but finally we are in those positions.

"We made a bad start today, the temperature was super-high and it was not a normal conditions but, yeah, we are performing well and we are happy. I didn’t make a good race today but it all started yesterday."

Despite his disappointment, Espargaro was the only KTM rider to finish on Sunday.

Rookie team-mate Brad Binder clipped Tech3 KTM colleague Miguel Oliveira into a highside at Turn One, then later crashed out in a separate incident. Oliveira's team-mate Iker Lecuona also fell.

 

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