Pol Espargaro: I am a better guy now than when I left KTM
The GASGAS Tech3 rider talks his Honda experience, considering it a personal victory, and the need for patience with his new venture
It’s fair to say that Pol Espargaro’s time at Honda was, at best, a mixed success on track. Now back within the fold of the larger KTM family with GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3, the Spaniard has reflected on his time with the Japanese manufacturer and revealed why he considers the move a success in spite of several misfires.
Throughout his two years within the ranks of HRC, there was sporadic joy, such as pole position at Silverstone in 2021, claiming his maiden podium with the marque at the Emilia Romagna GP in the same year while also helping end Honda’s four year wait for a one-two. There was also the impressive opening night of the 2022 campaign in Qatar, taking P3 and gleefully exclaiming that he and Honda were indeed contenders once more.
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Unfortunately, it proved a false dawn, with both rider and bike struggling throughout the course of the season, and the #44 only managed to crack the top 10 once more that year. For obvious reasons, he often cut a frustrated figure in the paddock, but despite all the negatives, Espargaro holds no regrets over his move to Honda, fully believing it has helped him not just grow professionally, but also personally.
«From the bad moments you also learn. It’s a process and you keep improving as a man and as a rider, the same as it is in your private life. I have grown a lot at Honda. For me the experience was so nice. Even if we had tough moments. I got to know a lot of nice people and good engineers and thanks to that I am going to bring better information.
«I am a better guy than two years ago when I left KTM. Every step in your career is important enough to understand where you can improve and if you are able to do it and improve then it is a victory.»
It’s a mature approach to what could be considered one of the most challenging periods of his career, and Espargaro is keen to use that experience for the better as he embarks on a new adventure within more familiar surrounds.
«Everything is in my comfort zone with the GASGAS brand. Together with some good faces I know from my past. Everything feels good to start the season but it’s just the beginning. We have a long journey together.
«When jumping on the bike, you always have these doubts that the bike may have changed a lot since last time, or if the idea of the bike has changed quite a lot, but finally, it’s quiet similar to when I left KTM. There are some details and new devices that have been implemented since I left, but everything feels quite comfortable at the moment.»
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Despite the certain sense of familiarity and a short testing window, the Catalan rider wants to ease his way into things in a bid to avoid any early season blunders.
«We need to be patient at the start. It’s going to be a long season. We don’t want to make a stupid mistake at the beginning. It’s true also that the test days are very few. We just have five days of testing in 2023 before starting the season in Portimao. It’s pretty close to the first race. We need to make sure we don’t mistakes and end up only doing a small number of laps but we also need to be quick as fast as possible. Races are going to come fast, and there are a lot of races to do, so we need to be competitive from the beginning»
We don’t have to wait long to catch our next glimpse of Espargaro in action, with the Sepang Test giving him and all the grid three days of action to get up to speed ahead of the new season from February 10th. Make sure you stay tuned to motogp.com for all the latest news and build up!