Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Pol Espargaro concluded the Malaysian Grand Prix in 9th position after powering through the treacherous conditions today at the Sepang International circuit. The beginning of the race was delayed due to a sudden downpour at the scheduled start time. However, once the GP commenced, Espargaro bolted forward from 11th on the grid and he completed the opening lap in 9th. During the next few laps, the 25-year-old slipped back to 13th, yet the Spaniard remained resolute and after running a strong and consistent rhythm, he moved into 10th on the 13th lap. Espargaro maintained his solid pace as he continued to run at speed at the physically demanding circuit and he closely monitored his times in order to keep a comfortable gap to the pursuing riders. After pushing relentlessly, the 2013 Moto2 World Champion shot across the finish line in 9th place, which marks a positive close to the penultimate round of the championship. Now, Espargaro confidently eyes up the next GP in Valencia where he will seek to seize the top independent honours in what will be his final appearance on the Yamaha YZR-M1.
On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team pit box, Bradley Smith bravely battled through to 14th to conclude the triple back to back GP’s with another determined performance. Smith began the 20-lap sprint from the head of the fifth row of the grid and he expertly navigated his way around the opening lap, whilst impressively climbing four positions, before concluding it in 11th. From here, the British star stuck into a solid rhythm, yet despite giving his all, he was shuffled back to 16th after one-third of the race distance. However, the determined 25-year-old remained focused and pushed through the challenging conditions all the way to the chequered flag, which he met in 14th. This result marks a third successive point scoring finish since his comeback at the Japanese GP, from his knee injury, with Smith’s displays highly exceeding expectations in the flyaway races despite not riding at full fitness. Now, the British star aims to conclude his six-year partnership with Tech3 on a high note in his final appearance at the next round in Valencia.
Pol Espargaro: It’s been complicated
“It was a very hard race today and especially at the beginning where there was a lot of water on the track but I am glad to walk away with a top ten finish and some valuable championship points. Because of the rainwater on the asphalt, the visibility was limited and the more behind you were, the more time you lost in the first few laps as there weren’t any reference points regarding where to brake or accelerate, so it’s been really complicated. In addition, I didn’t want to risk making any mistakes, therefore we have to be content with this 9th position. However, this result has ensured my 8th place in the Championship standings, plus I am classified ahead of a couple of the factory MotoGP riders so it is pleasing to have ended the oversea races in this way. Now, we’ll head back to Europe for the final round of the 2016 season, which will also be my last event with Tech3 so I’m highly motivated to do the best job that I can.”
Bradley Smith: We have to look at the positives
“I have to start by saying that the three back to back races have been fantastic and I am more than satisfied with the results. To come back from my injury and score three point scoring finishes is much better than what I was expecting. If we look at the bigger picture, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team did a superb job as well as the Clinica Mobile medical staff who made sure that I could compete in every session. In terms of the race, it certainly was tough due to the conditions but we have to be content with another finish in the points, even if we were hoping for more. I decided to risk using the hard rear tyre but it is not a compound that I have liked in the past, even though my feeling with it in FP4 was OK on the whole. Unfortunately, with the amount of water that was on the track today, I wasn’t able to generate the right temperature into the rear tyre so it was tricky but I did my best and I don’t think that I could have given any more. It’s a pity to end up in 14th because we’ve had really good pace throughout the weekend, yet we have to look at the positives and take them onboard. Now, we will have a weekend off and then I will head to Valencia, ready for my final appearance with the Tech3 team, where I will do my absolute best.”
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko