KTM: Espargaro skipping Buriram "a massive blow"

Pol Espargaro missing the Buriram MotoGP test was "a massive blow" for KTM, according to the Spaniard's crew chief Paul Trevathan.

KTM: Espargaro skipping Buriram "a massive blow"
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, Dr Angel Charte, MotoGP Medical Director
Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Bike of Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Bradley Smith, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing with new fairing
Bike of Bradley Smith, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing with new fairing
Bradley Smith, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Bradley Smith, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Espargaro suffered a crash on day two at Sepang, forcing him out of the final day of the Malaysian test, and he also skipped Buriram after being diagnosed with a spinal disc herniation.

KTM replaced him with test rider Mika Kallio and, while the Finn was praised by Trevathan, he said the team effectively lost three days in Thailand as Espargaro is KTM's "reference".

"It's quite a massive blow, he is definitely our reference and his input has been valuable for the whole project so a lot of things been done a lot of things developed based on his input," said Trevathan.

"We needed those steps and now we've lost another three days of testing. Hopefully we have three more with him when we can just finally finalise a few things and look forward to the season.

"Mika is a fantastic substitute, him and Pol have similar requests from the bike and steps forward."

Espargaro has confirmed that he will be back on the bike for the next and last pre-season test at Qatar despite still feeling pain.

The Spaniard was unsure whether the injury that forced him to skip the Buriram test was a result of his Sepang test or not.

"We cannot say that the crash in Malaysia was related with my hernia," said Espargaro.

"I don’t know what condition I will be in, but I will be there for the Qatar test. I have started training, but I still have pain in my back."

Smith: KTM "more in the mix" at Buriram

Espargaro's teammate Bradley Smith said the test at Buriram went "much better" for KTM than in Malaysia, where Kallio complained the gap to the frontrunners was too large.

The Briton said the bike is back to having strong braking, one of KTM's strong points last year, and feels his pace is closer to other manufacturers.

"We are quite close to a few of the other manufacturers that we weren't close to in Malaysia," he said. "I think we're much more in the mix in this test if you look at the laptimes.

"We were really struggling on the brakes and that is one thing that KTM was so strong at and we had a lot of good feelings.

"Not having that was 'hang on a minute, what are we missing here', we were able to go overall all the numbers and get that back to how we wanted it.

"In general just nice to be feeling comfortable on the bike again. I feel closer here and just generally on the bike I feel good. I feel that our pace is closer so I think that we made the progress."

Additional reporting by Oriol Puigdemont

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