• Pol Espargaro takes third MotoGP career podium on the KTM RC16.
• Red Bull KTM now have four trophies between three riders from seven rounds.
• Falls for Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona after excellent race pace.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
MotoGP ended a 2020 stint in Italy and the second race in a week at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli with the Gran Premio TISSOT dell'Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini.
The fixture represented the seventh round of the season and the second of three in a row, with the series due to move swiftly to Barcelona during the following days.
Pol Espargaro and Brad Binder increased the RPM on their KTM RC16s from the second row of the starting grid and into a race played out under warm San Marino sunshine. Espargaro decided to use a soft rear tire and quickly latched into the battle for third place, which eventually became a dispute for second after Francesco Bagnaia's crash while leading.
The close action between the KTM man, Joan Mir and Fabio Quartararo was ultimately decided on the last lap when Quartararo ignored a long lap punishment for repeatedly exceeding track limits. He was given a three-second penalty and dropped to fourth behind Espargaro who was less than a second away at the finish line.
Bad luck for Binder
Espargaro gratefully accepted the 16 points and his second podium appearance after last entering the top three at the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring last month. He improved his speed and competitiveness from a result of 10th the previous Sunday.
Binder, his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team mate, made a lively start in the opening laps of the race but crashed out of the running with Espargaro (and therefore podium contention) at Turn 13. He then fell again at Turn 1 to register a DNF. The same fate befell Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Iker Lecuona.
The 20-year old rookie (the youngest rider in MotoGP) showed excellent speed to fight with Styrian GP winner Miguel Oliveira and hold a slot into the top six until his mistake late into the 27-laps. Oliveira’s 5th position represented his second-best of 2020 and his fledgling MotoGP career.
The Portuguese is eighth in the championship standings. KTM hold third in the Constructors standings.
Binder said: "I felt really, really good on Sunday. I made a decent start but then lost the front into Turn 11 and had a big head shake of the bike. I was thinking 'that was close' but then tucked the front going into Turn 13. I was a little bit wild. I tried to restart but then crashed again.
"So, not a great race but I'm happy because I had such a good feeling with the bike, and we've worked hard to get to that. Unfortunately, we go home with nothing today, but we'll try again in Barcelona. We'll need to learn quickly there. If I take one thing from this weekend then it's that a good qualification makes life so much easier! We'll try for that again next weekend."