Espargaro’s KTM teammate should be ready to ‘suffer’

KTM rider Pol Espargaro says he wants to have no input on his MotoGP teammate for 2020, but believes whoever is chosen should show dedication and willingness to “suffer”.

Johann Zarco joined Espargaro at KTM on a two-year deal at the end of last season, but requested to be released from the contract a year early, before being sidelined mid-season in favour of tester Mika Kallio.

With most MotoGP-calibre riders contracted elsewhere through 2021, KTM has been in no rush to firm up its 2020 plans.

Asked by whether KTM has sought his input into the decision, Espargaro said: “No, actually no – I don’t want even to know, this is their choice.

“As soon as they bring a guy hungry and with a lot of energy to work in the project, to be involved, to suffer – because he we suffer, we are not for sure enjoying the situation at the moment, because for sure the results we all wish to be better – but as soon as they bring a guy able to work hard, I will be happy.”

Espargaro and Kallio have both been clear that KTM‘s RC16 package has made great strides since debuting in MotoGP, and Kallio said in Thailand that the 2020 version – which Dani Pedrosa has played a big part in developing – will leave riders “more satisfied” when it comes to the bike’s physical demands.

Kallio and former KTM works rider Bradley Smith appear to be the likeliest candidates for the 2020 ride alongside Espargaro, with KTM unlikely to promote rookie Miguel Oliveira from Tech 3 despite his strong debut season – as this would risk unsettling its partner team.

“For sure Mika is a worker, and looking the future, if Mika stays here, for sure Mika is going to help us so much,” Espargaro said.

“Also there is a satellite team [Tech 3] with Oliveira, [Moto2 rider Brad] Binder coming, so whatever [rider] I will have on my side, all the team is going to grow together and we are going to fight for the best results possible.

“So, yeah, let’s see, I think we’re going to discover soon, just four races to the end and we will know very very soon.”

Kallio had been strong in wildcard outings for KTM in the past, but has so far struggled to rediscover that form since replacing Zarco.

“It’s always difficult to catch up the MotoGP guys’ speed after a long time stopped, a long time not racing,” Espargaro said of Kallio.

“He needs time for sure. It’s a procedure that needs so much time. He’s for sure a good rider, he’s done good races in the past, also when he was a test rider he was doing some wildcards with a very high level.

“But, you know, everything changes quite a lot, and you need to keep pushing, and for sure he needs some time to get adapted to this category again.”

Asked whether he could do anything to help Kallio’s acclimatisation, Espargaro said: “I mean, yeah, he is checking all the data, we are talking every day [during race weekends], we have meetings together every day about how was the session, the practice, and for sure we are learning from each other.

“But, as I said, he needs time, for sure it’s not going to be day and night.”

Mika Kallio, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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