KTM MotoGP rider Pol Espargaro says the Andalusian Grand Prix at Jerez was “the toughest race of my life”, having felt like the heat was “beating me” at one stage.
Temperatures for Sunday’s second round of the 2020 campaign touched a miserable 40 degrees Celsius, with the 60 degree track temperature making circuit conditions tricky as only 13 of the 21 runners finished.
Espargaro had to fight through from 12th on the grid after a crash in qualifying, but a mistake on lap one at the last corner meant he got stuck behind the Ducati of Danilo Petrucci and his brother Aleix on the Aprilia.
The KTM rider says he drained himself after just a handful of laps behind them due to the “amazing” heat from the bikes ahead.
Crossing the line in seventh, Espargaro said: “At the beginning of the race I was not too far from the top guys; actually, I was seeing them very close.
“But then I did a mistake trying to pass Petrucci, and [Johann] Zarco and my brother overtook me.
“I was fighting with them for like four, five, six laps, trying to overtake them and I completely [drained] myself completely just by being behind my brother.
“I had an amazing heat around me and I couldn’t really manage. I had a feeling in the middle of the race that the heat was beating me.
“Also, there were many crashes around: my brother crashed in front of me, also Petrucci, so I felt it was better to finish and take the points in this short championship.
“But definitely, it was the toughest race of my life.”
Espargaro felt after Friday’s running that he could have fought for something “great” in the Andalusian GP, following a strong Spanish GP at Jerez.
But he says he “paid” in the race for his mistake in qualifying, which meant he had to fight “with guys we should not be fighting with”.
“I spent the first lap just fighting with guys that we should not be fighting with in the beginning of the race, and then we lost, I think, five, six seconds in just the first five, six laps,” he added.
“In these conditions, when a factory bike takes six seconds [out of you] at the beginning, how do you recover it?
“And fighting, you waste yourself a little bit more than normal, but it was my fault. My fault was starting [on Saturday].
“I did a big mistake [on Saturday] and we paid today [in the race].”
Espargaro was the sole KTM at the finish, after team-mate Brad Binder crashed out at Turn 13 on lap 13, while Tech3’s Iker Lecuona also dropped out.
At the start, Binder collided with Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira after being forced to sit up by Petrucci – though Oliveira disagreed with this point of view and felt the South African was “too optimistic” into the corner.