The wildcard

When Pol Espargaro made his World Championship debut in 2006, he was recognised for being Aleix Espargaro’s brother. But the younger sibling soon made a name for himself in the paddock. The Spanish rookie had just turned 15 years old during his first appearance in Barcelona, only ten minutes from his home in Granollers.

Starting from 27th on the grid, he finished the race in 13th position and became the youngest ever rider to score points in the World Championship. This promising debut led to replacing an injured Andrea Iannone and participating in the last six races of the year.

The showdown

During Espargaro’s first two years in Moto2, there was an unmistakable rivalry between him and fellow Spaniard, Marc Marquez. In fact, in a recent interview, Espargaro referred to Phillip Island in 2012 as his favourite race. Though he couldn’t stop Marquez from taking the 2012 crown, he dominated and won the race.

The next year, Espargaro was a favourite for the title, with Marquez’s feet firmly grounded in the premier class. He had a new rival, Scott Redding, but started as he meant to go on. Winning the first race in a floodlit Losail Circuit after an entertaining battle with the Brit, his back-to-back wins at Barcelona and Assen were the highlights of the season.

There were welcomed victories at Misano and Phillip Island too, but it was arguably Redding’s crash resulting in a missed race that cemented Espargaro’s place as Moto2 World Champion. He clinched the title at Motegi on 27th October, winning the Japanese GP after closest contenders Redding and Tito Rabat collided.

The cornerstone

Though Espargaro began his MotoGP years on a Yamaha, it was his work for new factory outfit KTM which is perhaps most impressive. While he may have only one premier class podium to date, it was on a KTM RC16.

Since the beginning of KTM’s appearance in MotoGP in 2017, Espargaro has been a consistent figure within the project and often in touching distance of a podium position. With the RC16 proving to be a tough bike for teammates, the number 44 rider was head and shoulders above his contingent and seemed the most capable of taming it.

As Marquez often appears to be the only rider able to tame the Honda RC213V, Espargaro seems the only rider able to tame the KTM. In 2018, he was the top qualifier across RC16 riders on all but one occasion, rewarded by his low and aggressive riding style.

Could this be the secret to pushing the Honda factory forward? Especially since the Honda RC213V is repeatedly likened to the KTM RC16…