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Espargaro & Team Suzuki Ecstar 2nd at Assen

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Team Suzuki Press Office – June 26.

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR’s Aleix Espargaro put in an astonishing qualifying-lap to claim second place on the grid for tomorrow’s eighth round of the MotoGP™ World Championship at Assen in The Netherlands with the time of 1’32.858; just 0.231-seconds from Pole Position.

However, the day didn’t start so positively, the 25-year-old Spaniard struggling to find confidence in his GSX-RR, which resulted in 12th in the combined classification and out of direct access to Q2. Yet the 1’33.380-time he scored in the first qualifying granted him a ticket to fight for the top-12. This is his third time on the front-row this year following his second place in Argentina and his Pole Position two weeks ago at his home round in Catalunya, Spain.

Team-mate Maverick Viñales also made solid progress, finally managing to find a proper set-up and feel competitive on his machine: The 1’33.526 scored in FP3 set him in eighth place with direct access to Q2. Unfortunately, a bad feeling with the first set of tyres took him away from the track for some time and prevented him making further time-attacks. His best lap in 1’33.076 sets him in ninth place on the grid for tomorrow.

Davide Brivio – Team Manager:

“We have been working hard since the very beginning here at Assen. It was hard to find the best set-up to suit our riders immediately but at the end of the day this qualifying gave us a positive result. Aleix did an extraordinary lap and will start from second place.

“We know we are performing well but probably nobody was expecting the first-row seeing how the free practices went and we are happy with this. The race will be tough but starting from the front is a good point and Aleix could have a good pace.

“Maverick also did a very good job; he consistently-improved his performance and finally got less than half-a-second from the Pole, which is positive even if he starts from the ninth place. However the most important thing is the pace and the consistency in performance. If he is able to do one of his recoveries, as he has done previously, he should have a very good race.”

Aleix Espargaro:

“I’m very happy with the progress we’ve made. We have improved my GSX-RR a lot since Friday. We had a bad start and had to completely change the bike; I had a lot of chattering and with Tom we decided to change a lot on the front. This is not an easy thing to do but we knew we could do much better. We have also tried some of the set-ups that we tried in Aragon but they weren’t effective here, so we looked for new solutions.

“In Barcelona, everything was easier while here we struggled more, but at the end I feel I have a good pace and also the fastest-lap is very quick. Here at Assen, the first corner is closer to the start than in Barcelona; therefore I hope I will be able not suffer too many overtakes. It’s important to start from the first-row but we must be aware that qualifying is only one lap and race is longer, but the pace I have makes me confident I can aim for the top-six.”

Maverick Viñales:

“I’m happy because we’ve improved a lot since yesterday. This morning we did a very good lap and now we have improved by nearly half-a-second. This means we are doing a really good job, but of course we want more because we feel really competitive and we know that if we make a perfect job we can be very close to the top. But honestly, MotoGP now is nearly like Moto2; if you miss one-or-two tenths you may be ninth or 10th, while being faster by only a few-tenths you can be fifth or fourth.

“Today in qualifying I had a bad feeling with the first set of tyres; I don’t know what happened, but I felt the bike was always sliding and unstable, then I suddenly changed bikes with the other tyres and I improved a lot. Tomorrow will be a hard race, but I need to be fighting with the top riders and stay close to the front, so the first laps will be crucial to stay with the top riders and have a really good race.”

TT of Assen – Qualifying:

1. Valentino ROSSI, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – 1’32.627
2. Aleix ESPARGARO, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR – 1’32.858 +0.231
3. Marc MARQUEZ, Repsol Honda Team – 1’32.886 +0.259
4. Dani PEDROSA, Repsol Honda Team – 1’32.987 +0.360
5. Pol ESPARGARO, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 – 1’33.013 +0.386
6. Andrea IANNONE, Ducati Team – 1’33.016 +0.389
7. Cal CRUTCHLOW, CWM LCR Honda – 1’33.028 +0.401
8. Jorge LORENZO, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – 1’33.042 +0.415
9. Maverick VIÑALES, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR – 1’33.076 +0.449