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In the fifth part of our season review of 2014, we turn to the Espargaro brothers. Both Pol and Aleix had excellent seasons, impressing many with their speed. If you would like to read the four previous parts of our season review, they are here: Marc MarquezValentino RossiJorge LorenzoDani Pedrosa, and Andrea Dovizioso.

6th – 136 points – Pol Espargaro

Being a MotoGP rookie got a lot tougher after 2013. Marc Márquez raised the bar to an almost unattainable level by winning his second ever MotoGP race, the title in his debut season, and smash a metric cartload of records. Anyone entering the class after Márquez inevitably ends up standing in his shadow.

Which is a shame, as it means that Pol Espargaro’s rookie season has not received the acclaim it deserves. The 2013 Moto2 champion started off the season on the back foot, breaking his collarbone at the final test, just a couple of weeks before the first race at Qatar.

He crashed again during that opening race, but quickly found his feet. He came up just short of his first podium at Le Mans, nudged back to fourth place by Alvaro Bautista.

It would be his best result of the season, but the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was to be consistently found in and around the top six. Espargaro would go on to bag a couple of fifth places and six sixth spots.

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That is where he would end the year, sixth in the championship behind the factory Hondas and Yamahas, and the factory Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso. Ignoring the exception that is Marc Márquez, it was the best start to a season by a rookie since Ben Spies joined the premier class in 2010.

The Texan did secure two podiums that year, and fairly comprehensively outscored Pol Espargaro in comparison.

What the younger of the Espargaro brothers struggled with most was the radically different style needed to ride the Yamaha M1. Moving up from Moto2, he had to change his approach completely.

On a Moto2 bike, the harder you push, the more the bike moves, and the faster you go, giving you clear feedback on where the limit is. On a Yamaha YZR-M1, the harder you push, and the more the bike moves, the slower you go.

The calmer you stay, the smoother you can be, the more relaxed you can ride, the faster you go. To ride a Moto2 fast, you need the attitude of a Viking beserker. To ride a Yamaha MotoGP bike fast, you need to be a Buddhist monk.

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This, of course, poses a problem for Yamaha. Riders are no longer coming to MotoGP through the 250 class, where the key to going fast was to keep the wheels in line and exploit corner speed.

With limited electronics, Moto2 riders learn to use engine braking to slide the rear wheel and help slow the bike, and have to clamber all over the bike to limit wheelies on corner exit. The two classes require a completely different skill set.

Yamaha knows this, and is starting to experiment using the younger Espargaro brother as a test bed. At tracks like Le Mans and Motegi, where there is a lot of straight-line braking, Espargaro was allowed to slide the bike more, let it move around.

The data generated is likely to end up helping define the future course of the Yamaha M1, once the current generation of former 250 riders retires.

Yamaha believes that Pol Espargaro is the future, and is using the young Spaniard to shape the future of its bikes. The problem he faces is that despite being on a factory contract with Yamaha, neither Valentino Rossi nor Jorge Lorenzo look like leaving the factory team.

Espargaro will have to make another step in 2015, and start challenging for the podium regularly. Then, Yamaha will have to start looking at ways to make room for him in the factory team.

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Photos: © 2014 Tony Goldsmith / TGF Photos – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • Piglet2010

    What is the chance of Rossi riding for Yamaha in 2017 – pretty small?

    Yamaha can do for Pol what Ducati did for Iannone this year – provide a de facto factory bike to a satellite team for the next two seasons.

  • crshnbrn

    ^ or at least for 2016.

  • H.L.

    I do admire how hard he would push the limit, crash, show his emotions on his sleeve, dust himself off, get on the back of the scooter, get on his second bike and push even harder.

    Wasn’t a fan of his in Moto2 but I respect his rookie GP season to the fullest. I’m positive he will take the next step.

  • Good article. The photos, though, almost eclipsed the words. Great photos by Tony and great choices by Jensen. Outstanding.