#ThaiGP - October 28, 2023

The seventeenth Super Saturday of the 2023 season awaited the GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 team at the Chang International Circuit, with Augusto Fernandez and Pol Espargaro facing the qualifying stages followed by the Tissot Sprint. Track conditions were once again hot and dry on day 2 of the OR Thailand Grand Prix, meaning that qualifying was extremely competitive this morning. Augusto Fernandez qualified in twelfth, and teammate Pol Espargaro was set to line up on the grid in P17. Unfortunately, the Tissot Sprint did not go as we would have wanted, with the number 44 of GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 finishing sixteenth, while Fernandez lost the front and crashed. 

As the OR Thailand Grand Prix action resumed in the morning with Free Practice 2 at 10:10 local time (GMT+7), Pol Espargaro continued to show competitive speed as he finished the session in 1’30.966, in P12, but still just 0.416 seconds from the fastest lap, setting up the stage for a competitive qualifying in Thailand! In qualifying one, the Spaniard rode solid laps, and took his fastest lap down to 1’30.124 while red helmets were all over the place on the screen. He continued to push, and was doing an even better last flying lap, but a small mistake in the final corner put an end to his chances of qualifying to the next session. Seventeenth on the grid for a hot Tissot Sprint (forty-nine degrees on the ground), Espargaro took a decent start when lights went out at 15:00 (GMT+7) for thirteen laps. Firstly in P16 after one lap, he was in P14 just in front of teammate Augusto Fernandez the following lap, as the Spaniard set himself up with a solid pace in his early laps. He rode his fastest on lap 3 in 1’30.990, faster than the guys in front of him at the time. Eventually, his teammate overtook him a couple of laps later, shortly before Espargaro started to feel a consequent tyre drop of the rear tyre, which left him uncomfortable on the bike. From there, lap times dropped, and the Spaniard passed the checkered flag in sixteenth today.

As he qualified directly for the first time of the season, that was less track time for the rookie who saw how it feels to sit and watch the rest battle it out for the two hot places in qualifying 1. Good feeling obviously, but an extremely competitive final qualifying stage awaited the rookie at 11:15 local time, as the twelve fastest fought for the pole in Thailand. The rookie rode an impressive lap, his fastest of the weekend in 1’30.077, and he qualified in twelfth on the grid. In the Tissot Sprint, Augusto missed a bit on his start as he dropped two positions within the first lap, and his teammate Pol Espargaro had the better of him the following lap. Lap three while he was behind his fellow GASGAS Tech3 rider was his fastest (1’31.177), a bit far from the potential he had shown at the Chang International Circuit so far. A quick tyre drop appears to have bothered the rookie who felt rapidly on the limit on his burning RC16 in the sprint. As he made a move on his teammate to overtake him, he eyed Joan Mir who was not far, but while he was trying to catch him up, he lost the front and crashed. This is another DNF for the number 37, a massive disappointment, and is not rewarding the rookie who was having a solid weekend so far. There will be some work to do tonight, as Fernandez prepares to fight again on Sunday for the main race of the OR Thailand Grand Prix, at 15:00 (GMT+7).

Position: 16th
Championship: 23rd
Points: 12
"It was a hard sprint in general. We were expecting a bit more to be honest, but we did not feel well with the rear tyre. After seven/eight laps, we felt a big drop on the rear, and I struggled to stop the bike, which made the task more difficult. We will need to check why this happened to learn from today, and prepare in the best way for tomorrow’s race as we want to target higher positions.”

Position: DNF
Championship: 16th
Points: 67
"We were having a good weekend so far, although I have been struggling a bit more on the race pace than usual. We had a decent grid position, but I am disappointed with the crash. As soon as the tyre started to drop, I felt a bit on the limit. When I overtook Pol (Espargaro), I had a little gap with Joan Mir and I tried to go for it, but I lost the front.  It is a shame, and I feel sorry for my team. We will analyse everything tonight carefully, and try preparing in the best way for tomorrow. It will be a difficult race, but normally I am good when it comes to managing tyres drop, so I am confident for tomorrow!"

Team Manager
"Tricky Saturday in Thailand for the GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 squad. Pol Espargaro failed to qualify for Q2 this morning. In his last flying lap, he was still in advance until the last sector, but went slightly wide in the final corner and lost everything, to qualify in P17, a great shame because the story is not the same when you start from the sixth row. He took a good sprint start, had a good rhythm, but as soon as he lost the initial grip of the tyre, he started to feel really uncomfortable on the bike, and could not ride with a correct pace. It will be important to try understanding what has happened to correct the situation for tomorrow, because today’s result is not what both the team and Pol expect. On Augusto Fernandez’ side, we knew that having qualified directly in Q2 would make today a little bit easier, but Q2 was very competitive, and he qualified in P12. He had a tricky start to the sprint, struggled to settle into a comfortable pace, and eventually he lost the front and crashed. There are a lot of learnings to take from today for our rookie, who needs to stay steady. Brad Binder is doing an awesome job with a similar bike, which is motivating for us, so let’s get back to our computers tonight, and find solutions for the main race.""


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