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Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) landed at the Japanese GP with a splash on Day 1, going second fastest in the morning and third in the afternoon to take P3 overall on combined timesheets. After equaling the marque’s best ever MotoGP™ result at Aragon - sixth - it’s a good roll of form for man and machine. But has anything big changed of late? The Spaniard says it’s more a combination of factors.
Espargaro: "If the grip is high, the Aprillia works well"
“I think more than anything specific we’ve improved, I’m getting more and more comfortable,” says Espargaro. “And having a race like we did in Aragon, fighting with the guys in front, gives you a lot of confidence. The wet has never been bad for us, but it’s not my strong point. But here there’s a lot of grip and the Aprilia works well; I’m feeling comfortable. It’s a shame I had a bit of a scare and lost some time at the end, but we had two good sessions and want to keep improving. I’ve not used the extra soft tyre because it seemed a bit useless today, but that means there could be margin to improve tomorrow when we try it.”
Espargaro says there’s also margin to improve elsewhere, with the team working to maximise everything they can. “We’re missing something we still need to improve with the bike and we’re juggling engines, trying to get the maximum in every session. We’ll see what we can use tomorrow because it seems like it might not be the one we used today. But we tried to push today, then hopefully tomorrow we can get onto the first two rows in qualifying – and why not fight for the podium.”
With Espargaro’s pace far more than simply a one-off lap in each session and the rain looking set to remain, it could be a big opportunity for the Spaniard – who is realistically optimistic about the possibility of a rostrum finish: “Over two sessions and 20 laps we’ve always been near the front. You have to keep your feet on the ground but we’ve been there in FP1 and FP2.”
Now the grid wait to see what the weather does for FP3 as direct entry to Q2 is decided, before qualifying begins from 14:10 (GMT +9) at the Twin Ring Motegi.