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Aprilia prove their worth by setting new MotoGP™ record

Aleix Espargaro created MotoGP™ history for the Italians by finishing 5.934 seconds behind the race winner, the closest in over 20 years

It was one of the big questions at the conclusion of pre-season testing: how much progress have Aprilia really made? Well, the definitive answer after the opening round of 2021 is a lot. The 5.934 seconds that Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) finished behind Qatar GP winner Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was the closest the Noale factory has been to a race winner in MotoGP™ history.

In comparison to 2020, the closest Espargaro got to a race winner across a full race distance was at the Aragon Grand Prix, where the Spaniard ended 14.598 seconds adrift of Alex Rins. Even more impressive is that Sunday's 5.9 seconds is still closer than the 6.411 seconds that Espargaro finished behind Miguel Oliveira in the 12-lap dash we saw at the Grand Prix of Styria.

In fact, Sunday's seventh-place finish and subsequent gap to the race leader is the sixth closest Aprilia has ever finished to a race winner in premier class history. All of the places inside the top five are held by Jeremy McWilliams, the last man to stick an Aprilia on a premier class podium at the 2000 British Grand Prix, making Sunday's result the best for Aprilia in over two decades.

UNSEEN: Viñales shares Qatar glory with factory Yamaha squad

There's now sufficient evidence to say that the 2021 RS-GP is the most competitive premier class motorcycle that Aprilia has produced since the RSW-2 500cc machine of 1999 and 2000, but time will tell if it turns out to be the best bike they have ever produced.

If you listen to Aleix Espargaro, though, Sunday's season-opener was merely the start: "I was aiming for a little bit more. During the last few days, Massimo [Rivola - Aprilia Racing CEO] pushed me a lot to not make any mistakes and to make sure I got the bike to the end. This bike is still quite young and we need information from finishing the races, so it wasn’t the day to risk it.

"I made a good start but I lost a lot of positions through Turn 2. Step by step, lap by lap I started to recover some positions and then, behind Joan [Mir], we arrived to the lead group. Then, I couldn’t overtake anybody, I just had to stay there. I need a little bit more at the end of the race as I didn't feel super good on the front tyre but this is just the beginning. From here, I believe we can have a strong season."

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