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12 days ago
By motogp.com

"A long five years" - Espargaro, Aprilia claim dream podium

It's been a tough journey for rider and team, but on Sunday at Silverstone, the blood, sweat and tears finally paid off

What a journey it’s been for Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini. For the most part, the tough times have outweighed the good since partnering up in 2017, but finally, at the Monster Energy British Grand Prix, Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia celebrated a dream MotoGP™ podium together.

It's hard to imagine anyone in the paddock not cracking a smile when the Spaniard brought home his RS-GP in third place in front of a 67,000 strong Silverstone crowd. And it’s a rostrum that has been coming. The 2021 Aprilia RS-GP is by far and away the most competitive bike rolled out by the Italian marque since returning to the MotoGP™ class in 2015.

Espargaro has been scrapping in and around the podium places for most of the campaign, but Silverstone had a different feel about it. You could tell this was his and Aprilia’s best chance of a podium to date, and speaking after qualifying in P6, Espargaro knew he had the pace to fight for the “top positions.”

 

“I’m very happy about the performance we showed today, especially regarding. I think we are strong, we are ready to fight for the top positions as we showed in FP4.”

In addition, on Friday, Espargaro was quoted saying Maverick Viñales’ arrival will prove he’s one of the top three riders in the world. Some will agree with this, some will disagree. That’s how life works, everyone has an opinion. But Espargaro and his team rightly back themselves, and what a way to silence any doubters by producing a magnificent race in Great Britain.

Espargaro looked comfortable throughout and barely put a foot wrong. His pass on Miller after the Australian made a last lap lunge into Turn 13 was classy. Espargaro knew what was at stake and he didn’t panic when the Ducati soared up the inside on the brakes. Instead, Espargaro positioned himself perfectly to get a fantastic run out of Turn 14 to demote Miller back to fourth before the run down the straight into the final sector.

Understandably, the emotions – both on track, in the garage and in parc ferme – came pouring out after the chequered flag. Aforementioned, the journey both Aprilia and Espargaro have been on has been incredibly tough, and Espargaro touched upon that point when speaking to motogp.com after the race.

“It’s been a long five years to arrive here. Especially two years ago, very difficult, very, very difficult. I had many crashes, the bike was not competitive and I suffered a lot so I think a couple of times to end my career or to move to another thing.

“You know, I never gave up and finally to be here is fantastic. The good thing is it’s not just one race due to the weather or crashes, we’ve been very competitive and close to the podium all season. So finally achieving the podium is fantastic for Aprilia, for everybody in Noale, for myself and yeah, I just want to stay here to keep working hard and keep the momentum.”

Espargaro is right: the Silverstone speed is no flash in the pan. Espargaro has notched up eight top 10s in 2021, including two P6s in Jerez and Portimao that were – until the British GP – equal-best results for Aprilia in MotoGP™. Some people may think top 10s and P6s aren’t too much to shout about, but that’s where you’d be wrong. The premier class is ferociously competitive nowadays, arguably to most competitive we've ever seen it, with all six factories – who all finished in the top six for the first time in MotoGP™ at the British GP – scrapping within tenths of each other every session. A tenth a lap, even half a tenth, could be the difference between finishing on the podium and finishing just outside the top five. Fine margins make the difference, and it’s one reason why Aprilia have found the going tough since coming back. 

The closeness of the racing makes for an incredible spectacle for the onlookers, but it’s unbelievably difficult for the riders and teams who are busting their guts trying to reach the podium every weekend. It’s a large part of what makes standing on the podium such an amazing feeling, especially to a factory and rider who haven’t do so in five years. Everyone gives their all in this demanding and brutal sport. Espargaro trains just as hard as anyone day after day, and when you get rewarded for that, there’s no better feeling.

 

Seeing Espargaro run from parc ferme to his garage to celebrate with his wife and kids was special. Dedicating your life to an elite sport means you make sacrifices, and those sacrifices come in all shapes and sizes. Standing on the podium would have meant so much for Espargaro, but also his family and friends. Everyone associated with Aprilia and Espargaro will be flying high right now, but the work doesn’t stop. Espargaro and Aprilia want more, and there might not be a better track to go to next than MotorLand Aragon.

Discounting 2020’s P13, Espargaro has finished no lower than P7 (2019 and 2016) with Aprilia in Aragon. In 2018, 2017 and 2015, Espargaro finished P6, and a year earlier, Espargaro claimed his first MotoGP™ podium with Forward Yamaha. Safe to say Espargaro enjoys Aragon's ribbon of asphalt.

There’s only one thing that would have made Sunday afternoon sweeter for Espargaro, Aprilia and the entire paddock: seeing Fausto Gresini’s beaming smile at the end of the race. The late Italian began the project with Aprilia in 2015, and it will always remain devastatingly sad that Fausto isn’t with us, Espargaro, and Aprilia, to enjoy days like this.

“I’m completely sure that Fausto is watching us from the sky,” said Espargaro after the race, dedicating his podium to his friend Fausto. “You know, arriving to the garage and on the podium, seeing him as happy as would be, it would be like a dream. He really suffered in the most difficult stages in Aprilia, but he showed us the way. Now we are fighting with the top brands in the world, and he started this project. So this podium is also for Fausto and his family.”

The future is undoubtedly bright for Espargaro and Aprilia. That first rostrum is now signed, sealed and delivered, and with the arrival of Viñales, the Noale factory are going to remain a force to be reckoned with in MotoGP™. Next on the agenda? That first win. 

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