The final chicane at the TT Circuit Assen is where history is made. Kevin Schwantz vs Wayne Rainey, Nicky Hayden vs Colin Edwards, Valentino Rossi vs Casey Stoner, Rossi vs Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) – and now, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) vs Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team).
It was a spellbinding, two for the price of one move from the Spaniard that capped off a remarkable comeback ride after title rival Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) had crashed into him on Lap 5, causing Espargaro to run into the gravel at Turn 5.
After the race, Espargaro – now just 21 points down on Quartararo in the Championship – explained how his unbelievable double overtake came to fruition. And it wasn’t just about being braver and later on the brakes than Brad Binder and Miller.
“So two laps until the end, I got to map three, which was almost not easy. I said to myself, you have to do the fast corner spinning and carrying a lot more speed than them and it pays off,” said Espargaro, talking about the rapid Turn 15 left-hander that brings the riders into the famous stadium section at Assen.
“The overtaking was in in the last brake, but in reality was in the left corner. I carried 20k per hour more, it was unbelievable the speed that I carried. So it was just the inertia that I go into the corner.
“I saw that Brad was not super good on the brakes there and I say I go in and the good thing was that I was even able to stop the bike. So I’m happy because it was very important for the points.”
All race long, Espargaro was picking off riders at ease into the Geert Timmer chicane. But most of the manoeuvres were set up at the rapid Ramshoek left-hander, with Espargaro able to carry far superior corner speed than most of his rivals.
“I overtake I think there 20 riders minimum! I think I didn’t overtake in other places. I think every overtake during the race was there. Every overtake, every lap one guy there.”
Why was Espargaro so good through Turn 15? Well, Aprilia’s new fairing – that both Espargaro and third place finisher Maverick Viñales raced with at Assen – certainly helped. Espargaro didn’t race with it in Germany due to the heat it was giving off in the soaring temperatures, while Vñales chose to run it at the Sachsenring. But Espargaro used it to great effect in the Netherlands.
“A lot. From Friday I felt that as soon you released the front brake in the very fast section I was a lot faster than the rest, especially in the fast section. I lose in some places but in the fast section my bike was a lot better,” commented Espargaro.
The title race pendulum has certainly swung Espargaro and Aprilia’s way heading into the summer break. Silverstone, like Assen, is a fast and flowing track. And if we rewind the clocks to last year’s British GP, a certain number 41 was celebrating a first podium with Aprilia – that, you’d have to feel, would be the minimum requirement in 2022.