3 weeks ago
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A sixth place in 2022 normally wouldn’t signal a great result for the title-chasing duo of Aleix Espargaro and his Aprilia Racing team. That’s a credit to the season they’re putting together. But P6 at the CryptoDATA Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich was the best the Spaniard could do, and it’s a race Espargaro is “very proud of”.
If it wasn’t for World Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), Ducati would have dominated proceedings at the Red Bull Ring. They did anyway in truth, with four of the top five finishers on Sunday afternoon riding GP22s – and that was after Jorge Martin’s (Prima Pramac Racing) last-lap crash while trying to overtake Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) for P3. It was clear early in the weekend that beating the Bologna bullets was going to be an almighty task, and so it proved.
Hence why after the race, Espargaro was very happy with his performance, especially after his front ride height device failed to engage at the start of the race. Aprilia struggled more than they have at most races this year in Austria, and the number 41 explained he tried pretty much everything to improve the feeling of his RS-GP to bridge the gap to the likes of title rivals Quartararo and eventual winner, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team).
“Yeah, a lot. I tried everything. I moved the weight of the… I moved the engine quite a lot during the weekend. I tried everything. I made the bike longer, a lot lower. I tried everything. But this bike doesn't like the apex. I braked like an animal all race, sincerely, I don't know why I didn't make any mistake,” explained Espargaro.
Aprilia’s difficulties were magnified by Maverick Viñales’ drop to a P13 finish after the Dutch and British GP podium finisher was battling Quartararo during the opening laps. Espargaro then lost out to the Ducatis of Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) in the latter stages, but there was nothing he could do to either defend or attack the duo.
“I was riding over the limit every corner. I made zero mistakes. So sincerely I’m very proud about the race we did. Then I destroyed the tyre obviously and I had a lot of spinning on the straights, so it was difficult to manage. Nothing I could do and I lost the spots with Marini and Zarco,” said Espargaro.
“But sincerely, it’s a shame that Pecco and Fabio did 1-2 but on my side, with this bike here today, I’m happy. Nothing more I could do.”
And that’s the disappointing part. Riding above and beyond for the entire race, only to come away with a P6 while your two main rivals stand on the top two steps would have been frustrating to see for Espargaro. However, picking up crucial points when podiums aren’t possible is what you have to do when you're in a title hunt.
Next on the agenda is Misano. Espargaro admits he thinks Aprilia could struggle at the San Marino GP but after that, there’s plenty of circuits that are tickling his and Aprilia’s fancy – including Aragon, where Aprilia have always enjoyed success even when they weren’t fighting for regular top five finishes.
“Let's go race by race. I know we lost ground in the Championship. But I'm very happy, very satisfied with my performance today. As a rider, nothing more I could do, very focused on the race. Did a solid, solid performance, almost the fastest lap of the race. So nothing more I could do.
“Now let's focus on Misano. Which is also a very tight track, it’s not going to be easy. So let's try to survive there. And then we're going to go to Aragon and so many tracks that I think that my bike will be better.”
Heading to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, Espargaro sits 32 points behind Quartararo and 12 ahead of Bagnaia. With seven races to go, the Championship chase is well and truly on.
3 weeks ago