Despite a crash at the end of FP2, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro cemented what could prove to be a crucial top ten place at the end of play on Friday at the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France.
His 1:32.132 put him 0.071 clear of ninth fastest Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and over a tenth ahead of Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) as wet weather on Saturday morning could mean the top ten from FP2 are heading straight into Q2 in Le Mans.
The elder Espargaro hasn’t had an automatic Q2 place since the opening qualifying session of the season in Qatar, so achieving that at Round 5 in France would be a welcome boost for the Italian factory. However, despite it looking like a great day on paper, Espargaro isn’t entirely happy with how the day has gone.
“Despite a less-than-perfect feeling, I finished a good lap toward the end of FP2 that put us in the top ten. Our biggest difficulty right now is acceleration. We don’t have much rear grip and on a stop-and-go track like this one we are forced to make it all up in braking.
“Doing that is risky, because it is easy to make mistakes when braking late, which is what happened in the second session. We took a step forward after FP1, but we still need to improve further in this area.”
It may not sound great but to hear Aleix wanting plenty more from his RS-GP bike is a good sign that when Aprilia find some steps forward, they could well be challenging for regular top-sixes – and maybe more.
0.7 off on a less-than-perfect day stands Espargaro in good stead for the rest of the weekend. Find out how he gets on in FP3 at 09:55 local time (GMT+2).