Aleix Espargaró’s sixth place at Jerez is a cry for 'vengeance'. The Spaniard was unlucky in trying to pass a Fabio Quartararo who was slowed down by arm pump and losing out on his position to both Nakagami and Mir.
There is no doubt that Aleix’s strong season start (35 points so far compared to the 42 he scored altogether last season) is the result of all the work carried out over the winter, the two riders now benefiting from a much more competitive bike than last year.
And the results (four top ten finishes in the first four races), but particularly the lap times and the gaps at the end of the race confirm this. Aleix finished a little over five seconds from the podium, despite an arm problem that he will fix through surgery after the Le Mans round.
This is clearly the best Aprilia we’ve seen since the Noale manufacturer decided to return to MotoGP with team Gresini in 2015. The hard work of recent years is paying off and staff at Noale can be pleased with the fact that their creation, the RS-GP21, can now battle with the big guns in the reigning class.
A podium would repay all the efforts made by the race department to field what is arguably the best RS-GP to take to the track between 2015 and now. And considering Aprilia is the only manufacturer to still enjoy concessions, it is now in a good position to do something really special.
The podium a step away
It’s clear that the podium is only a matter of time for Aleix Espargaró. A rider in whom Aprilia has invested heavily and in whom Fausto Gresini truly believed. As Aleix himself said during a media debrief “Fausto would be proud of me, I’m angry he’s not here to see us now we’re doing so well”.
After years of hard work, Aprilia is closing in on the frontrunners and battling regularly for the positions that count. Halving the gap at every track is a sign of just how much work has been done over the winter to improve on last year’s solid base.
And where might Aprilia score its first podium? Well, it wouldn’t be totally unrealistic to see the RS-GP on the rostrum already at Le Mans, a track where the engine counts for less, while it’s unlikely the result will come at Mugello, although perhaps the atmosphere of the home round could help the team find added motivation to push its rider to the podium.
And with Dovizioso set to test the RS-GP again at the Tuscan track next week, who knows what kind of useful indications he could provide ahead of the 30 May race…
Translated by Heather Watson