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A major MotoGP 2021 success story is suddenly stumbling

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

A “very frustrated” Aleix Espargaro admits he and Aprilia are puzzled by the causes behind the recent rough patch that threatens to take the shine off the Italian marque’s breakthrough season.

The new RS-GP bike has been a revelation in Espargaro’s hands for much of the season, and finally scored Aprilia’s first MotoGP-era podium, at Silverstone (below).

Yet the drop in performances since the following weekend at Aragon – which had yielded a pleasing fourth place – has been unmistakable.


Espargaro, who has been finishing most races this season within 10 seconds of the winner, was 15.7 and 18.5 seconds adrift respectively in the two Misano races.

In the race between them, at COTA, he was already more than 10 seconds off when he crashed (below) just short of the halfway point, and in the most recent outing at Portimao he was likewise approaching that 10-second mark when he fell at around one-third of the race distance.

The qualifying results paint a picture, too. Espargaro has been out of the top 10 on the grid in each of the last three races, whereas in the 14 races before that he was in that top 10 in qualifying all but once.


Asked after the latest race at Portimao what he’d taken away from the weekend regarding the RS-GP’s performance, Espargaro said: “Mate, sincerely, I learned nothing, I don’t know what’s going on.

“I’ve been very very strong since a certain point of the season, and I don’t know why now I’m struggling, struggling, struggling.

“We have no grip, the bike is not turning due to the [lack] of grip. Yeah, I’m very frustrated, I don’t know what I have to do – I crash in the warm-up, I crash also in the race.

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“I don’t have the speed that I had in the first part of the season and the thing is that I don’t know why, I don’t know what I’m doing differently, but we have no grip. It’s very difficult to be fast, to be competitive.”

Espargaro’s race was admittedly compromised by him having to take avoiding action when Iker Lecuona and his brother Pol Espargaro rejoined the track, after Lecuona had taken the pair why.

The Aprilia man rode “very angry” after that, passing Luca Marini and Valentino Rossi before falling at Turn 1 while trying to complete the move on Franco Morbidelli.

“I took the draft and I arrived very very fast, I knew that he will protect the [optimal] outside [line] so I braked a little bit in the middle of the track, I gave him the space. When I turned to the right, my corner [angle] was a lot more closed than normal and I lost the front.

“I crashed very very hard but I’m okay.”

One suggestion Espargaro put forward was that the downturn could be related to the cooler late-season conditions – but his sole podium of the season did come at a hardly-tropical Silverstone.


“I don’t know, I don’t have really an explanation – I hope that we can discover something.

“Valencia will be also a cold race and then we have also a cold test in Jerez, to work a little bit and see what we can improve, but it’s very frustrating, because I did a very good beginning of the season, so my goal was to finish the season also on a high, but now it looks like my eighth place in the championship is getting in danger, so let’s see in Valencia.”

Funnily enough, Espargaro’s closest rival for eighth place is his new team-mate Vinales – but Vinales did score most of his points as a Yamaha rider, and Espargaro reckons he is “struggling exactly the same as me” on the RS-GP right now.

And indeed, Vinales seemed to struggle for consistent pace at Portimao, encountering some technical issues and lamenting that the RS-GP was shaking too much – a stability issue that has also hindered Espargaro as of late.

Yet Vinales was nowhere near as frustrated by the Portimao experience as his team-mate – perhaps because he feels he is still in the process of becoming familiar enough with the bike to where he can judge its competitiveness.

“Here it was complicated because of the stability, I suffered a lot in the last sector, but in the race was much better,” Vinales told MotoGP.com. “I think because there was less wind, we improved a lot the last sector and the laptimes were much more competitive.

“What is also quite comfortable for me is that I did the same pace [in the race as] I did on the practice, which is a good sign. I made my best pace on the race. I’m happy for that.”

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