until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Espargaro is Argentina favourite – even if he won’t say so

by Simon Patterson
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The 2022 Argentine Grand Prix marks something of a landmark weekend both for MotoGP and the riders, as the series returns to South America for the first time in three years. But with numerous milestones of his own to celebrate after an incredible Saturday, polesitter Aleix Espargaro will go into the race with more anticipation than any other rider.

A stunning performance from Espargaro in qualifying at Termas de Rio Hondo earned him pole position – the third of his career, but the first in the modern era for manufacturer Aprilia as its impressive rise through the ranks continues.

But perhaps even more impressive than Espargaro’s pole – also his third with three different manufacturers, a feat unique to him – is the fact that he also starts Sunday’s race as the favourite, after demonstrating blisteringly fast race pace on Saturday’s abridged single day of track action.


With practice shortened thanks to logistical hurdles only overcome at the eleventh hour, Espargaro finds himself in a unique position, starting the race with a target on his back but knowing that he’s capable of winning if everything goes correctly.

“I’m very happy and especially proud of what we’re achieving,” he said after beating Jorge Martin to top spot. “It’s my sixth season in Aprilia and I know how far we’ve come, so to prove that at least today we had the fastest bike in the world is something that makes me happy.

“I know that it’s not super important because the points come tomorrow, but for a rider to feel this speed, to feel that you’re the fastest one, is always great. It’s a very nice moment for Aprilia, too.


“The bike, especially with the hard front tyre, felt exceptionally good. I can maintain a very high corner speed, and it worked good today. The race pace is quite strong, but let’s keep our feet on the ground. It’s only Saturday and it’s a special GP with only one day of practice. We have a lot of things to analyse during tonight.

“Obviously pole position is an extra boost of confidence for myself, and tomorrow I’ll try my best to push from lap one. The tyre consumption is quite good and we did a good job in FP2, the pace is strong, and I’m just going to try to be as relaxed as possible.”

While it would be normal to expect Espargaro to be walking tall after an incredible performance, he remained characteristically humble instead – not only remaining grounded about what’s still to come, but also praising the work of the team over the past six seasons to get to this point.

“I’m happy, I’m satisfied, and for the rider it’s nice to be fast on Saturday because the feeling you get on that lap is always special,” he explained. “It’s great to feel the adrenaline and the speed. But what will really make me happy is to achieve a good result tomorrow and keep making history for Aprilia.

“More than for me, I’m happy for them. When Jorge [Martin] finishes on pole position and comes back into the garage, it’s normal, because he is pole position every weekend! But when Aprilia does it for the first time and you arrive in the garage and see the faces of everyone there, it’s completely another story. Six years working on this project, and these small moments of joy are fantastic.

“I see these faces every day and I feel more like they’re a part of my second family, and to see them happy like this makes me very happy. Seeing this and everyone in the paddock congratulating me is something that makes me very proud, but again it’s just Saturday.”


Espargaro might believe that the victory is still far from in the bag, but there’s one person who was adamant after qualifying that there is a race win there for the taking – his brother Pol.

The Honda rider enjoyed a decent day, coming through Q1 and ending up fourth behind his brother, who he said will be the man to beat when the lights go out.

“Aleix is for sure the main guy,” he insisted when asked by The Race about Sunday, “but Maverick [Vinales] is also fast. The Aprilias are fast.


“They’ve shown an amazing performance today. It’s stunning what they did and how fast they are. Let’s see, and hopefully the track will keep changing and improving and our Honda will be faster with more grip, but I don’t believe it’ll be as easy as it sounds.

“I’m happy as a brother, and as a rival I prefer him to be on the pole than another rider. It hurts a little, OK, but I’m happy that in the end the effort and the hard work pays off. Always when this happens, with my brother or another rider, I’m happy for them.”

With the second Aprilia of Vinales starting alongside Pol in fifth, it could well be that there’s not one but two of the manufacturer’s machines at the front. Vinales finished second to his team-mate in FP2, and knows he has his best chance of returning to the podium since his exit from Yamaha in the middle of last season.

“It’s still very hard for me to push for one lap with the bike,” he said, “because still I need more feeling, more confidence. But I was very happy with the rhythm and with the tyre, and I’m very enthusiastic for tomorrow. We know it can be a good race – but even if it’s a bad race, I’ll be very happy because we’re taking steps forward. This is just the base.

“I’m really happy for Aleix and for the team because I think we are working really hard, and on our side of the garage very soon you’ll see the results too. Until then we’ll keep our heads down and keep working. I don’t know what’s possible and I’m not putting a limit on it, but I’ll push like never before and we will see!

“It’s a long race and it’s going to be very important to be smart in it – but we’ll keep pushing. It’s an important race, and it doesn’t matter if I finish 15th because my feeling is one of progression.”

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