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What's behind Espargaro's unexpected Aprilia 2025 admission

by Valentin Khorounzhiy, Simon Patterson
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Aleix Espargaro doesn't expect to remain part of the Aprilia MotoGP team once he retires from full-time competition at the end of the year.

The 34-year-old has been part of Aprilia's MotoGP set-up since 2017 and has identified himself with the project, not just ending its long premier-class win drought and giving it an outside title bid in 2022 but also assisting it in matters including rider recruitment - having played a part in securing the signing of his current team-mate Maverick Vinales.

But both his media appearances and his speech to the Aprilia team ahead of making the news public on Thursday have given off the strong impression of an impeding goodbye - and that may have been for good reason.

Espargaro is on record as being interested in a test rider role and in spearheading a manufacturer's development work for MotoGP's 2027 switch to 850cc machines.

But while he had insisted in the past that had he continued to ride full-time it would've been with Aprilia, when it came to a test rider role he had suggested a lot more flexibility in terms of who his employer will be.

On Friday, after ending practice fastest and with the new Barcelona MotoGP lap record to boot, Espargaro said: "I know that I will miss a lot everybody in Aprilia, I will miss the feeling of riding the RS-GP. So the only purpose that I have is to have fun and smile every single lap until the last lap in Valencia."

This tallied with his comments to Spanish TV that he was expecting to leave the team completely - and when asked about this by The Race, he confirmed it: "I don't want to speak about the future, it has been eight very beautiful years. I want to finish good.

"But...I don't think I will stay in Aprilia."

A blow to Aprilia?

Aprilia already has a test rider on the books in Lorenzo Savadori, who it is happy with despite him being a less star-studded name.

While he has a weaker MotoGP track record compared to his counterparts from other factories, Savadori has been an integral part of Aprilia's impressive development curve.

The Race understands, however, that Aprilia would be highly amenable to pairing him with a rider of high MotoGP pedigree - following the past KTM template of a Dani Pedrosa/Mika Kallio test rider roster - and that Espargaro would very much tick the box.

So why, if the Aprilia interest is there, would Espargaro feel that continuing together is unlikely?

It could be - and likely is - because, with the current RS-GP handy evidence for his developmental acumen when compared to the pre-Espargaro Aprilias, it's a no-brainer for rival MotoGP manufacturers to show an interest in grabbing Espargaro for their own test programmes.

Indeed, Espargaro has suggested to Spanish broadcaster DAZN that he's talked to all of them - quite what he may have been discussing with KTM specifically, which has Pedrosa and Espargaro's brother Pol on the books, is a real mystery - and putting two and two together it suggests Espargaro is leaning towards accepting a rival offer.

And it's easy to imagine a tidy fit for him in various places - say, Ducati, where its trusty tester Michele Pirro will turn 38 this year, or even BMW if it commits to MotoGP - but the outcome that screams most logical is a spot with a Japanese marque.

With both in 'Rank D' concession status right now and thus offering more ground for developmental work, and with both (but particularly Honda) looking unlikely to move up ranks significantly in the short term, Espargaro could be either a useful counterpart to Cal Crutchlow in the Yamaha camp (which would surely please Espargaro's good friend Fabio Quartararo) or to Stefan Bradl at Honda.

Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola spoke to MotoGP.com on Saturday morning but wouldn't be drawn on Espargaro's future, simply stating that there was no reason to "panic".

The 'super unfair' dream scenario

But despite this, naturally, Espargaro remains invested in the success of the programme he'd helped build up at Aprilia - something he made clear on Friday when talking about who might replace him.

Aprilia is thought to be eyeing whoever of Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini misses out on a works Ducati ride for 2025, and Espargaro was quizzed about the prospect of his good friend Martin riding for the factory.

"For sure it's a good team and a good bike. But it's not fair. Jorge deserves the ride of his dreams, which is the factory Ducati," Espargaro said.

"If he can't have it, for me it would be super unfair.

"But yes, it [Aprilia] would be a very good option, and it would be...imagine...to see Jorge win a title, winning races with the #41 bike...pfff. It's like if I won. Same feeling."

It would not be the #41 bike, of course, and a major reason for why it's unlikely to happen is that it very possibly wouldn't be the #89 bike either - as Martin is currently the favourite to capture this year's title and the #1 plate, and thus might not be a rider Ducati can just let walk away.

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