Aleix Espargaro reckoned the Americas Grand Prix showed “just how tough” the competition level in MotoGP currently is after taking 11th just a week after his maiden series win.
With Espargaro’s first victory in Argentina also doubling as Aprilia’s first ever premier class success, the Italian marque again looked strong at the Circuit of the Americas as Maverick Vinales finished second in FP1 before ending Friday seventh overall, while Espargaro ended up 11th.
The duo’s chances of a top result were severely hampered though after both failed to escape the opening Q1 segment in qualifying on Saturday, limiting them to 13th and 14th position starts for Sunday’s contest.
Both riders showed decent race performance to move forwards in the Americas GP, Vinales ultimately getting the better of Espargaro on the final lap for tenth as the duo took the checkered flag just fractions behind Pramac Ducati’s Johann Zarco after chasing down the Frenchman in the closing stages of the encounter.
Espargaro admitted post-race that he was “satisfied” overall with 11th at COTA due to the venue being “the worst for me and Aprilia” – the Spaniard having crashed out of the previous edition of the race last October after struggling for speed all weekend – while he also believes his weekend illustrates “just how tough” the level of MotoGP currently is.
“Today was an example of just how tough this championship is, just a week ago I lead nearly everything session and won with pole position, and today has been completely different,” said Espargaro.
“This track is the worst for me and the Aprilia, I suffered a lot all weekend and I tried everything to try and find how to go fast, analyzing the data of my team-mate and watching many videos but it’s difficult.
“I have to say I’m satisfied though because the level we showed was much better than last year, I achieved good points for the championship because it’s all about regularity, being consistent and we are still third in the standings and have achieved almost half the points from the whole of last year.
“You always have to cool and understand the situation, now after the race I’m obviously not happy having won the last race and today being 11th, I can’t be happy but when you feel good an always just try to look in the top three positions its normal to be disappointed.
“In the end it’s about everything being over 21 races and we already are third in the championship with 50 points, so I’m happy and can’t wait to go to Portimao and Jerez where last year I was competitive, and this year’s machine is much better.”
Vinales added that he believed he had “the pace to be in the top three” in terms of race performance as he continues to adapt to the RS-GP, though affirmed that there was work to be done in improving his pace over a single lap in order to put himself within the leading positions in future events.
“Every race I feel stronger and more with the bike, today we had the pace to be in the top three so I’m happy and am not worried about the potential as we know it is there,” explained Vinales.
“We need to somehow find the pace over one lap, but my good feelings are coming back and this is the most important thing.”