Christina Bulpett |
Picture: GeeBee Images
Aleix Espargaro secured a third podium with the RS-GP in Sunday’s Spanish GP as the Aprilia project went from strength to strength.
Celebrating in front of his home fans at the Jerez Circuit – Angel Nieto, a first for the 32-year-old, Espargaro was both delighted and dazed by his current run of form after battling both Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Ducati’s Jack Miller to the final spot on the MotoGP rostrum.
“I don’t want to wake up to Valencia!” Espargaro said with a massive smile after the Spanish celebrations died down. “I start dreaming in Qatar and I will try to keep the feet on the ground but it’s real, it’s real! We’re doing a great job.
“We have to know that for the moment the feeling that I have – especially with Fabio [Quartararo] we don’t really have his speed – we are missing something, not so much. Because today I think that if I wasn’t stuck behind Marc and Jack I was very close to them but I missed something. So the key will be this year the consistency, make no mistakes, be there.”
Third place on Sunday afternoon sealed the deal as the Noale factory lost its concession status and provided a welcome boost to Espargaro’s title challenge, with the Aprilia man now firmly in second on 82 points, just seven behind the defending champion.
“We did almost 33% of the championship and we are just seven points behind him so we are doing a great job,” he continued.
“I’m very happy because this race was very, very special for me. I race since I was a kid here in Jerez and I never finished on the podium, so to achieve it in MotoGP, it’s just crazy.”
While his late race pace showed front running promise, Espargaro spent the majority of the contest behind Marquez and Miller after recovering from another poor release off the lights.
“I couldn’t overtake them!” Hey admitted. “I was very angry because I did again a very bad start – we have to improve the clutch, we have to really improve because I really cannot understand this year’s clutch and I’m doing very bad starts every race.
“So for me it was impossible to overtake Marc and Jack. I knew I had better corner speed than them but I couldn’t prove it because Marc brakes very, very late and also Jack brakes late so Marc couldn’t overtake Jack, I couldn’t overtake Marc but I knew that in 40 minutes, one or two mistakes, they will arrive. So I was very close, very close, very close all the time trying to wait for the mistakes. Jack brakes very early in 13 so I decided to go in and then I saw Marc going wide and I say ‘Okay, this is the moment’ and when I cross the straight and I saw the board ‘five laps to the end’ I was super focused. I put very, very, very fast three laps 38-low and I opened a big gap with them and I realized that maybe our pace was good enough to follow Fabio and Pecco [Bagnaia] but this is racing. You have to also be good on overtaking and I wasn’t today.”
2022 has brought an impressive run of success for the Andorran resident, but this one, on home soil tasted sweeter. “You can’t imagine!” hey commented.
“It was very emotional on the podium, I would say even more than Argentina because now it’s real. We’re fighting for the championship!
“And here in Jerez after the pandemic and the economical crisis, to see the grandstands full again it was just unbelievable. I remember to be eight/nine years old racing here in Jerez, but I never finished on the podium, never ever in the Spanish championship. So to finish on the podium here in MotoGP with all the people in the grandstands, it was like a dream.
“Is unbelievable. Has been a very special weekend and to see especially Nieto and Peluqui double right corner full of people it was crazy.”