Aleix Espargaro has moved level on points with Aspar team-mate and CRT rival Randy de Puniet after notching up his first top ten finish of the season at Laguna Seca.
With the Aprilia-engined bike proving the pick of the CRT machines since the start of the season, Espargaro has been embroiled in an intense tussle with his more experienced counterpart from the off.
However, when de Puniet became crossed up in Michele Pirro's first corner tumble, Espargaro had the opportunity to claw back ground on the Frenchman, an objective he achieved with an early charge that saw him tail Valentino Rossi for the opening three laps of the race and open up a substantial gap over his main rivals.
Benefitting from retirements ahead to finish in ninth position overall, the sizeable haul of seven points have allowed him to pull alongside de Puniet in the overall standings.
“I am really happy with the result although I didn't actually enjoy the race as much as some others. I have struggled for front feel all weekend and not been able to get the bike turning as well as at other tracks. We improved it a little bit for today and after a good start I was able to push hard for the first three laps behind Valentino, which allowed me to open a gap and hold it to the end.
“I didn't know that Randy had run off but I did think it was strange that he wasn't running with me in the race because our pace was so similar. I would prefer to beat him fair and square but the important thing is to finish as the top CRT.
“This season has been fantastic so far, the team are giving me a lot of support and putting everything into every race so I want to thank them all for the results we have achieved together up to now.”
Despite the early set back, de Puniet was at least able to prove again that the Aspar ART remains the class of the CRT field by making his way back up to 11th place, just behind Karel Abraham on the Cardion AB Ducati.
“I am really annoyed to have been pushed off track in turn one because it cost me my chance to finish as the top CRT here in America. I almost crashed but luckily I was able to stay on and finish the race. My pace after that was fast and consistent so I am happy with that. I had to stay focused and pass a few riders and managed to finish eleventh so we have to be pleased.
“I would have liked to have caught Karel and Aleix and I gave everything I had but the time we lost at the start was too much to make up. At the end of the day we could have come away from here with nothing but we have picked up some important points for the championship. Once again it was a great team effort and we just need to continue in the same way at the next race.”