24 June 2016
MotoGP Assen: Aleix Espargaro 'close' to Aprilia deal
'I know where I am going to be racing next year. Sometimes it's not that easy and small details don't allow you to do it, but we are on the way and I think it's going to be close' - Aleix Espargaro.
Aleix Espargaro has confirmed he is close to announcing his plans for 2017, with the Spanish rider set to join Aprilia.
Stefan Bradl has already confirmed that he has no place in the team next season.
Espargaro, who was left without a ride at Suzuki following the signing of Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins, was speaking following free practice at Assen, where he finished eighth fastest in FP2.
He also confirmed that he had seriously considered making a move to the World Superbike Championship as he pondered his future.
“Not yet [deal done], but I know where I am going to be racing next year. Sometimes it's not that easy and small details don't allow you to do it, but we are on the way and I think it's going to be close,” said Espargaro, who missed Thursday's press conference, but insisted he had not intended to announce his plans to the media regardless.
“It was not planned like this because we will announce anyway in a release, but I hope during the weekend or maybe next week.
“I feel sad because as everybody knew it was fantastic for me, these two years at Suzuki, and I enjoy riding the GSX-RR a lot. The memories are always going to be with me and the first day I arrived at Suzuki in Valencia was maybe the best day in my life,” he added.
“The bike was really slow and not very competitive and right now it's one of the best bikes in the world, so I'm really proud of what we did with my team and we'll try to keep working hard.”
Giving his views on the Aprilia, Espargaro said the current situation with the team mirrors the challenges faced last season by Suzuki.
“The bike doesn't look that bad and Alvaro [Bautista] is showing good potential with the bike, but always it looks like they have the same problem as Suzuki: sometimes they are really fast in the sessions, but then in the race they struggle,” he said.
“But also this is the problem we have and last year I was very strong in the practice and then I struggle in the race and this year, Maverick [Vinales] sometimes feels like he can fight for the podium and then he cannot even stay in the top five.
“The race day is the most important day and this is where everybody has to work the most.”
Asked if he had seriously considered World Superbikes as an option, Espargaro said: “Yes, really. My history in the World championship is a little bit strange because I didn't achieve a lot of podiums or good races, but I managed to always be strong in the top class, but never fight for the podium.
“We were quite close with another good bike but for me, to be able to fight for a title, to fight for a podium – with all the respect to the World Superbike guys because they are really strong – I think with a good bike I can be fighting for the title.
“Something inside of me was pushing to go there but I'm still 26-years-old so there's time,” he added.
Reflecting on day one at Assen, Espargaro – who lapped in 1m 34.087s as he finished around four tenths down on team-mate Maverick Vinales in fourth – was upbeat over his performance.
“It's a really positive first day and I enjoy a lot, this is the most important thing. The bike was great and I was able to ride really aggressive and we are just one or two tenths from top four, from Maverick, and I'm really looking forward to riding tomorrow,” he said.
“I hope it doesn't rain and that we can keep fighting for the top.”
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