MotoGP »

MotoGP Interview: Aleix Espargaro

“Last season was super bad for me. I cried a lot, a lot, a lot after the warm-up at the Qatar GP. [But] Aprilia gives me a lot of confidence. Now I'm fully charged, fully motivated again” – Aleix Espargaro
Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia's new MotoGP rider, speaks after the unveiling of his new bike's colours at the factory in Noale, and shares his forthright views on his exit from Suzuki, recovering from a difficult to start to 2016, and getting the most out of his new package.

Question:
The bike's new colours look good…

Aleix Espargaro:
The bike looks good. I like the colours. It's more shiny. Last year the bike was really good but not really shiny. This year for me it's better. It's easy to recognise and there is a really strong Italy flag. I like that it really feels like a home project. It's nice.

Question:
And judging by testing times in Phillip Island, it's working well, too…

Aleix Espargaro:
And, yeah, it's not that bad. We still need to work but it's definitely much better than what I expect. The project has started in a really good way, which is always good. We have a lot of job to do but I think the bike is better than what the people expect, or what they think.

Question:
It seems that you had a real instant gelling with the bike at Valencia. Was that a surprise?

Aleix Espargaro:
For me, the first lap you do with the new bike is super important. You know, everything can change a lot. Maybe it doesn't matter. The first lap can be fantastic and you can finish twelfth. Or the first lap can be a disaster and then it becomes the best bike of your life. But the first impression is important. And the first impression in Valencia, on the first run, was very good because I was able to brake super late and hard and with a lot of stability. For me, this is most important thing.

Question:
The front tyre hasn't radically changed for 2017, yet you have said that you're able to push it much more than last year. Is the Aprilia that different to the Suzuki?

Aleix Espargaro:
It's the way the bike treats the front tyre, the way the bike goes in the corner. So, for example, with the Suzuki Andrea [Iannone] and [Alex] Rins are really fast in the winter test, because it's a very easy bike. But they crash a lot on the front. Both of them. The Suzuki is a really competitive bike, really easy. For me it's easier than the Aprilia. But it's difficult to be consistent because with the front… You need to ride with the rear, with the throttle - brake in a straight line and then manage with the throttle, like Maverick [Viñales] did. My riding style is different. I need to ride with the front brake very aggressive and with the Aprilia you can do it. This is the most important thing because, as you say, the tyres are quite similar.

Question:
How different is the bike now to what you tried in Valencia?

Aleix Espargaro:
Not that much. The new frame is working in the direction that I like, putting a little bit more weight on the front, and moving a little bit the general weight of the bike, and the balance. But it's always in the same direction. The engine is the same base but they found a little bit more power. They were smart when they decided to just keep working on the project they had. They had the new bike last season and they spent a lot of time building the bike. If the bike is working correctly, it's a mistake to have a new one.

Question:
Was moving the centre of the weight of the bike key to making significant steps?

Aleix Espargaro:
Yeah, the problem was we were limited with the old chassis. We couldn't move anymore. So with the new chassis we can stay in the same place as with the old one, but we can move a little bit the centre of gravity of the bike. We can play a bit more with the balance. We can put a bit more weight on the front. I still need to discover a lot of things about this bike, especially in a race distance. Every year I feel that it's less important one lap. It's more important the race distance. When you are young you just want to go very fast and have a very good lap time, which is important. I really enjoy switching off the head and going for a single lap! But the most important thing is the last ten laps so we need to improve the balance of the bike to be competitive in the last part.

Question:
Is it too early to predict what is going to happen this season with this bike?

Aleix Espargaro:
We are two steps closer than I expected to be at the first race. For me, if we do a good weekend with no mistakes, no crashes and we work correctly we can fight for a top ten in Qatar. This was impossible to imagine when I crossed the line in Valencia with the Suzuki, thinking of the future. I couldn't imagine it like this. So it's not easy, but I think we are already able to fight for the top ten. It's a very good way to start.

Question:
Romano Albesiano said your electronics settings are quite different to what Alvaro Bautista ran last year. Is this mainly down to rider preference?

Aleix Espargaro:
This is difficult to compare. I mean, I don't exactly know what Bautista felt but the technicians told me that the power delivery was really poor. No power at all. They said that the bike doesn't accelerate but they use a lot of power reduction, a lot of power control so I release a lot the anti-wheelie. I release a lot the traction control and I give a lot more power to the bike. Obviously it's not easy to manage now. We lost a little bit of rear stability. But we gain top speed because I'm really tall, and if you see the top speed of the bike it's not that bad. You need to be really careful and smooth with the throttle now but at least you have power. And now you need to pick up the bike quicker. You cannot be like this, as they were last season. But we gain power.

Question:
At the beginning of last season we know that you were talking to some World Superbike teams. Is it a relief to be here now, as a MotoGP factory rider again, part of an ambitious project?

Aleix Espargaro:
Last season was super bad for me. I remember now perfectly like it was yesterday, I cried a lot, a lot, a lot after the warm-up at the Qatar GP. I never cried in my life because of a result in MotoGP, or in a race. In the end it's a job; sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse. But I was desperate because I wasn't enjoying it. I was suffering a lot. I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a disaster. This is why I was talking to Superbike because it was a bigger change [and] for my mind it was OK. In the last part of last season I start to improve, to trust the front tyre more. When Aprilia called me, and they really treated me as a top, top rider because they give me a lot of confidence, to develop the bike and to be a top rider. After the first test now I'm again I'm fully charged, fully motivated and hopefully I'll stay in MotoGP. Sincerely, I really would like to try Superbike one day but I'm still 27 and I have plenty of time.

Question:
You mention Aprilia giving you a lot of confidence. Was there a sense that Suzuki didn't do that with they way they signed Iannone?

Aleix Espargaro:
Yeah. Actually, the two years I was in Suzuki I was a king. Everything I needed, I had it. Everything I asked for, I had it. It was everything fantastic. But, the last part, the way they did… I mean, if they decide that Iannone was my replacement, that's OK. I'm not the boss of Suzuki. I would agree. But for me, the way they did everything in the middle of the GP, they talk with the mechanics before me. For me, it was not the correct way. When you are in a difficult moment as I was, I never talked bad of the Suzuki. I never said that the Suzuki was s**t when I was crashing. Never, ever. I was trying chassis, trying everything the engineers told me. So I felt a little bit bad. But, you know, things are like this. This world is not easy!

Question:
They informed the mechanics before you?

Aleix Espargaro:
I remember when we arrived in Mugello, I arrived on Wednesday and my mechanics told me, 'Aleix, I don't know if you know but we just made a meeting this morning and Iannone is coming.' I said, 'What?!?' They said, 'Yeah, yeah, they told me about Iannone.' I said, 'What? But who told you?' 'They [Suzuki] made a meeting with all of us. Hello. Good morning!' For me, it was not the way to do it. But it was the only thing that really hurt me because I was not competitive. I know. It's very easy. I was not competitive so another can come. This is very clear. But, the way they did it…

Question:
When a rider changes team they always seem to enter a season with a heightened sense of motivation. Is this the most motivated you've felt for some time?

Aleix Espargaro:
Yeah. I like a lot the difficult adventures. The Aprilia is a big, big brand but they've never been competitive in the MotoGP class. When I say competitive, I mean the top. So, arriving with 27 years old, with a lot of experience, I'm already a factory rider, it's kind of a really interesting project for me. What I like a lot is that a lot of people told me after leaving Suzuki and now going to Aprilia is two steps down. So this gives me a lot of motivation. If we are able to put the Aprilia in the top five, it's going to be unbelievable. I'm 100 percent sure we will achieve it. I trained more than ever in my life this winter. I've lost three kilos from last season. So I'm fully ready to get aboard this project. I think we started better than what everybody expect.

Question:
Do you see Aprilia being a long-term project? Will you be here for more than two years?

Aleix Espargaro:
I would like that. Sincerely I would like it a lot. I'm not 20 years anymore. I know I still have a lot of years to race, but I would really like to do a long job with Aprilia and put Aprilia on top. With the Suzuki we did a great job in the first year. In the second year, because the Michelin tyre changed, I couldn't enjoy what I had built the season before. This is what I would like to do with Aprilia – work very hard in the first season and at least enjoy the second and third season. But again, this world is very difficult. I have to be competitive. If I am competitive I will be able to stay. If not… Next one!

Question:
Will we see you testing some new parts or some updates at the Qatar test?

Aleix Espargaro:
We have a lot of things to try. Yeah, we want to work in Qatar on my positioning. We have some ideas to try; a different seat; different footpeg position; different handlebar positions, to try and move my weight, which is, for me, very, very important. I'm not sure the position of the Aprilia is the best one yet. We have also links to try, a swingarm to try. There are some updates to the engine. We need to try the fairing. I want to do, at least, two race simulations, so a lot of things to do!

Question:
You're taller than most riders. Do you think it takes longer to find your optimal position because of this?

Aleix Espargaro:
Yeah, I mean I need more room on the bike. It's not easy. I already have a bigger seat than Stefan [Bradl] or Alvaro last season. But still the difference between the footpegs and my ass… I'm not sure. I'm not sure. I need to try something else. Also, the handlebars, I think we're not in the right position. It's something big to change. We need to go step-by-step and I don't like to arrive in one place and change everything. I'm not like this. I want to adapt to the bike. But now after two or three tests, I want to try something.

Question:
What do you think of Sam Lowes, your new team-mate?

Aleix Espargaro:
He's fantastic. It's very easy to work with Sam. You know, I've always been really good with all my team-mates. [With] Maverick, we had a really good relationship. We are still very good friends. With him [Lowes] it's also really easy. He's a really easygoing guy. He's funny like me. I really think that if one day – I wish – we are fighting for the podium, then it's going to be more difficult for sure because you are both there on the track. Anyway, I think that we're still going to be friends because I'm very easy. I don't care. Until this moment arrives, it's stupid to be not good with your team-mate. Two minds are stronger than one so until we arrive at the top it's better that we both work in the same direction.

Question:
When you were speaking Italian on stage earlier it was quite impressive. Have you always spoken Italian? Or have you been taking lessons over winter?

Aleix Espargaro:
I had in the past, for three years, when I was in Aspar. I had an Italian crew chief so this makes it very easy. Also Spanish is close to Italian, but Catalan is even closer. So it's not very difficult for me to learn. In the numbers, I'm not really good but with the languages I'm a little bit better.







Tagged as: Bautista , Espargaro , Iannone , Bradl , Viñales , Rins

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Aleix Espargaro 2017 Aprilia colours
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017
Pol Espargaro, Dutch MotoGP 2017

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.




© 1999 - 2017 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.