Oliveira: Aleix’s riding style ‘completely different, it's working’

Aleix Espargaro’s old-school riding style has been a perfect match for the latest, aerodynamically advanced, Aprilia RS-GP.

Miguel Oliveira, Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaro, Sepang MotoGP test, 7 February
Miguel Oliveira, Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaro, Sepang MotoGP test, 7…

One of the interesting combinations in MotoGP so far this season is how well Aleix Espargaro’s old-school ‘body-on-the-bike’ riding style works with one of the most aerodynamically advanced machines the sport has seen: The 2024 Aprilia RS-GP.

While Espargaro has been fast from his very first laps on the bike, factory team-mate Maverick Vinales and Trackhouse rider Miguel Oliveira - both proven MotoGP race winners with their modern body-down cornering style on other machines - have had a tougher time adapting.

Both have even reverted to a more standard rear seat aero, while Espargaro has kept the radical ‘batmobile’ design.

The Qatar season-opener saw Espargaro qualify second on the grid, then take a Sprint podium with a strong late charge. 

That made him a pre-race favourite for the full-length Grand Prix, only to suffer unexpected grip issues. Nevertheless, Espargaro remained the leading Aprilia rider, in eighth.

Aleix Espargaro, MotoGP, Qatar MotoGP, 9 March
Aleix Espargaro, MotoGP, Qatar MotoGP, 9 March

“Not beautiful, but effective!”

One theory is that by keeping his body closer to the bike, Espargaro creates a more efficient airflow for the aerodynamics during cornering.

However last year, the Spaniard, who at 34 is the oldest order on the grid, suggested his style - which he describes as “not beautiful, but effective!” - also brings acceleration benefits.

“We try to analyse a lot in Aprilia… On the right corners, I stay more on the bike than the lefts. But when there are more right corners, I’m faster! And when there are more left corners, like America, I’m slower,” Espargaro explained.

“So I lean [my body] less in the right [corners] but it looks like it's not that bad with this bike. I create a bike to accelerate, so I don't really need to lean that much.”

“If you analyse the riding style of Raul [Fernandez], I love it," Espargaro said of Oliveira’s team-mate, who hangs far from the bike. "But [sometimes] because he really leans a lot the body, as soon he touches the throttle, he has a lot of spin.

“So yes, [my style] is not beautiful, but it's effective!”

Espargaro is the only rider to so far win on an RS-GP, at Termas de Rio Hondo in 2022 followed by Silverstone and Barcelona in 2023.

Miguel Oliveira, Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaro, Sepang MotoGP test, 7 February
Miguel Oliveira, Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaro, Sepang MotoGP test, 7…

"Aleix’s riding style is completely different, but it's working"

Whatever the reason, Oliveira confirmed that Espargaro’s performance is currently ‘standing out’ and that his riding style is the obvious difference compared to the other Aprilia riders.

But the contrast in physical height (Espargaro is 10cm taller than Oliveira and Vinales) means it’s not simply a case of trying to copy the Spaniard’s style, but more understanding why it works and adjusting the bike set-up accordingly.

[Aleix is] the one who is standing out the most compared to all of us. The only thing I can say is that his riding style is completely different than what we ride. But it's working,” Oliveira explained during the Qatar weekend.

“So we as a group, as a team, have to understand how we can set up the bike in order to take the maximum out of it with our style.

“I think it will come with experience and with a few races.”

Describing Espargaro’s style in his own words, the Portuguese said:

[Aleix] keeps a lot of lean angle, [with his body] very static on the bike. And he never really tries to pick up the bike by being aggressive on the throttle just to gain the speed out of the corner. Even on the braking zones, the bike is quite stable, never sliding. This kind of style.

“For him, it's quite natural, and it works, especially with this new bike.”

Oliveira added: “I tried to adapt as much as possible, but I can't grow in height! And it's just the way someone rides. You can adapt a few things [with your style] but it gets to a point where, your approach, your interpretation to the corner, you can only change so much.”

Oliveira, who finished 13th in Qatar after serving a long lap penalty carried over from 2023, will be back on his factory RS-GP in front of his home fans at Portimao this weekend.

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