Aleix: ‘I knew when I left the grid...’, Vinales: ‘All of a sudden, boom!’

Aprilia team-mates Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales both featured in the Sachsenring podium battle, but were blighted by very different technical issues in Sunday’s German MotoGP.
Aleix Espargaro, German MotoGP race, 19 June
Aleix Espargaro, German MotoGP race, 19 June

Espargaro began the race from fourth on the grid, believing he had the speed to stick with favourites Francesco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo.

But the Spaniard’s hopes of putting his Barcelona error behind him with a sixth podium of the season suffered a major blow before the red lights had even gone out.

Having gone to the grid on a used front tyre, the Aprilia team then switched to the planned brand-new hard front for the race start.

But by turn one of the sighting lap, Espargaro realised he was in trouble.

Remote video URL

“From when I changed the front tyre on the grid and started on the formation lap, I started to feel a lot of vibration on the front,” he said. “I was very angry that I had no time obviously to stop and change the tyre.

“[The same thing] happened to more than seven riders on Friday. Also to Mir in qualifying. My tyres were always perfect [all weekend before the race] but today unbelievable. A lot of vibration, a lot of chattering.

“The first 6-7 laps with a new rear tyre I could manage quite well, but then it was impossible. My best sector during the weekend was sector 3, the fast part of the track, and it was impossible for me to ride.

“It was a question of avoiding a crash all the time and it was surprising because I was lapping very, very slow. But even like this, I was racing for the podium!”

Aleix Espargaro, German MotoGP race, 19 June
Aleix Espargaro, German MotoGP race, 19 June

Moto2 pace

After Bagnaia’s early exit, Espargaro settled into third behind Quartararo and Johann Zarco, with Vinales just behind.

When Vinales retired, and despite running lap times close to ‘Moto2 pace’, Espargaro held off the challenge of Jack Miller for ten laps until a late mistake handed the final rostrum position to the factory Ducati.

“The mistake on the brakes is my fault [not the front tyre] because I had this [tyre] problem from the grid and I did that corner 28 times before making the mistake,” Espargaro said.

“But it was very difficult to manage, very difficult. I closed the lines all the time, trying to brake straight and then accelerate instead of making corner speed, which is the strong point of the Aprilia.

“And you just have to analyse my pace. I was super slow. Some laps I was 1m 23 high which is just one second faster than Augusto [Fernandez in Moto2].

“So very slow lap times and I'm happy sincerely to take 4th place because it's a lot of points for the championship, but today our potential was easily to fight for second place.”

Espargaro cited the tyre issue as “100%” clear, adding that Michelin is due to analyse what happened.

“But it will not change anything to me. The race is done. But clearly no doubt the tyre was not okay. I used 4-5 different hard front tyres during the weekend perfectly.

“I went to the grid with a used tyre of 16 laps, the bike was quite OK and then as soon as I put in the new tyre, I arrived at corner one and the bike started to vibrate. So there is no doubt.”

That also begs the question of whether it would have been better to fit the new front tyre in the pits, meaning the issue would have been spotted before the sighting lap.

“All races [we change tyres on the grid], but even if I started with a new tyre from the garage and I felt the vibration, there were no more [new] tyres. There are four hard for all weekend, so I had no spare front.”

Enea Bastianini (tenth) was the only rider not to race the hard front.

Whilst feeling fortunate to salvage 13 points, which also strengthened his hold on second in the world championship over new nearest rival Zarco, Espargaro has slipped 34 points behind reigning champion Quartararo.

“Difficult. For me the problem is not the points, 34 points is not so much,” Espargaro said. “The problem is that he's always faster than me on Sunday.

“Today I think I could beat Zarco, if I had normal front tyre. The pace was there, But Fabio won easy. So the problem is that on Sunday he's faster than me. I need to find some speed.”

Maverick Vinales, German MotoGP, 18 June
Maverick Vinales, German MotoGP, 18 June

Maverick Vinales: Best race of the year, then rear device broke

While Espargaro counted himself fortunate to finish, a more dramatic technical problem cruelly took Vinales out of his best race as an Aprilia rider.

Making the most of the medium rear tyre to climb from ninth to fourth in the opening laps, Vinales was locked onto the struggling sister RS-GP of Espargaro throughout the middle stages.

Biding his time and expecting to get even stronger in the final laps, a first Aprilia podium looked on the cards.

But with 13 laps to go his rear ride-height device became jammed in the downward position. The Spaniard fought in vain to release the system but was forced to retire.

“Actually I’m very happy because today I enjoyed riding,” Vinales began. “We made a good start, I was strong, I had many black marks on my leathers from fighting in the first corner!

“And then I was just keeping the pace. I knew the last 10 laps were going to be my best because I was keeping a good performance from the tyre. But the rear device broke and then my chance of staying on the track was very difficult.

“One time I was 0.1s from Aleix, going to attack and then I started to feel the bike a little bit more down and start to have chatter and I said ‘I don't understand’. But then all of a sudden - ‘boom’ – down!

“It got [stuck] down and it never came back.

“I lost the front in Turn 8 because of that, and it was dangerous to be on the track.

“I mean, if I didn’t crash in turn 8, I would crash in the downhill! It was impossible to ride.”

Vinales added: “But I’ve already forgotten about it. This weekend was very important, because last year here for me was a very down moment [last place with Yamaha] and this year it was the best race of the year.

“So, one year can change a lot. We need to maintain the concentration, we are working in the correct way and we are making a lot of steps, very fast.

“I think all these races has been like a super training, to make myself even stronger. I can overtake easier. I'm better on the first laps. So I just feel all these steps will make me a better rider. And at least I was battling for the podium.

“We just need to keep calm, we know when we will reach the point where the bike and myself are [fully together], we will go for it, I'm sure.”

Vinales – who was using the same ‘manual’ ride-height system as Espargaro, rather than the ‘automatic’ version - wasn’t the only rider forced out of Sunday’s race by a broken rear ride-height device, with Alex Marquez suffering the same issue on his LCR Honda.

Read More