Espargaro, Vinales eager to turn Aprilia speed into results

Eight races into the 2023 MotoGP season and Aprilia feels Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales have ‘reaped far less than deserved in the initial part of the season’.
Aleix Espargaro, Maverick Vinales, MotoGP, Portuguese MotoGP, 25 March
Aleix Espargaro, Maverick Vinales, MotoGP, Portuguese MotoGP, 25 March

Second place for Vinales in the Portimao opener is the only time an RS-GP rider has stood on the podium, with a best of fourth place in the COTA sprint for Espargaro.

That means the pair head into Le Mans this weekend fifth (Vinales) and 13th (Espargaro) in the world championship standings.

It’s been an especially frustrating start for 2022 title contender Espargaro, who had taken Aprilia’s first MotoGP win by this stage last season.

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The Spaniard took pole last time at Jerez, but couldn’t contain the KTMs and Ducatis in either race, falling from fifth in the sprint before retaining that position on the Sunday.

"In Jerez, we demonstrated our speed once again, but we also know what is keeping us from fully exploiting it in the race.,” said Espargaro, who lost out at the start and then also struggled when following other bikes closely in the heat.

“Le Mans is a rather particular and difficult circuit, but I am confident that we have the potential to be among the leaders there too.

“Aprilia is working hard to continue developing the RS-GP. Even in the recent tests, we found some improvements.

“We don’t need anything drastic because the bike is already working extremely well, so it’s just a matter of a few small details in the right areas."

Vinales - tied on points with Luca Marini and Jorge Martin - had a double whammy of a poor qualifying (tenth) and bad starts in Spain. He finished seventh in the sprint before a broken chain cost him eighth on Sunday.

"We really worked hard during these first weekends,” Vinales said. “The bike had an extremely good base, we tried to improve the weak points, and to be honest, I left Jerez with the feeling of having taken another step forward.

“It is not easy. The level is so high that all it takes is starting a row ahead or behind to ride an entirely different race. I think the time has come to exploit everything we have learned up to now."

Vinales is 39 points from Ducati title leader Francesco Bagnaia, but only 17 from Marco Bezzecchi (VR46) in second.

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