Aleix Espargaro suffers four Friday falls: “I’ve definitely had better days”

After sprinting from his Aprilia when it began belching flames after an accident in opening practice, Aleix Espargaro probably thought his Friday Malaysian MotoGP drama was behind him.
Aleix Espargaro, Malaysian MotoGP, 10 November
Aleix Espargaro, Malaysian MotoGP, 10 November

But the factory Aprilia star went on to suffer three more accidents in the afternoon session; at Turns 1, 9 and finally the fast Turn 5.

That meant Espargaro only completed nine laps during the hour.

The best of which, on lap 4, was only good enough for 20th place, meaning he will need to take part in Qualifying 1.

Prior to Friday, Espargaro had fallen 15 times over the previous 17 rounds, an average of less than one accident per grand prix weekend.

So what had gone wrong?

"I’ve definitely had better days, but I can’t say that I’m particularly worried,” Espargaro insisted. “We are well aware of the problem, so tomorrow we’ll go back to a standard solution and I’m sure I’ll be able to be fast.”

That ‘standard solution’ refers to the normal Ohlins front suspension, having retried the new ‘longer’ fork on Friday afternoon in the hope that it would prove beneficial in the hard-braking zones at Sepang.

Instead, Espargaro struggled with excessive understeer, leading to his falls, and must now fight for one of the two remaining transfer places in Saturday’s Qualifying 1.

Aleix Espargaro, Malaysian MotoGP, 10 November
Aleix Espargaro, Malaysian MotoGP, 10 November

“It will be a demanding Saturday since I have to go through Q1, plus the last crash left me a bit scratched up and that won’t make life easy,” Espargaro said.

“We are riders and we know this can happen. The important thing is to know where to make changes."

Meanwhile, team-mate Maverick Vinales is safely through to Qualifying 2 already courtesy of the fifth fastest lap time.

"A strange Friday on this track. We know that in the first session grip is usually poor and then it gradually improves, but today I did not have a better feeling in the afternoon,” he said.

“Anyway, in the last time attack with a new tyre, I felt better, so that’s a starting point for tomorrow.”

The Aprilia riders also had some new ducting to try and improve airflow to their helmets, after struggling to breathe in the recent Thai Grand Prix.

“We made some comparisons between various systems to improve thermal comfort in the saddle and I must thank Aprilia for their quick response in spite of the little time available,” Vinales said.

“Today the temperatures were not extreme, so it’s difficult to evaluate. We’ll analyse the data and understand more as early as the Sprint Race."

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