The GASGAS Tech3 rider was one of three riders in contention for KTM’s satellite team, after their request to have a fifth bike on the grid was rejected.
That meant Espargaro, Augusto Fernandez and Pedro Acosta were all in the running for the GASGAS seats.
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Like the two factory riders Brad Binder and Jack Miller, Espargaro had a contract for next year but will instead take up a test rider role with several wildcard appearances, as promoting Acosta alongside Fernandez, who has impressed during his rookie season, was a no-brainer.
But while Espargaro admitted to MotoGP.com that it was the right decision, stepping away from full-time racing will be ‘really tough to accept’.
Espargaro said: “Going out of a full MotoGP season as a rider is painful. This has been the last 15/16 years of my life.
“Racing as a proper rider in MotoGP, in any of the categories; and to then say I’m going to be doing something is really tough to accept.
“It’s not a goodbye. I don’t like goodbye’s and I’m not good at that. I felt that I had to do that step in my career, to step a little bit aside, not back, but beside, and to help the factory with a rider like Pedro [Acosta]. I really see Pedro as the future of this brand.”
One of the reasons Espargaro was happy to move aside for Acosta is the risk that comes with racing in MotoGP.
Feeling himself taking less risks that earlier in his career, Espargaro added: “On the racing side I think I lost myself a little bit [after Portimao fall]. Some of my spirit.
“When you are young you are fast because you don’t have so many traumas. As you get older, more mature, you take some precautions in case it happens again.
“This year I crashed out of the pit box on a cold tyre, and now every time I go out of the pit box I’m a little bit more aware than before.
“It’s a weight that you have on your back that makes you a little bit slower because you take a little bit less risk. It’s a sport that is about how much risk you are prepared to take.”