Christina Bulpett |
Picture: GeeBee Images
Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia dream continued at Le Mans with his third consecutive front row and podium in Sunday’s FrenchGP.
The points also promoted the Noale Factory outfit to the head of the team’s championship standings, a first for the burgeoning project as the RS-GP and its Spanish rider continue to go from strength to strength.
“Yeah, I’m very happy,” Espargaro confirmed on Sunday evening. “Le Mans is not really a track where I enjoy riding because you have to stop a lot the bike. Actually, it’s not that I don’t like but my riding style is better on the fast corners when I’m able to be fast in the middle of the corner, you cannot here. So very happy to show good performance here in Le Mans.
“Has been very difficult to block Fabio [Quartararo] all the race and to recover some points to Fabio here in his home GP. In dry conditions I would never expect it so I’m very happy. We’re just four points behind him so very good!”
Four points adrift of the reigning champion in the current standings was the perfect reward after 27-laps of ensuring the Monster Energy Yamaha remained behind him on a track he openly admits to struggling with across both the weekend and race.
“I had no grip at all, front and rear, and I couldn’t have good acceleration,” Espargaro explained further. “The Ducatis were extremely fast today on acceleration. So I tried to rush more in the mid-corner but I lose the front many times.
“In a certain moment after my high-side, I say ‘Okay, that’s it, relax mate, leave them just half second, to reduce a little bit the pressure on the front tyre’. I had the alarm on the dash, the tyre was on fire!
“So yes, I give them just half second, I start to ride a little bit more comfortable and then many crashes because today was very, very difficult. Finally achieving the podium. I saw also in the screens that Fabio were really pushing me but I knew that if I do my race, I maintain a very fast pace without mistakes, he couldn’t overtook me. So finally, very happy.”
After a career spanning almost two decades in world championship racing, the 32-year-old is finally reaping the rewards with his debut victory followed by three consecutive third place finishes from the opening seven races of 2022.
“I don’t know really what to say, it’s crazy what’s happening,” he admitted on his recent and continuing success. “I have no explanation.
“I’m extremely happy with the level that I reach, how I’m riding, the stability. How I feel with this team, with this group of people. They give me the bike that I dream, the bike that I ask, all the changes that I asked on the preseason last year I have this year so just hope to keep the momentum keep enjoying.
“Believe me I’m completely sure that we can fight for this title but I’m not really thinking about it,” he continued. “I’m just trying to enjoy the moment. I will try to finish in the podium every single race till Valencia, trying to win more races and that’s it. Trying to have fun after a difficult career and yeah, I’m very happy!”
The joy was clear to see as he joined Jack Miller and Enea Bastianini for the French podium celebrations with a ‘shoey’ even thrown into the mix.
‘Yeah, it was not the best Prosecco I drink in my life,” he confessed with a smile having drank from the Gresini rider’s race boot. “But after a very difficult race, to share Prosecco on the podium, you drink whatever they give to you!
“Jack did an extremely good race today. He was very solid, no mistakes. I tried to pass him to get close to him, but it was impossible. Also Bestia was very good. This year the level of my mates is insane. It’s very difficult because everybody’s fast and everybody is making no mistake. So I’m extremely happy to have 100 points with this field.”