Aleix Espargarò has arrived at Le Mans with quite a promising business card. In fact, the Spaniard ended the test day at Portimao with the best time and while it might not have earned him any points in the standings, it did at least give him a moral boost. Aprilia is desperately in need of a good result to be able to realize the potential of a bike, the RS-GP 20, which has not yet fully emerged.
Before lapping at Portimao, Espargarò was also the protagonist of a small ‘in-house’ challenge at Barcelona. The Monday following the Grand Prix, in fact, he remained at the Montmelò track with the team for a day of testing and at the end of the day he did some laps in the company of Max Biaggi. The Spaniard had an RSV4 at his disposal, while the Roman champion the more exclusive X version.
How did the challenge against Biaggi go at Barcelona?
"We did some good tests in Barcelona with the MotoGP bikes on Monday and in the last part of the day I used my Aprilia RSV4 to try a new type of brake, to gain confidence. I did some laps with Biaggi, but he had a small advantage because he was on the RSV4 X, which is faster. But I'm younger, so we were more or less at the same level and we had fun. We plan to go to Portimao together for a couple of days in the winter to train. He’s getting old but he's still in great shape! "
Let's talk about Portimao instead. What was it like to ride on this track with a MotoGP bike?
"It was nice to ride on a new track, it's always nice to go racing on a new track. I had ridden in Portimao a few months ago with the road bike, but with the MotoGP bike it's a completely different matter. The new asphalt has made the track better, maybe not perfect but certainly better than in the past. The track is great fun but also one of the most difficult to tackle on a MotoGP bike. It is difficult to go fast, it is also very demanding from a physical point of view. It is not an easy track and the last corner in my opinion is a bit dangerous. It's a very fast corner and at the exit you go from fourth gear to fifth before tackling the straight. At that point, the stands and the wall are really close. It’s a bit at the limit, but the rest of the track is great fun".
Do you think Portimao is unsafe for MotoGP?
"The track is at the limit for MotoGP. It is really very close to the safety limit. Everyone in the videos and photos is impressed by the ups and downs, but there are run-off areas there and they are enough in case of an accident. Everything is a bit on the limit, but in any case it’s on the inside. Instead, the last corner in my opinion is not safe. We are used to racing on tracks that are even more dangerous, like Motegi, where the walls are closer. In any case, apart from the last corner I think it is quite safe ".
Do you think Portimao is a suitable track for the RS-GP?
"It’s difficult to say. I did sixty laps and the bike was exactly the same one I'm racing with. We were competitive, there was Bradl with Honda, Pirro, Pedrosa. We were much faster than them, but it's still just a test and I don't want to draw any conclusions. It was only one day and I didn't push to the limit. I think there is room for improvement, we had no chattering, we had no problems whatsoever. The asphalt at the beginning of the day had little grip, but then it improved as the hours went by. I'm satisfied, I think it could be a positive weekend for us. "
How did you find the asphalt at Portimao? Before you F1 will race there, can this become a problem?
"The asphalt at Portimao has made some steps forward compared to when I rode there, but it is not as perfect as at Misano where it seemed very smooth. It is good for racing, but if we think that it is a new asphalt the matter changes. Before we go Formula 1 will race there, let’s hope they don't destroy it because with their downforce and power they usually ruin the asphalt. We’ll see how it goes, but I hope they don't ruin anything because they did a good job at Portimao. I'd like MotoGP to race there for a long time, because the facilities are fantastic and the track is beautiful. "
It will be very cold in Le Mans, are you satisfied with Michelin's choice for the tyres they have brought here?
"It is not easy for Michelin to manage the tyres and maybe change certain solutions. To do this all the riders must agree and for example in Austria everyone wanted to replace the front S, but not the KTM guys, so it wasn't possible. The tyre allocation is what it is, at Portimao I tried the various solutions and gave my feedback. Even at Barcelona, despite the sun, it was very cold. Difficult for Michelin to manage certain situations, but I think we have a range of solutions at Le Mans that could prove to be suitable. I don't think the cold temperature can become a problem ".