Aleix Espargarò was interviewed after the lunch break, although his work in Sepang isn’t yet finished: “I’m looking forward to a race simulation in the afternoon.” Although the tests aren’t yet over, the Aprilia rider has still managed to get a pretty clear idea of what to expect in 2023.
“My feeling is that the 2022 trend hasn’t changed. The Ducati remains the best bike,” the Spanish rider said. “Bagnaia is very fast. The satellite team riders are going strong, as is Bastianini. Then there’s Martin, who’s impressive on the dry lap.”
What about your Aprilia?
“I can already say that the 2023 bike is better than the 2022 one. How? In many small things. The engine has more rpms, the top speed has increased, the bike is narrower and allows me to be aggressive in changing direction, the new aerodynamics are better in both straights and corners. Above all, we made a lot of progress in cooling. It was a nightmare last year. Here, in Indonesia, in Thailand, I even burned myself.”
Is there anything the RS-GP is lacking?
“If we want to win, we have to improve by a couple of points. We need more torque on the bottom, although this isn’t the right track to assess this aspect because there are no tight corners. That’s a point where I’d like something more, but Romano Albesiano assured me that, in Noale, they’re testing a new engine and, at the test bench, it’s better than this. I'll have it in the Portimão tests.”
The second point?
“Braking, where the Ducati is incredible. I have the best frame. No other bike has the speed of the Aprilia in corners, but this feature is no longer important in the MotoGP. Ducati started with Dovizioso in braking really hard and accelerating very soon. In fact, it was a nightmare for Marquez in overtaking him. From what I’ve seen in the videos, they can stop the bike using both wheels, not just the front. In these days, I tested different settings to accomplish this, and I got results.”
How important are these tests?
“Last year, here in Sepang in February, both Vinales and I were very fast. Then, in October in the GP, we struggled a lot. In the race, my fastest lap was in 2’00”7. Today, I did it coming out of the pits. Why? I have an idea, but I’d also like a technical explanation. However, the important thing is that we started again from the performance of the February tests this year, not from the October GP.”
Until last year you were considered an outsider, now you're not. Have the goals changed?
“I feel a certain responsibility. In 2022, any result would have gone well, but after fighting for the title until the second to last race, this is no longer the case. Aprilia has invested a lot. We have a satellite team with two very strong riders, so it’s almost mandatory to fight for the first four or five positions in the championship. But I don’t feel like saying that we have to fight for the title. We aren’t yet at the level, and we don’t have the structure Ducati has. We have to stay ahead, and I feel I can do that.”