It was an unprecedented one-two for Aprilia after two practice sessions, the confirmation that Argentina is good for the bike from Noale. Aleix Espargarò (winner of the GP last year) had the satisfaction of ending the day ahead of his teammate Vinales and of putting himself forward as one of the favourites for the race wins.
“I had good confidence before I arrived here, but you always have some doubts because you never know. It’s another season, another bike, the level of the field is super high. So, happy to reconfirm the bike goes well, even if it's only Friday" declared the Spaniard.
Today he didn't just use his right wrist, but also his head.
“I started a little bit careful this morning to not override – he stressed - I did a big mistake last season in Silverstone when I fell and lost a big opportunity of the title in Silverstone. So, this is what I did today: I tried to be a little bit more relaxed in the morning and in the afternoon I pushed a bit more. The pace was very strong on used tyres and also on the lap time.”
Everyone is wondering why the RS-GP goes so well at Termas de Rio Hondo.
“I don’t know, I don’t understand, I mean, the bike is not good here, sincerely. But I think it’s less bad than the other bikes – was his curious answer - In Portimao I felt 10 times better. The bike was grippy, turning, good on the brakes. Here it’s like you are on ice all the time, sliding, sliding. It’s crazy. But it looks like the other bikes are even worse.”
The Argentinian circuit is famous for its low grip, but this time it seems to have outdone itself.
“The grip is very low. I had a problem in the first time attack attempt, I went back to the pits and told the guys it was crazy, I couldn't go under 1m39s when last year I did 1m38s in the warm up with used tires. Today was difficult, I had to push more than I had planned with the second tire" explained Aleix.
The Aprilia rider is not convinced that things will get better.
“The track is clean, but the grip is worse and the bumps are also bigger than last year – he said – There is a big bump in corner 3 and also in corner 11, where you lose a lot of acceleration in fast and important points of the circuit. You lose easily half a second in these two points because the bike is not able to accelerate. It moves like hell. In corner 3 - before the back straight - the normal lines go to the edge of the curve, but we stay in the middle of the track because there are big bumps and you can fly. Actually, the Ducatis are not even using the rear height device there. The other reason is that there has not been any activity on the track so we are cleaning it and when it’s clean we go back home.”
And he didn't hold back.
“I rode to the limit. The problem is that the level is high, I didn't want to make mistakes but after the first time attack I was 5th or 6th, so I had to risk it. The bike moves a lot, when like the asphalt it's wet and it's drying, it's the same feeling".
Espargarò does not reckon he will be the man to beat.
“I'm not the favourite. It’s only Friday, I've said it before, I'm fast but I was fast in Portugal too" he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.