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MotoGP, Aleix Espargarò weighing up retirement, Aprilia will wait until Mugello

"I will decide after four legendary races, Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello, Barcelona. I have the feeling that I have done good so far, but if I want to continue I can. Aprilia? nobody wanted my bike four years ago, it's an official seat, one of the best, if I'm not there it will have to go to a top rider."

MotoGP: Aleix Espargarò weighing up retirement, Aprilia will wait until Mugello

The 2024 rider market has already seen some of the most important pawns for the near future in place, such as the renewal of Bagnaia in the factory Ducati team and that of Quartararo in factory Yamaha. There should be no surprises in KTM, with Binder already under contract and a very probable passage of Acosta to Miller's bike, while in Honda with Marini's two-year contract the only question remains the future of Joan Mir, but at Aprilia things seem to be more complicated.

The Noale manufacturer seems in fact to be intent on not making a decision at least until mid-season, after Mugello, on the one hand to let the other manufacturers (Ducati first and foremost) make their decisions and thus perhaps be able to snatch an advantageous agreement with the riders still available, and on the other hand to give time to Aleix Espargarò to decide on the future of his career. In fact, it goes without saying that even though the Spaniard is the rider with the most experience on his shoulders on the grid, at 34 years old, he is still a sportsman of the highest level and capable of fighting in a competitive arena as today's MotoGP is. On the other hand, it is also true that, despite the manufacturer's need to focus on a younger rider, perhaps an Italian, Aprilia's debt to Aleix is enormous. In fact, the Spaniard helped drag the Italian manufacturer through the difficult years of development, when it was still a long way from the current results that now allow Vinales this year and Aleix himself in past years to grab victories from their Borgo Panigale rivals.

Rivola, CEO of Aprilia, admitted to Sky: "I have great affection for Aleix Espargarò for everything he has brought to the team. We will make a decision at Mugello. He is still really fit and age is just experience, but if Aleix decides to quit we will go to the market and look at alternatives. An Italian name would be interesting, there is no specific profile but for sure he should be devoted to the cause."

Of the same opinion then seemed Aleix Espargarò to our colleagues in Marca, also pointing to after Mugello as the deadline to make a decision about his career:
"I will decide in these four races, which are legendary, really important circuits, Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello and Barcelona. I am not in a hurry and neither is Aprilia, I know they will be among the last to decide. So let's be calm and enjoy these races, they are among the best on the calendar. The results, in the end, are what gives you the strength to make a decision."

Basically, Aleix wants to take some more time to clear his head and Aprilia is willing to give it to him, if only because the stakes are high with names like Martin, Bastianini and Marquez still in the official Ducati "muscial chairs game." And while the possibility of Quartararo has vanished and Marquez, results in hand, seems highly unlikely to abandon his newly-acquired Ducati, at least one of Martin and Bastianini could instead find themselves on the market. The seat eventually vacated by Espargarò would be a great catch, now more than ever after the progress made in Aprilia's development.

"It's normal that this is the case, we've done a great job in Aprilia, " Aleix continued, "and to think that only four years ago no one wanted my bike... I have implied that this could be my last year, but I am calm, if I want to continue in Aprilia I can."

The Captain, as he is affectionately called in the team, is therefore free to make his own decision and he went into detail about his doubts, while being aware of Aprilia's need to look ahead to the post-Espargarò era.

"I'm setting the record straight because I'm not completely convinced anymore. I have that feeling that what I have done so far has been good, but there are also other reasons, the calendar is getting more and more complicated and the weekends more and more stressful. I am a no-filter person, I could have kept my mouth shut but I said what I think: I don't know if I will continue. So it's normal for other riders and Aprilia itself to move accordingly. Likewise, they can't wait until the end of the season in October, it's still an official bike, and one of the best. If I'm gone, it will have to go to a top rider."

 

Translated by Julian Thomas

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