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MotoGP, Espargarò: "I would like Martin on my Aprilia, but he deserves the factory Ducati."

"After the crash in Jerez I decided to retire and told my wife. They asked me to represent the riders, but it's too big a commitment. With Aprilia I lived a dream, more than I hoped for."

MotoGP: Espargarò:

The captain will take off his armband at the end of the season, but Aprilia will forever remain etched on his skin. It is that red 'A' on the inscription on his arm, above the two dates: 2017 and 2024, the first and last year as a Noale rider. Aleix Espargarò decided to quit at the end of the season, and with a tattoo he sanctioned his decision. "I did it in the motorhome the night between Wednesday and Thursday. I am proud of everything Aprilia has given me and I wanted it to be with me forever," he says with a smile.

Aleix, when did you start thinking about quitting?
"At the beginning of the year I wasn't sure about my decision and it was the truth, I wanted to have fun, I knew it could have been my last season but I didn't want to think about it too much. When it came time to leave for Texas, I had a hard time packing. Both Laura and I understand that if you are not a thousand percent in this business, it is best to be true to yourself. After the crash in Jerez on Saturday, I went to Laura and told her I had made up my mind. I was lucky enough to be able to choose when to quit, it's a huge privilege. I'm in the best team in the paddock from a human point of view, on one of the best bikes, and it wouldn't have been right to be without being 101 percent. I didn't think about the future, that was enough for me, and I told Albert to arrange everything, for me it would be a dream to make the announcement in my home Grand Prix, and that's how it was."

You had no second thoughts?
"I was quite convinced, but on Tuesday and Wednesday I felt a great pain in my chest, like I was going to jump off a bridge. I had never felt that sensation before. I'm a very sensitive person, I've been here for many years and it wasn't easy, but I'm absolutely convinced of my choice. When you do our job, you take so many risks and you have to be focused to the maximum, when you have even a little doubt it's time to stop."

Did you tell your wife first?
"Yes, then to Albert (Valera, his manager ed.), to Jorge Martin, to my brother Pol. I was curious to see their reaction and they were happy for me, it was not an easy decision. I am 34 years old, physically I am fine, my head tells me I could still be fast, as I am, but my heart asks me to stay at home."

Did your brother Pol's decision to quit affect you?
"A lot. It is not easy to explain in a few words, but when you are in MotoGP and things are not going well, you have injuries, the relationship with Pol in the last few years has not been easy. After that bad crash he discovered another life, he changed a lot and it was something tremendous. There is life beyond motorcycles, even if you don't see it when you are an athlete. Pol helped me a lot to make this decision and now I will try to enjoy life."

What are your plans as a 'retiree'?
"I have a lot of desire and curiosity to do other things, to travel with my children. But I am 34 years old and I also feel like riding motorcycles, there will be a big change in 2027, so I will continue to do that."

Albesiano had said he hoped you would never retire....
"When I told Romano my decision, he got very excited and wondered what the box would be like because with me screaming and celebrating it's crazy (laughs). I am proud not only of the results I have achieved, but of the atmosphere in my box: this is the best team in the championship, without a doubt."

What would Aprilia be without you and what would you be without Aprilia?
"My life would be different and I am very grateful to them for that. My career has been a dream for the last 3 years, you could write a book with everything we have done together. Many strong riders have come through Aprilia, even world champions, but no one has been able to carry the project forward except me. My heart will always be for Aprilia."

You have not had an easy career, even when you came to Aprilia the situation was complicated.
"I have said it many times, I always saw in Pol a rider with more talent than me. When I didn't have competitive bikes, I had to put a lot of effort, a lot of work, to make up for that lack of talent. All that experience made sure that I didn't give up, while others left."

Who would you like to see inherit your bike?
"You know, I would like Jorge Martin to come, however, I think he deserves more than anyone to go to the official Ducati team. If he doesn't get it, then I would like him to win the title with Aprilia. I would like the fastest possible rider to ride my bike, the RS-GP is competitive but not an easy bike."

What is the last dream you would like to achieve between now and the end of the season?
"I have already achieved more than I would have dreamed of. If I had retired in 2018 - and I was close to it - I would have only had one podium, while in the last few years I have won 3 races. I don't have to prove anything more, I just want to enjoy it."

Have the other riders asked you to be their representative for the long talked about association?
"Yes and I thought about it, but after talking about it with Laura I decided not to do it . For that role you have to be there all the time, but I want to slow down, be home with my children, and I couldn't do that with that job."

What do you think you will miss most and least about the life as a rider?
"I will find out little by little, when I don't feel these tensions and pressures anymore. I would like to continue riding a motorcycle, but not full-time, and to be with Aprilia, because it is my second family."


Translated by Julian Thomas

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