MotoGP Assen: Aleix Espargaro: Victory “was clear”, Quartararo “not a dirty rider” | MotoGP


 MotoGP Assen: Aleix Espargaro: Victory "was clear", Quartararo "not a dirty rider" |  MotoGP

Espargaro’s remarkable recovery culminated in a memorable one-two to Brad Binder and Jack Miller in the very last corner of the race.

The Aprilia rider crossed the finish line just 2.5 seconds ahead of Ducati race winner Francesco Bagnaia, despite losing over 11 seconds when he was pushed off the track by the impact of Quartararo’s bike.

The incident in round 5, which Quartararo called a “stupid mistake” and was later punishedsaw the reigning champion fumble a pass to Espargaro for second place, losing the front of his Yamaha and brushing the RS-GP aside.

Espargaro set the fastest lap of the race during his ride through the field, finishing just behind teammate Maverick Vinales and finishing on the podium. Quartararo, meanwhile, suffered a second accident and retired for the first time this season.

All of this meant Espargaro came within 21 points of Quartararo, a much larger gain than he could have expected without the collision, but at the cost of what could well have been Aprilia’s second MotoGP win.

“I think today I was able to win and Fabio was second [without the incident]. That would be a gain of five points. Instead, I caught up 13 points,” said Espargaro. “So if you think about the championship, it’s better.

“But I lost a win. I’m pretty sure I could win today and I only have one win in my career. I would rather make up five points and get the win!”

The Spaniard added: “Something I’ve been lacking in the last 4-5 races is being the fastest on track. And I think that this weekend, apart from qualifying with the yellow flags, I was the fastest.

“I showed my speed and that is very important for me. I didn’t win today because Fabio hit me, but I think the win was clear. It is important for me to have this feeling.”

Espargaro: “Fabio is not a dirty driver”

Reflecting on the incident, Espargaro felt that Quartararo’s near-perfect form of late had ultimately led to the misjudged move.

“The reason Fabio made his move is because his feeling for the bike is super high at the moment. We also saw it in succession in Germany at Pecco. He’s not a dirty driver but his confidence is so high that he can close many lines.

“But today I was also super fast, so like him I was able to close the line and we crashed. He said to me: ‘I’m sorry because I made a big mistake in judging this overtaking’.”

Espargaro added: “I’m an old man in this paddock so I like to analyze how things are going. I know the category, the motorcycles, my competitors. I know Fabio’s confidence and I also took a lot of time to analyze him in the videos, the races, the sessions, everything.

“I know how he drives and his confidence is super high at the moment, but it’s not that easy to maintain that at this moment. No mistakes to make.

“Today he wasn’t arrogant but because he feels super faster than the others he made a bad judgment on that overtake and I knew that could happen.

“From that moment I said to myself: ‘Fabio is almost perfect. He didn’t make any mistakes during the season. If he made a mistake now, you have to take advantage of it.

Espargaro: “My bike was amazing”

From the moment he returned to the track in 15th place, Espargaro rode with a nothing-to-lose mentality despite a few raindrops.

“When Fabio beat me, I said: ‘Your race is over.’ With 2-3 points, nothing changes, it doesn’t matter. You have to get more than 10 points and if you crash you crash.

“So I said to myself: ‘Today is the day when you have to prove that you are fast and that you have a good bike.’ And I proved it. I smiled when I saw the lap times; 32.5, 32.5. I said, “What is this?” It was wonderful.

“I knew it was impossible for the others to go that fast and I saw that I caught up with the front group. So I was also angry, but at the same time happy to be able to keep up this pace.

“I was never over the limit because I didn’t make any mistakes. I haven’t gone far anywhere. I was quick but the bike was fantastic today. Unbelievable good.

“In the last chicane, I braked much later than everyone else and, especially in the fast sector, nobody was able to take as much speed with me as I could. That’s why I was able to easily overtake.”

Espargaro: I carried 20 km/h more cornering speed

Espargaro’s best overtake was arguably his last, passing both Brad Binder and Jack Miller in the final chicane.

Binder made light contact with Miller as the trio squeezed into the corner and some post-race comments seemed to indicate the Australian was unhappy with Espargaro’s move.

“Actually, it wasn’t with me. I said yes [Jack] ‘I wasn’t that dirty’. He said, “No, I didn’t blame you. I blamed Brad, he hit me in the arm. I said OK!” Espargaro explained.

The 32-year-old revealed that the key to the move was his cornering speed before the braking zone.

“The overtaking was in the last stop, but in reality the pass was in the left corner. I carried 20 km an hour more, it was unbelievable how fast I carried. So it was just inertia that cornered me.

“I saw that Brad wasn’t very good on the brakes there and I said ‘I’m going in’ and I was able to stop the bike. I’m happy because it was very important for the points. I think every overtake I made during the race was there.”

“Outstanding” first half of the championship

Espargaro finished the first 11 laps with five podiums, including a win. Excluding the mishap in Barcelona and today’s Quartararo incident, it could easily have been seven podiums, or eight if you factor in the vibrations from the front tires at the Sachsenring.

Nonetheless, Espargaro’s 151 points has already smashed his previous MotoGP best of 126 points over the entire 18-lap 2014 season with Forward Yamaha.

Most importantly, Quartararo goes into the summer break at the same stage of the season with just nine points fewer than last year, while Espargaro has gained a whopping 84 points and seven championship places compared to last year.

“Fabio has the number 1 on his back because he is world champion and after last weekend he had exactly the same points as last year when he won the title. And now I’m 21 points behind him,” said Espargaro.

“It means that my level and the first part of the championship was excellent.”

That 21-point gap can be narrowed even further at Silverstone, site of Espargaro’s maiden RS-GP podium finish and where Quartararo now faces a long lap penalty early in the race.

Such a penalty has usually cost around 4-6 positions, which could be particularly painful for Quartararo considering the Yamaha are struggling to overtake.

You May Also Like