Could a preseason MotoGP test change the destiny of a rider? Yes, if we are talking about Aleix Espargaro, who was planning to leave Aprilia after two difficult years with Noale’s crew where he struggled a lot and he was not enjoying riding the bike at all.
Aleix was really thinking about joining a new team, but Sepang preseason tests changed his mind and during a chat with the-race.com admitted it: “In November or December I was 75% out of Aprilia. I struggled a lot, I did not enjoy riding the bike. Everything changed when I rode the new bike at Sepang during the tests”
Sepang was the major turning point: “I spoke a lot with the boss (Massimo Rivola) about the competitivity of the bike, but also about the project; it was a totally new one, with new engineers and a growing budget. The bike it is completely different, they started from zero. It is more stable, smoother and easier to ride, less physical, even if we are still missing power”
Coronavirus slowed negotiations as Espargaro was still in talks with other teams: “My manager started some conversations with other team, but then Aprilia made an offer and it was easy to stay as they put a lot of effort to retain me. It is the best contract I have ever had, the project is ambitious and the team is going to grow a lot”
Aleix had then good words for Massimo Rivola: “He brought the project to another dimension, he changed the mentality of the team and the organization. Every year we are stronger, budget and credibility of the project are improving. I am happy with this situation, Aprilia’s future will be good”
In the future they could have a Satellite Team: “We are planning a Satellite Team, it is really important to develop the bike, but firstly we have to make Aprilia competitive. We want to give a good option to Moto2 guys who wants to step up to MotoGP. Nowadays, they prefer a Satellite Team like Petronas or Pramac, but we want Aprilia to be a good option for them; that is my job”
Espargaro’s teammate for the first two races is going to be Bradley Smith as Andrea Iannone is still waiting for the response of his appeal, but the Spaniard wishes the Italian to come back: “Andrea’s situation is not good, but I would like him to return; he is a fast rider who could push me to go faster, that is what I want!”