Espargaro podium came despite damage

Aleix Espargaro’s podium came in the face of a damaged Aprilia. Image: MotoGP

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro overcame a broken front wing to secure his best result of the season so far with third place in the Dutch Grand Prix at Assen.

Espargaro’s factory RS-GP23 sustained the damage when he collided with Luca Marini’s Ducati at the beginning of the race in the first corner, but the Spanish rider still found himself on the podium after Brad Binder was demoted one place for exceeding the track limits for the second race in a row.

Espargaro, who was only nine thousandths of a second down on Binder on the line, admitted it was ‘difficult’ to keep the Aprilia upright, with the aerodynamic damage affecting the stability of the machine.

“It was the best start of my career and then I had a contact with Marini. I tried to avoid it but on the last part I touched,” Espargaro said.

“Every right corner I had a strange feeling, like a lot of shaking, and it was difficult to stay on the bike. The lap times were super slow but it was not possible for me to overtake Brad [Binder], but I wanted to stay behind to push him to make a mistake, and finally it paid off.

“I lost a lot of time in the faster sections, corner six, corner 12 – the bike didn’t turn at all and it was very difficult to maintain the bike on track.

“But at the end I was able to stay close to Brad, to push Brad onto the limit to make a mistake,” he added.

“I feel sorry for him, sincerely, because it was a stupid mistake and it cost him a podium, but this is racing – you have to push the rider in front of you.

“In the first laps I almost crashed three times in the first two or three corners knowing that he will try to go away with the soft tyre, so I tried to stay there, I tried to hang on to the back of the leading group, knowing that the pace would drop.

“But Brad did an amazing job and it was impossible for me to overtake him.”

Espargaro sat back from Binder during the race in an effort to mitigate rising pressure in his front tyre, but with Martin beginning to close in, he was forced to go on the offensive.

“This is why I was not super close all race because I had a red alarm on the dash – the front tyre was high – so I tried to stay at one second,” he said.

“When I saw that [Jorge] Martin was riding very quick, then I decided to get closer to Brad to try to attack him, but it was difficult.

“I had a lot of temperature, a lot of pressure in the tyres, and it was even more difficult to avoid a crash.”

Turning his attention to the second part of the season after the summer break, Espargaro said there was ‘a lot of work to do’ to become more consistently fast.

“We have a lot of work to do and it’s not going to be easy because within the season it’s not easy to find tenths, but we are not bad,” he said.

“The last races we proved that we are fast, maybe we don’t have the level to fight for the title, but we are not far.

“So we have to keep believing, keep working hard, and the season is very long.”

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