Aleix Espargaro claimed his third front row start of 2022 as the Aprilia project continued to prove its potential at Jerez on Saturday.
While Espargaro’s Friday afternoon didn’t set the world alight, steady improvement across the second day at the Spanish GP was rewarded with the third fastest lap in qualifying - a 1’36.933 - on his final attempt.
“Today I risk, I give it everything because I was not super good with a soft rear tyre,” the Aprilia rider admitted. “Portimao I risked my life a little bit more because it was super tricky conditions but I'm happy.
“I'm happy because Pecco today was in another planet. He put everything together and he was super strong at one single lap. We know how equal is this category so to make this difference is super difficult. He did a perfect lap so chapeau for him.
“From FP1 yesterday I felt good, strong, fast with the medium rear tyre but as soon as I put the soft tyre I had a lot of chattering. I couldn't be very, very fast so, happy with the pace we have, also happy with my qualifying lap. Third place is very good. The pace is there, we are strong. We have good pace. So we are ready for tomorrow.
“With a medium tyre I think we are fast,” he said on his Sunday potential. “I put more than 20 laps on FP4 and in the last laps I was able to stay in 37-highs, which is very strong pace so it's going to be a fun battle tomorrow.
“We will see a completely different race than what we've seen in qualifying because the medium tyre is quite different than the soft. Tomorrow they say it's going to be very, very hot and after the Moto2 race, the track will be slippery but it's going to be fun and we have good options.
“Normally you try to have some strategy but in MotoGP this year is almost impossible,” he continued. “Every time I tried to do some strategy, didn't work. In Argentina my strategy was to start first and put my pace, I couldn't. In Portimao, bad start again, so it's always difficult.
“I will try my best, very important to be in the top five the first laps. Sometimes you think it's better to be quiet behind them, saving some tyre but then the temperatures of the bike, temperature of the tyre rise up so much, so sometimes it's even better to go in front and do your pace. So it depends how the race will start, I will decide but it's going to be also important to be fast but to use the brain.
“I will try. I hope that the difference between Pecco with a medium tyre will be less and Fabio here is normally very, very fast every Sunday on the past years. But I think if you analyse a little bit the last free practice, the pace we did with more than 20 laps on the rear tyre, still lapping in 37-highs is not far from them. So I will try my best, I will try to fight with them till the end. We're ready to have fun and to fight for the victory.”
With fans returning to the Jerez Circuit for the first time since the pandemic, Espargaro is relishing the home support.
“It's unbelievable,” the Spaniard stated. “I had to do a practice start after Angel Nieto corner, but I saw the grandstand full of people and I completely forget it. Because the pandemic and also the economic crisis, the last, I will say three, four or five years, the track was never full and today is just Saturday but you could see how many people is on the grandstand.
“Is just unbelievable. I love this place, one of the best tracks over the world and it's great. So I'm super confident for tomorrow. It will be very good to do a good race in front of the Spanish crowd.”