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MotoGP Portimao: Espargaro 'old but still brave”

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro added a front row start to his 2022 MotoGP success story after securing third at Portimao on Saturday afternoon.

The premier class was met with treacherous conditions as qualifying got underway, the morning’s heavy rain subsiding to leave a cold and patchy track. Multiple crashes across Q1 warned the top ten what awaited them, with Espargaro tentatively navigating the 4.6km track in the opening minutes.

As his confidence grew, so did his pace, with the Spaniard setting a 1’42.235 on his final effort to round out the front row celebrations ahead of Sunday’s 25-lap race.


“I’m very happy,” Espargaro confirmed from the qualifying press conference. “Has been a difficult weekend. I was out of top ten so I knew was difficult and at the last moment I managed to put myself in the Q2, so it was good.

“Super great because if not, today the most difficult session without any doubt has been the Q1. Finally with the slick I felt very good, very strong, sincerely, The first three/four laps were difficult. You have to be very, very focused to avoid any stupid mistake because we knew clearly that the track was improving lap by lap. So the most important thing was to stay on the bike till the last five minutes and then risk.

“I’m happy, I felt very strong on dry conditions I reconfirmed that the bike is looking good this year so it’s important to start in the first row. Tomorrow’s race is gonna be a lot easier for us and hopefully it’s not going to rain and we can have a good show.”

With Espargaro out front, his championship rivals had opposing fortunes with Enea Bastianini and Alex Rins lining up in 18th and 23rd respectively.

“It’s not super important to lead the championship because it’s still super early, but yes, it’s nice to finish on top,” he admitted. “I think tomorrow we have a good chance to fight for the podium.

“Enea and Alex are starting super far back on grid but this is MotoGP they can be fighting on top tomorrow. For sure their race will be harder than mine so let’s see, tomorrow we can do a good race. In the championship Joan is very, very close also Quartararo, so it’s still very early.

“The bike is more competitive everywhere,” the 32-year-old confirmed of his 22-spec RS-GP compared to his competitors running upgraded machinery and utilising last season’s data. “It’s an advantage clearly, because in terms of setting obviously if you repeat the circuit with the same bike it’s a little bit easier but I have like standard setting, where I don’t change many, many things one track to the other. So last year, I finish sixth or seventh here and six or seven in Jerez so with this year’s bike, that is more competitive, I’m sure that we will be able to fight for the podium in both races because the bike is clearly faster.”

His confidence goes hand in hand with his belief in the Aprilia project and the new machine at his disposal having secured a pole, a victory and now a front row start in his worst conditions.

“I have no doubts but I didn’t have any doubts after Argentina,” he confirmed, “because on the preseason in the two tracks I was strong, always on top. After the first four races I was also strong. A lot of riders say we have to wait for Europe but for me, the championship starts in Qatar. I was fast everywhere, the bike was competitive this year everywhere.

“For me the biggest confirmation was America. I know that I finished 11th But just 11 seconds from the winner, which is for me like a victory in America because I’m very slow there. So that was a big confirmation for me and also today, very tricky conditions. I’m very, very slow with the slick on damp track and even like this I put the bike on the first row so it means that I’m happy with the bike.”


As one of the elder statesmen of the class - alongside pole man Johann Zarco - Espargaro is aware of the younger talent’s arrival but remains assured his skills and knowledge is part of the puzzle of everything slotting into place this season.

“Experience helps because today was easy to make a mistake at the beginning and you know that the track, normally in these conditions, lap by lap improves,” he explained. “So you have to be relaxed at the beginning, no stress and then give it everything in the last five minutes. But these conditions are very difficult so it means that we are old but still brave! With young riders on the grid this is very difficult. So two old men on the first row with today’s conditions, we can be very proud today.

“I like a lot how the bike works and especially I think that I fit a lot this bike. I’m able to squeeze all the strong points so I think it’s gonna be a fun year for us!”

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