Aleix Espargaro believes Aprilia’s radical experiments with aerodynamic might be having unintended physical consequences, after he was forced to abandon the final part of Saturday’s Portimao test day due to arm pump.
The condition – chronic exertional compartment syndrome affecting the arm muscles – is not usually a significant issue for Espargaro, who is one of the fittest racers on the grid.
But he was forced to stop today after completing 60 laps – around three quarters of the tally some rivals managed.
“I finished earlier today because I couldn’t ride my bike, because of arm pump on my right arm,” said Espargaro.
“I’m a bit worried, because it’s very strange. I had some problems like the other riders in Malaysia because it was the first test of the season – but today was incredible. I had to cancel it because I couldn’t really hold the handlebars.
“Hopefully tomorrow will be better, and I will go to the doctor to check on Monday. I had surgery two years ago on the right one, and maybe the cover of the muscle has closed again. I don’t know, but we will do some checks.”
But he suspects the cause of the issue is not his own body.
Aprilia bolted a significant amount of new aerodynamics to the front, rear and bottom of the RS-GP on Saturday, including new secondary wings, spoilers on the swing arm, and a Formula 1-style rear wing.
Espargaro believes the arm pump might be a result of the significantly altered downforce of the new bike – something that he’s aiming to tune out as Aprilia works on the configuration of all the new aero parts on day two of the test tomorrow.
“It makes a big difference,” he explained. “We tried a lot of new items – the fork one, the rear one, some things on the wheel.
“The engineers had a lot of ideas in this way, and tomorrow I’d like to try them in a different configuration. There are lots of things you can try.
“I’m not sure if the arm pump is also due to that, because the downforce was huge. With the full aero configuration, the speed on the fast corners was super high. It can make the difference, so now it’s time to study and analyse.
“There are configurations that you can use for sprint races or maybe just for qualifying. There are some parts you can remove for some circuits and add for another. It’s time to try and understand things.”
Despite the setback on the penultimate day of the pre-season, Espargaro isn’t too upset given testing so far has been so positive overall.
“I am ready,” he insisted. “More than ready. We are ready to race, and I feel better here than in Malaysia, especially on the medium tyre. We were strong there for one single lap, but we were not at the level of the Ducati.
“We didn’t have race pace, but here I have the feeling we can match them, which is very interesting.
“Today I didn’t have a lot of time to try the soft tyre and everyone dropped a lot of time with it, so I’m sure we can be top three with that too. It means that we are good in qualifying mode and in race mode.”