Friendly but combative - Espargaro is poised for Vinales - The Race
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Friendly but combative – Espargaro is poised for Vinales

Aug 26 2021
By Valentin Khorounzhiy

Aprilia MotoGP rider Aleix Espargaro has laid out his expectations for his big-name new team-mate Maverick Vinales, saying that Vinales should gel with the bike quickly but will have a fight on his hands to be team leader.

Vinales has been released early by Yamaha in the aftermath of his suspension for repeatedly over-revving the M1 bike in anger at the Red Bull Ring, leaving him free to prepare for a debut with Aprilia that had been initially slated for 2022.

Espargaro, who had long desired to attract a top rider to Aprilia, was team-mates with Vinales at Suzuki for two seasons a few years ago – stacking up well against a rookie Vinales in 2015 but being fairly comprehensively outperformed the year after.

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But Vinales’ stature has not at all served to discourage Espargaro, who has made it clear he was very happy to see the news made official – especially in light of Aprilia suffering a string of highly-publicised failures to attract a second rider for 2021 this time last year.

“After this last two months where we heard many things – also not the last month, the last year, last year we heard a lot about my team-mate, about Aprilia – I’m very happy that finally Aprilia has its top rider, very happy that due to the problem he had with Yamaha he can jump on the RS-GP as soon as possible,” said Espargaro.

“I’m not happy about what happened with him and Yamaha, but at the same time I’m happy because he’s fresh with the Yamaha so he will be able to compare both bikes, to help us.

“No doubt that he will be fast straight away, so I can’t wait for the [Misano] test, for his comments.”

The RS-GP is somewhat synonymous with Espargaro but he went as far as to correct himself and say it was “now our bike” with Vinales.

However, Espargaro’s record against Aprilia team-mates – including the likes of MotoGP race winner Andrea Iannone and podium finishers Bradley Smith and Scott Redding – is enviable.

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And though his relationship with Vinales is strong enough to have talked “almost every day” as of late, Espargaro did warn the ex-Yamaha man to expect a tough intra-team battle.

“I feel good, especially for Aprilia, because I think everybody in Aprilia – when I say Aprilia, it’s also myself inside of this pack – deserves to have a top rider as Maverick,” Espargaro said when asked by The Race about being joined by a rider many perceive as faster.

“I feel that I’m riding better than ever, I think that now I’m one of the top riders of the category, but I don’t have the wins and the podiums, and all of this, that Maverick has. So I’m very happy for Aprilia to have a rider like him.

“Maverick knows perfectly that I welcome him very much ìn this team.

“He knows also that it’s going to be very difficult for him to beat me. I hope that we will be able to fight together, but it’s not going to be easy for him to beat me, believe me. He will have to suffer a lot to stay at my level.”

Lorenzo Savadori will rejoin Espargaro on the other side of the Aprilia garage at Silverstone, before Vinales tests at Misano next week.

And Espargaro proffered his opinion that Vinales will look to race the RS-GP as early as the following race at Aragon.

“I read many things about [KTM tester Dani] Pedrosa, after the race he did in Austria, and it was very smart comments about the difference between testing and racing, that in the racing he can understand many different things,” said Espargaro.

“So… when you race, you really improve the time, the time counts for two in terms of understanding the bike and the speed, but he [Vinales] has to be ready to race.

“He has all of next year, but knowing Maverick as I know, if he could, he would be racing in Silverstone.

“If not, let’s wait and see the test of Misano, but sure he will try to race in Aragon, this is my opinion.”

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