Positive #PortugueseGP Sprint for Maverick Viñales in 5th, Aleix Espargaro 6th
The first Sprint Race in MotoGP history launched the 2023 season, providing spectators with a great show and showing that Aprilia is an absolute contender in the championship, occupying three of the top seven position at its début with four RS-GP machines on the track. After taking three bikes through to Q2 – the two factory riders, Espargaró and Viñales, were joined by Miguel Oliveira from satellite team CryptoDATA RNF – the RS-GPs proved that they are extremely competitive in the race.
Maverick Viñales, starting from the third row, demonstrated a pace worthy of the podium, but questionable contact with Álex Márquez initially and then the accident ahead of him involving Marini and Bastianini cost him quite a few positions. Armed with a great pace, consistently at 1’38/low 1’39, he recovered positions, but the short, 12-lap race kept him from moving any farther up in the rankings. His final fifth place, just 1.8 seconds behind the winner, and the speed he demonstrated rank him among the favourites for the race tomorrow.
Aleix Espargaró, who started from the fourth row, executed a similar comeback to finish sixth, just behind Maverick. The outstanding seventh-place finish earned by Oliveira, of the CryptoDATA RNF satellite team is worth a mention – a nice placement, but Miguel lost the third-place position, which he had been occupying until the final lap, when he ran long just a few turns from the end.
It was a great test of strength for the Italian manufacturer, since even young Raul Fernandez, on the satellite team, cut a fine figure, finishing eleventh after a great comeback from the twentieth spot on the grid.
In short, Aprilia has confirmed its role in the spotlight of this MotoGP season.
I had fun in the race. We were extremely fast, especially in the second part. Unfortunately, I lost a bit of time after an accident ahead of me. From that moment on, I just focused on defending every position and giving it my all. From this first Sprint Race we learned above all that starting up front is crucial because in the beginning I had a lot of contact with other riders and that doesn’t help. At the end, I had rubber marks all over my leathers. In any case, we’re here and things are working properly! And that is the most important thing.
I am truly satisfied, not only with the result, but because I am convinced that our speed is better than we thought. Unfortunately, the Sprint Race was conditioned by less than perfect qualifiers. Starting twelfth is not ideal, although both Maverick and I were among the best in the race today in terms of pace. Not bad, since I always say that I like to learn from small mistakes and we’ll exploit everything we learned today. Tomorrow things will be different. Rear tyre choice will be crucial and, looking at today, the RS-GP showed that it treats the tyres well.