Stoic performance sees Aleix Espargaro finish #ValenciaGP in 8th, Maverick Viñales 10th
The final round of the 2023 season had Aprilia placing three RS-GP machines in the top ten. Aleix Espargaró, despite a fresh fracture to his left leg suffered one week ago in the Qatar GP, had a comeback ride from the twelfth spot on the starting grid all the way to sixth place. In the final battle, he finished eighth, a result beyond even the highest expectations, given his condition.
For Maverick Viñales, a protagonist throughout the weekend with pole position and the new track record, the race was conditioned by a questionable penalty levied for not having observed the black/orange flag condition during the warm-up session. Three positions on the grid, from first to fourth place, was the decision taken by Race Direction after Maverick had re-entered the track, with the approval of the marshals, and after verifying that there was nothing wrong with his RS-GP. The plume of white smoke which had alarmed the marshals was due to the evaporation of lubricant which had dripped onto the exhaust. In fact, the same RS-GP was then used in the race. His choice to go with the soft tyre at the rear, the only one on the grid to do so, further penalised Maverick who, after battling for podium positions in the opening stage, gradually lost positions in the finale.
Worth a mention is Raul Fernandez and his fantastic fifth place astride the Team RNF RS-GP, which is his best finish yet in his budding career.
Aprilia closes out its first season as a factory team with two victories by Espargaró (in the British GP and in Catalunya), and another podium from Aleix, as well as three podiums (all second place) for Maverick. In the Sprint Race, the Italian team took one win and two podiums. In 2023, Aprilia was the only team to have a one-two finish in a GP – the spectacular Barcelona race.
It was extremely difficult today. I was in a lot of pain, especially in the second half of the race. The left-handers were a nightmare. I was unable to shift gears and the last three laps were terrible. In spite of it all, I am satisfied because up to five laps from the end, I stayed five or six seconds behind the leader. I was very fast, but in the last three laps I was losing as much as two seconds every lap. I’d like to end with a thought for my brother, Pol, who rode his last race today. He has always been a point of reference for me, and it was extremely emotional for me to share the track with him for the last time today.
Unfortunately, we paid the price in the race for an unconventional decision. We chose the soft tyre because, looking at the data collected throughout the weekend, we had less spin and less wear than with the medium. Despite the spin being lower in the race, we had excessive wear which showed that this compound was not the right choice for 27 laps in a row.
The final round of the season is also an opportunity to thank all those involved in Aprilia’s MotoGP project. From the team at the track, skilfully tackling an extremely demanding calendar without ever losing focus, to the Racing Department in Noale which supported the team’s efforts, presenting an innovative and fast RS-GP which is constantly being developed. And let’s not forget about the “world” that supports the MotoGP effort: the sponsors, the technical partners, and the fans who, supported and cheered us on throughout the 2023 season with impressive warmth. For all of them, we look forward to an even more thrilling and more competitive 2024 with Aprilia colours.