Is Aleix Espargaro MotoGP's best development rider?

MotoGP
By Amy Dargan
amylouisedargan  MotoGP's official roving reporter since the beginning of the 2015 season. Previously it was three years getting muddy covering MXGP but this season she'll be filling BikeSocial readers in on the story lines in between the racing lines after each MotoGP.
Aprilia

Home from Qatar and I would just like to start by saying this; if I hear one peep out of anyone this season whinging about coming to Silverstone because of the “great British weather” I will from this point onwards say this “Qatar…desert…three inches of rain a year on average…HA!”

In the end MotoGP prevailed and delivered us the fast paced spectacle that we were all waiting for.

One of the talking points from the season opener was Aleix Espargaro’s debut on the RS-GP crossing the line in sixth, which made it Aprilia’s best result since their return to the championship in 2015. I was so chuffed for him, he’s always offered a lot in interviews and similarly in conversation, always happy to explain something a little more and then with me always quick to take the mick regarding my lack of/non-existent Spanish.

Aleix Espargaro was first privateer in Qatar

As echoed by his new Crew Chief Marcus Eschenbacher when I asked him what Aleix was like to work with;

“Really easy, I'm not joking. Aleix has taken on this project with the right motivations and he's pushing all the team with his energy. He knew since the beginning the size of our commitment and he focused one hundred percent, preparing the season in a professional way both in and out of the track. There's a lot of work to do and sometimes it's not even really nice, but we are all aiming at the same target.”

Marcus was working last year on Bradl’s side on the box as an engine specialist and has worked in the past as the Crew Chief for Cal Crutchlow and Eugene Laverty in World Superbikes. When I asked Marcus what he considers Aleix’s strengths he felt Espargaro’s broad MotoGP experience and ability to give good feedback had really aided their winter pre-season testing schedule.

“Experience is the key in that stage of our project. The RS-GP is quite new, we made an evolution since last year but there's still a lot of room for improvements. Having a rider like Aleix makes it easier to follow the right direction in terms of development: we found a path to follow to suit Aleix's requirement since the first tests, especially regarding the power delivery, and that helps us made a bike that is comfortable and easy for him to ride fast.”

Aprilia

“He's been working with different manufacturers at high level, being also involved in the development side of some new projects so he knows how to deal with testing. His inputs are always precise and accurate, giving us a clear idea of what's going on with the bike.” 

In an interview we did last year when the news broke that Vinales would be moving to Yamaha and Iannone would be joining Suzuki, Aleix was brutally honest about his feelings in regards to the team’s handling of the situation and you couldn’t help but feel a bit sad for him actually. He had done the large share of the development work in the Suzuki house with Maverick coming in as a rookie in 2015. On top of that the GSX-RR had made rapid progress in the two years, they’d worked hard and well.

So after the great result on Sunday with Aprilia, if we’re talking about completely new projects I started to wonder whether Aleix could potentially be the best development rider on the grid at the moment? I should mention that I’m not taking anything away from the work that Bautista and Bradl did with the RS-GP over the last two seasons, at the back end of 2016 they were regularly contesting inside the top ten. It’s definitely something both you and I should look out for, in 2015 by the time we arrived at round three in Argentina Aleix had already got the GSX-RR on the front row, will we see another manufacturer join the podium chase in 2017?

AmyDargen MotoGP

Who is Amy? 

Amy is one of MotoGP’s official roving reporters hunting down the riders, their managers, crew chiefs and paddock personalities at every Grand Prix. This season she'll be filling BikeSocial readers in on the story lines in between the racing lines. 

Amy is all about two wheels coming from three years covering the MXGP championship before embarking on her third season in MotoGP, she'll also be the pit lane reporter at selected Speedway Grand Prix this year. 

You can follow her 2017 season on Instagram at @amylouisedargan and Twitter @amylouisedargan

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