Espargaro's pursuit of Quartararo slides away

'Until we’re ready to fight for the top six every race it’s good to finish races and score points' – Aleix Espargaro, Argentina MotoGP.
Espargaro's pursuit of Quartararo slides away

Aleix Espargaro may have outfoxed younger brother Pol to claim ninth place on the final lap in Argentina, but the race underlined the need for greater traction from the 2019 Aprilia if it is to crack the MotoGP top six.

While the Spaniard has been quick to sing the praises of Aprilia's switch back to a 2017-style balance for the RS-GP after last year's difficulties - and is happy with the top speed of the engine - the new bike has also unearthed the 2017's weaknesses.

"With the ‘19 bike it feels a lot more like the ‘17 bike and I have a very good feeling with the front," Espargaro explained. "I can make a lot of overtaking moves because I can brake later than anyone and carry more speed on corner entry, but as soon as I touch the throttle the rear tyre slides a lot.

"We can’t load the rear to create the traction and this is a problem because when you try and follow the top guys, I slide a lot and the tyre consumption is higher."

This traction issue is also contributing to the RS-GP's lack of acceleration.

"I’m happy with the top speed of the bike. The engine is strong in fifth and sixth gear. I don't lose like in the past, so this is a good advantage," he said. "We are struggling in acceleration, but I think it's a combination between the engine [torque] and the traction. Because if the traction is not good, you cannot pretend to have really good acceleration."

The decline in rear grip forced Espargaro to abandon hopes of challenging Fabio Quartararo for what became eighth place at Termas de Rio Hondo, after Franco Morbidelli and Maverick Vinales collided on the final lap.

"Rins was extremely strong, unbelievable, and there was no way to follow him, but I was able to catch Quartararo," he said. "Then in the last eight to ten laps I had a big drop in the rear tyre [grip].

"It was super difficult to keep the pace because it was spinning in the acceleration, so I had to close the throttle and maintain the gap.

"Sincerely, I expected a little more today. Especially in the second part of the race. But to be ninth in the championship - after the two riders crashed on the last lap - is good. Until we’re ready to fight for the top six every race, it’s good to finish races and score points."

Espargaro has scored 13 points from the opening pair of races, which is 13 points more than he had at the same time last year.