First MotoGP podium for Aleix Espargaro

The Spaniard heard Cal's engine, thought 'oh no!' and out came the elbows

NGM FORWARD Racing’s Aleix Espargaro has taken his first ever MotoGP podium on Open Class machinery.

Espargaro started from tenth on the grid, but after making contact with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith at Turn 3 the Spaniard ran wide and finished lap one last. Determined to make up places, the eldest Espargaro brother carved his way through the field to a battle for fifth which included his brother Pol.

Weather conditions deteriorated as rain began to fall. Espargaro was the first rider to enter the pits to swap onto his wet set-up bike placing him in second position as other riders slowly filtered through pit lane changing bikes.

Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo was a further ten seconds ahead of Espargaro, but surprisingly it was Ducati’s Cal Crutchlow that pressured the Open Class rider for second. Both Espargaro and Crutchlow crossed the line with elbows out in poor visibility due to the weather.

Espargaro finished 0.017 seconds ahead of Crutchlow to become the first ever open Class rider to finish on the rostrum.

The 25-year-old said: “I’m really proud of this race, it wasn’t easy! We changed the bike fully and didn’t test it in the Warm Up.

“I got touched by Smith in Turn 3 and I crossed the line last. I had to breathe and overtake a lot of riders, I got up to sixth but then the rain came and we got slower and slower.

“The rain never really stopped it just kept getting a wetter. I changed one lap before everyone else and this was key.”

Explaining the last lap, Espargaro continued: “It was strange as I had problems with my visor so I couldn’t see anything and I was focusing so hard. I heard Cal’s engine so I thought ‘oh no’ and opened my arms to stop him.

“He couldn’t change gears as we touched so we got a little lucky because the Ducati has so much power. The last laps were the longest five laps of my life. It’s great for the team and thanks to them and my family.”

Espargaro now sits in fifth ahead of his younger brother and rookie Pol Espargaro. There is only 8-points between the Spanish brothers.