Aprilia MotoGP rider Aleix Espargaro will try a “lab bike” in this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in a bid to start work on improving the 2019 version of the RS-GP.
Espargaro has endured a miserable second season at Aprilia, lying 18th in the points with three races to go and with just two top-10 finishes to his name at Le Mans and Aragon.
This prompted the Spaniard to say after the Thailand Grand Prix earlier this month that he cannot tolerate another season like this one and that he could consider quitting if things do not improve.
With little left at stake in 2018, Espargaro revealed that he will have one experimental bike at his disposal in Phillip Island with a new chassis, as well as one current-spec RS-GP.
“Already in Australia we will try a completely new bike, a ‘lab bike’, for 2019,” said Espargaro, who retired from Sunday’s Japanese GP due to an overheating front tyre.
“Completely different bike, in many details. We are trying to change the balance of the bike to put some more weight on the rear, to gain some grip, because this has been the problem this year.
“At the moment it’s a complete disaster, we are so slow. We have to completely change the bike to see if we can achieve some results and find some direction for the 2019 bike, because 2019 is getting closer and we have to improve a lot.”
Asked to clarify what he feels would be an acceptable level of improvement in 2019, Espargaro said failure to fight consistently inside the top 10 would have to be deemed “a disaster” for Aprilia.
“If you are out of the fight for the top 10 in a factory team with four or five years’ experience, for me this is a disaster,” said the Spaniard.
“I can understand new brands arriving in the championship need time, but [for] Aprilia next year it’s year number five [it returned to MotoGP in 2015]. So anything outside of the top 10 is not good.
“If [next year] the bike is still not good and we are again 17th in the championship, still the problems are there, then both parties have to sit down together and think about the project and many things.”
While rowing back on his previous threat to quit if things don’t improve, Espargaro admitted that he struggles to take his mind off racing at home when his results are so poor.
“I’m not thinking about stopping, but I cannot disconnect when I go home when the results are bad, and for me the most important thing in life is to be happy.
“I’ve been many years in MotoGP, I have nothing else to show or prove to myself. I want to enjoy life, and there are many things I can do [outside of MotoGP].
“I want to stay here and enjoy, but many things have to change.”
Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Photo by: Gold and Goose / LAT Images
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