MotoGP: Vinales Surprised By Espargaro’s Retirement

MotoGP: Vinales Surprised By Espargaro’s Retirement

© 2024, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. From a press release issued By Dorna:

“Lots of factories have knocked on my door”

After a packed out French GP, it’s time for another and this time in the Mediterranean jewel of Barcelona. First, the podcast welcomed Trackhouse Racing’s Raul Fernandez to talk about his career and season, with the #25 joining the pod for the first time at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya.

Then it was an emotional interlude as Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) announced his retirement from being a full-time rider in a one-off Press Conference at 15:15.

The first press conference for the weekend ahead then got in gear, with Championship leader Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) joined by Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), Marc Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team). Guess the topic!

Then, Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) was joined by rookie Pedro Acosta (Red Bull GASGAS Tech3) and Alex Rins (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) in Press Conference 2.


(From left) Enea Bastianini, Francesco Bagnaia, Jorge Martin, and Marc Marquez. Photo courtesy Dorna.
(From left) Enea Bastianini, Francesco Bagnaia, Jorge Martin, and Marc Marquez. Photo courtesy Dorna.


Here are some photos and quotes from the opening day!


How are you feeling after a double win in Le Mans and are Aprilia a threat?

“For sure it will be a challenging weekend, I am happy about the last result but it is in the past and now we have to focus. I remember that we have struggled with the grip in the last two years here for all of us, so let’s see how the new bike performs here. I think it will be better than last season and we also have some other ideas to try and get faster. Last year Aprilia was on another level here, so the target is to close that gap but nobody knows how the bike or the tyres from one season to another. I am confident that I feel good at the moment and that I will do a good job.”


Jorge Martin. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Jorge Martin. Photo courtesy Dorna.


Are you in talks with KTM or Aprilia and if it’s not with Ducati have you got a preferred option?

“I think the results at Le Mans or Jerez or what will happen here will not change the final decision. I understand Ducati as they need to understand what they need and how to put it together. So let’s wait, in the next two weeks, I will decide my future as I will know the Ducati decision and all my choices. I am happy that lots of factories have knocked on my door which means I am doing a good job. Now we have to wait and I cannot control what will happen so I will try my best here in Montmelo and Mugello and we will see what the future brings us.”


Francesco Bagnaia. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Francesco Bagnaia. Photo courtesy Dorna.



How are you feeling after last year’s race at Catalunya?

“I hope to make it further than three corners this season! Last year was great as the first two days we were competitive and then in Sunday’s race we had some issues and didn’t have the opportunity to finish the race. Last year we were very competitive, we were feeling great and I was able to compete with the Aprilia. On the Sunday with the medium rear tyre, I think our potential could have been very promising. I think the new bike will make us have less grip but will help with turning which could be a good compromise but for sure the April’s will be the one to beat.”


Marc Marquez. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Marc Marquez. Photo courtesy Dorna.



Can you explain what is missing to fight for the Championship?

“We are missing the consistency of these two guys because they are fast every practice and every qualifying practice. They are always inside the top three or the top three, and although I am fast, I feel competitive, and in Jerez and Le Mans I was super close to them, I need to find this consistency which will be a challenge Montmelo because it is one of my tricky tracks plus with the new bike it looks like they will gain in the long corners but we will find our own way to be fast and fight with the top guys.”

Would you be happy with a factory Ducati in another team or would you like to be in the factory team?

“My situation has changed a bit from last year as for this season I was looking to have fun, to find the feeling and step by step I am coming back to a good level to be able to fight with these guys. But if you want to fight for a Championship it is possible this year but if you have an easier life on track it helps you. Every rider is looking for the best and I know which is my first idea, I am very clever, I was clever in the past, I was clever last year, and I am clever for next year on what I want to do. So let’s see if I can do I great job on the track to have more options for next year.”

What is your idea?

“To be fast on the race track or close to them because as I said in Jerez or in Le Mans it is already great that I can fight with them until the last corner. These are the two guys that were competing for the Championship last year and are the two strongest opponents out there. So I will keep working with what I have to try and find the maximum.”


Enea Bastianini. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Enea Bastianini. Photo courtesy Dorna.



How competitive do you feel heading into this weekend?

“I have been really unlucky at the Catalan GP in the last two years as in 2022 I crashed and last year I made a big mistake at turn one and crashed with other riders. Let’s see how it goes this year as it is a strange race because the grip is low, so it is important to have a good base set up.”

Are a move to Gresini or Aprilia options that you’re considering if you can’t stay as Pecco’s teammate next year?

“I know it is probably the most difficult decision for Ducati at the moment as we are the top four in the World Championship and with Pecco already under contract it can be a difficult decision. At the moment my situation is not bad as the Ducati is so fast at all tracks and it has improved since last year. I could be a factory rider for next year but I know the speed of Jorge or Marc so it will be difficult but I am confident that I will stay here.”


Maverick Vinales. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Maverick Vinales. Photo courtesy Dorna.



How high are the expectations for you to deliver this weekend?

“It is true that last year here in Montmelo it was extraordinary for Aprilia but every year is different so from my point of view we have to remain calm and it is important to be ready for any condition. Of course, we arrive here thinking that we can fight for victory but we need to remember it is a different year and that the tyres feel different. The competition is high at the moment but we will try and take the maximum from what we have and if I have the opportunity I will go for it on every occasion. We need to try and remember that when we bring the bike to its maximum we are able to win races and that is what we are trying to do here.”

Reaction to Aleix’s retirement:

“I didn’t expect it, I was expecting him to continue racing. In Aprilia, we are both commanding the team and he has been an important part of my journey. But if he has decided like this it is because he feels it is right. I just wanted to say that it has been a pleasure to have been his teammate. He was one of the toughest teammates I have had. However, we still have a long season ahead, so I think he has to be very motivated to try and achieve more victories and if he is fast it will help me a lot.”


Pedro Acosta. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Pedro Acosta. Photo courtesy Dorna.



Do you think you can have the pace for the victory?

“It is a new track for us on a MotoGP™ bike so we need to start from zero and we have worked like hell this week to avoid the problems that we had in Le Mans. On Sunday we made a big step but we need to start from zero now as we know it is a tricky track. We also need to understand how our bike will work here as last season it was not easy so we need to use all the data from Jack and Augusto to understand how we can improve the bike.”

Reaction to Aleix’s retirement:

“For the last five seasons, we have had a professional relationship but when he started to talk and get sentimental I was close to crying and I said “Man how could I not cry”. But I am super happy for him and we know that he enjoys many things in life like cycling. I think he will start to enjoy his new life and priorities and I am super happy about this and the chance to share a MotoGP™ season with him.”


Alex Rins. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Alex Rins. Photo courtesy Dorna.



How do you feel it will be your 200th GP and do you expect to be more competitive?

“I didn’t know it was my 200th Grand Prix so it will be a little more special now. As you mentioned after Le Mans we were at Mugello, testing some new items and reconfirming some items from Jerez. I was surprised as the fairing we tested in Jerez was working well so we have two bikes with the new aero and something new that we tested at Mugello which we need to reconfirm. I am super excited to begin the Catalan GP as it is a really nice track but low grip so it will be difficult to manage the tyre life but I am ready!”

Reaction to Aleix’s retirement:

“It was very big news but I am super happy for him because if he decides to stop racing it is because that is what he wants and deserves. He has had some really great and difficult seasons in the past but he is a fighter. He trains really hard, day by day to achieve his goals and I am super proud of him and wish him luck in the future. After he finishes this season it is time for him to enjoy time with his family.”

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