Aleix Espargaro Interview, Part 2: On Doping, Teammates, Strategies For A Shortened Season, And 2021

In the first part of the interview with Aleix Espargaro, the Aprilia Gresini rider talked about life and training in Andorra, finally getting back on a motorcycle in Andorra and at Barcelona, the plans for testing, and the financial impact of the pandemic for him and his sponsors.

In the second part, the eldest of the two racing Espargaro brothers talks about what happened to teammate Andrea Iannone, and who might replace the Italian at Aprilia, about rumors of brother Pol leaving KTM to head to Repsol, and about the strategy for coping with a short season featuring a lot of back-to-back races. Finally, Aleix Espargaro talks about how much he is looking forward to 2021, even more than 2020.

Q: You actually don't know who is going to be your teammate, either this season or next season. It's a very awkward situation.

AE: The situation for Aprilia right now is not easy, not easy at all. Andrea Iannone is a very, very fast rider, everybody knows that, but his future doesn't look very bright because now WADA are pushing even more [WADA has appealed the reduction of Iannone's ban by the FIM CDI]. So the situation for Massimo Rivola, for Aprilia is not easy. I would say that almost all top riders have already decided about their future; to take a talented guy coming from Moto2 would not be easy for the first year; to take an old guy from MotoGP with experience but with a better bike, it's not going to be easy. The situation is very difficult.

Q: Did you talk with Iannone?

AE: Not in the last few weeks, I talked with him two or three months ago when the lockdown started. We talked a little bit, but he didn't text me and I did not text him. We spoke after what happened in Qatar and he told me that I misunderstood, that he was not attacking me, and I said OK and that we will talk when we see one another on the track and we did not talk more than that.

Q: There is a history of riders considered to be “bad boys” in MotoGP. Aprilia is working with Max Biaggi, who was always put into that category, and Iannone is also someone seen as a bad boy. Rivola said that he feels WADA are making an example of Iannone, do you think his image has anything to do with that?

AE: That's very difficult to say. I mean, he tested positive in the first sample, he tested positive in the second sample. He said it came from the meat and he is the only one who knows what really happened there, but for WADA, he is positive, and failed both tests. I don't think it has anything to do with the bad boy image or not.

Two samples tested positive, so I understand the situation, I understand his point of view but I also understand WADA. I think the four years WADA is asking now is far too much, but I also think that what he wants, to be completely acquitted after both samples were positive, is not good nor positive for the sport. So it's a very difficult situation. It's the first time this is happening in our sport and it's very strange.

If this happened in cycling for example everything was more clear, if you do that, this happens. But in MotoGP it's the first time, and it's important to remember that all the riders were pushing for this, we were pushing for more tests, we were pushing for more testing, we were pushing to be in the Adams Pool system, and now we are in the pool system. So if now they act and they ban a rider who did some wrong things, this is what we were looking for.

Q: You have a lot of cycling friends. Did you talk to them about it? Does this influence how you see it?

AE: The issue comes up and I spoke with them, but it's not a subject that they like to talk about, as they have a very bad reputation, and it looks like in the last year they are trying to change and they are cleaning the sport up. What they said to me is what I said before, if someone tested positive twice, in cycling its 24 months, boom! There is no discussion. MotoGP is not cycling, but we were pushing Dorna and the FIM to have a similar system to avoid cheaters. So if now we have this, the least we can do is to listen to them.

Q: Do you know who you want next to you this and next season?

AE: What I want for the future is that the young talented riders of Moto2 and Moto3 really consider to come to Aprilia. This is very important for me. Because right now, at the moment, the guys fighting for Moto2 are looking to go to satellite Ducati, or satellite Yamaha, looking to those factory teams. So my objective is to prove that Aprilia is also a very competitive bike, and that talented young guys can come and join us.

I know that for Aprilia to sign a young guy right now might not be the best scenario, as we still need to improve the bike. So maybe the best thing for the next two years is to take a rider with information, coming from another brand and with know-how from Honda or know-how from Ducati.

Everybody is asking me about Crutchlow, he would be good because Cal is a very fast guy. A bit crazy but I am also a bit crazy, so Cal would make a very competitive team together with me. Also Danilo [Petrucci], coming from Ducati, winning a race last year so both of them are good riders. I would also really like that Bradley [Smith] would get the chance to improve a little bit by racing more and he can also be my teammate next year, you never know.

Q: Another rider and contract issue is your brother. Pol must have consulted with you about Repsol Honda and KTM?

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Interesting comments about his brother being 'closed'. I imagine its pretty tough for two brothers to be on competing teams. But like he said if Repsol come calling, you have to listen. His remarks about Iannone's samples being positive twice is pretty point blank. Apparently he thinks Andrea's career is over and he'd like to see Cal, Petrux or Smith as his team mate. Cal could probably make that Aprilia work, but he likes being paid by HRC. Thanks for the article.

The 2020 Aprilia has two questions to answer first: reliability and outright power. We see in a month. PLEASE no mechanical problems after Friday. Drag race to match the Suzuki too, if you would.

Petrucci to Aprilia looks good. If by chance he ends up in Orange (doubt it), it isn't likely to be Cal at Aprilia. He isn't up for embarking on anything new, just finishing on his terms with another big push at Honda. So who? Not Smith. A new kid to slot in.

Aleix on the Aprilia vs Dovi on the Ducati comes to mind of late. Such contrast, I really like and respect them both. Aleix has gotten a backmarker bike mid pack. He has way out performed other riders on the same bike. Not so recently for Dovisioso. Expectations and context differ. So do praise and criticism. Dovisioso has chiselled out a REMARKABLE career, and it will be looked back on with great appreciation. But late 2018 on has had the shadow of #93, #27, and perceived unmanifested potential from the Gigi NASA missile to contend with. Difficult indeed. It isn't just Duc brass with expectation.

The unprecedented amount time off bikes will have great impact. Yamaha and Suzuki riders arrive with advantage in that their rideable "conventional" bikes will be more accommodating. Aprilia is on this list too. On the other side is two rough riding short broncos and a long techno puzzle. Set up and track time are more precious for them. Time off will push riders one of several ways as well. Towards retirement or just out of the circus pace for some. A swing the other way and a double down for others. Lose their concentration and feel, or arrive on the pace? And then the pressure cooker they are dropped into?! A wider spread, expect the unexpected at the first round in particular.

Look folks, time to let this sink in. We have never...NEVER been blessed with what we are about to get. A FEAST of MotoGP racing, after famine.

Mid July through 3rd week of August, how many events? FIVE. And back to back weekends at the same track, rubber down and everyone/everything sorted. A reduction sauce of concentrated motivation and importance. A rider's future and the 2020 Championship can pivot on a moment in each race.



Start shaking off the festering contraction and unease. Turn off the "news." Rock and roll is tuning up.

Haha, I have images in my mind, perhaps intended, of Dovi's exploits carved on the wall of the Forum, with the other Roman senators of 2000 years ago. Please don't push him into the distant past too quickly!

"Not so recently for Dovisioso." Hmm. The last three years? Many have shown potential, but none the results bar 93, against 04.

Really enjoyed this two-part interview. How can you not cheer for the Espargaro brothers?

Great interview.

Echoing rholcomb, interesting comment about Pol being "closed", even to his own brother. Though I also wonder if it's partly because Aleix is an active MotoGP competitor.

And again, would love to see Danilo Petrucci partner up with Aleix on the Aprilia.

Speaking of "bad boys", maybe that's something MotoGP needs. Not more cookie-cutter "nice" guys. I never thought Max Biaggi was a "bad" guy, but he did ruffle the feathers of one #46, didn't he?

1st 2020 MotoGP round at Jerez? A surprise is inevitable, no matter how thoroughly the tea leaves are parsed out.

We know things. Marc will be strong. The Yamahas and Suzukis go well there. What's new? A new rear tire. It exacerbates the Honda achilles heel, further pushing the front tipping in through apex. There will be edge drive grip for sweeping lines on the gas, and Yamaha are handed a gift. Ducati? Jury is still out, isn't it? Guessing they do just fine with it.

Yamaha has taken two big steps forward. Unfortunately one of them isn't outright grunt from that engine. But the power that is there just got a bit more useable, while the Honda just got more vulnerable. The 2019 HRC arrived with so much motor that Marc could ease off from over-over riding the bike, back to just over riding it. Was that just negated? I think so. If Quarty just caught Marc late last year and has momentum, are we poised to see battles at the front? Vinales is in tow too. And Rins. And perhaps two Duc riders. Fingers crossed.

How many crashes are we going to see that weekend? The opening laps Sunday may be a pinball machine. With a dozen berserker balls.

Motoshrink, I have been reading your comments about the Honda being in deep trouble this year.  You seem really confident (hopeful maybe?).  I don't have any inside knowledge, but I remember that during most of pre-season testing Honda seemed to be in trouble.  Then on the last run on the last day of testing, they reverted to last season's areo-body and made a big step forward.  They didn't have time to develop from there, so we don't know.  But, there is a possibility they actually have more room for big improvements during the season than anyone else. 

As far as the tires exaserbating the Honda disadvantage, again I'm not sure until the racing starts.  Marc is pretty adaptable.  The increased traction from the rear tire may allow him to take an even stronger "V shaped" line through the corners and screw up everyone else's lines.  Then use the increased traction and the Honda engine to accelerate away. 

Then again, you may be absolutely correct. 

The Honda got "less worse" w that aero change. They had taken a wrong step. Methinks it is a bit worse off than 2019 in the area it was awful.

Still has that HUGE engine, still has the Marc.

No insider info here, just thorough consideration of what we can all find. And yes, needing to temper bias here since I have been successfully pushing voodoo pins in HRC here for years, and give Puig the finger whenever he and his cold sore take camera time from a race. I really like and respect Marquez though, sincerely. He's amazing.

The bike has been HORRIBLE, motor excepted. Esp being a bucking bronco about to tuck the front from braking through apex. 4th best bike on the grid, even though it is the most powerful (dead even with the Duc?).

Pol "everyone wants this bike!"
(Until they ride it, because it doesn't want you on it)

Aleix "have I talked with Iannone? No, I f*cking hate the guy. I do talk with my brother plenty, but not with you publicly about his contractual delicacies. Btw, Iannone is all done but Aprilia is taking advantage of this wait time to get a good look at all the riders possibly available for 2021 on track this Summer, especially Oliveira and a few Moto2 kids. AND get our stock on the rise by showcasing our all new bike. Do you hear anyone coming to Iannone's defense? Think they have to pay him this year if he doesn't turn a wheel because of a doping ban? I said nice fluff about Smith, but he is challenging Tito and we all know it." (As read exclusively in my brain).