The 32-year-old veteran Granollers rider returns to Aragon having placed, five years and 79 grands prix later, Aprilia on the MotoGP podium
“When I arrived at Noale, everyone saw us as the ugly duckling in the paddock, now even the Japanese take photos of our motorcycle to copy it”, says Aleix
The people, not the fans, not the insiders, can think how so much noise, so much celebration, so much excitement is possible, for a third place, for a podium, after five years, of 79 races, with a 32-year-old driver, that is in his 18th season at the World Cup, that he has not yet won any of the 275 Grand Prix he has played and, therefore, no title whatsoever.
Well, very simple, because it is about Aleix Espargaró, the great pilot that, that, five years ago, signed for the Aprilia factory, champion of everything except 500cc and MotoGP, and after years of hard work, despair (“in 2018 I said I was quitting, but they convinced me to keep going because we were going to get it”), falls, fractures, operations, pain, suffering, blood, sweat and tears, has finished by finally placing the Noale company (Italy) on the podium of the premier category.
The family and one more
He can say it, well, he already shouts it, now, but I will write it: there is no happier person in the world, at the moment, than Aleix Espargaró, married to a wonderful woman, Laura Montero (“Everything, everything, I owe it to her”), father of twins (“Max and Me they are divine, they are my inspiration, my talisman ”), eldest son of a wonderful couple (“ my parents gave everything and sacrificed so that Pol and I were very happy ”), the great father of two ‘beagles’, Pippa and Zuki, who add joy to the house and, very soon, Carlota, the wife of ‘Police’, it will turn it into bitio.
What was missing from this veteran, who loves his profession more than cycling, his restaurants, his whimsical cars and his good life? Well, put Aprilia on the podium. And now that he’s done it (third at Silverstone, the birthplace of racing), he wants more, much more. “I want everything, that is, to win.” Aleix remembers that when he signed for Aprilia (2017) “I immediately realized that, in the ‘paddock’, we were the ugly duckling, nobody took us seriously. Right from the first day and, after assuming that feeling, I swore to myself that, by my balls, that was going to change and that we would be ahead ”.
Yes, right, he did not think that it would take five years and that he would suffer so much, so much. “It was good for me to be in Suzuki and to learn from the Japanese, that everything they tell you goes to mass, but you have to be patient. Aprilia is Latin, Mediterranean, like me, hot and, if necessary, they move heaven and earth to get what you need. And I love that. It is clear that to compete you must be orderly, patient, methodical, you must plan well, but if you do not have a few drops of passion, madness, love for racing, you will never get the results ”.
Aleix says that when he signed for Suzuki visited the factory Hamamatsu (Japan) and its competition department. And, yeah, okay, it was a great factory, but the racing department didn’t seem like much to him either. “When I signed for Aprilia and went to Noale, I went crazy, crazy, crazy, in their racing department. It was, is, awesome! Sooooo much bigger than Suzuki’s. And I thought ‘but, well, how can these guys not win?’ They swept 125cc and 250cc and are they not going to win in MotoGP? It cannot be, I must help them to obtain it ”.
The problem was that Aprilia worked without a method, without order, without a project and, when it arrived Massimo rivola, coming from the F-1, and became the CEO of Noale’s racing department, everything changed, everything. “It has changed so much, so much, that even the Japanese chase our bikes through the paddock to take pictures of them. Now the Japanese already have photos of our motorcycle! That is fundamentally not only because of a job well done, well programmed, but also because of the passion that Aprilia’s mechanics and engineers put into their work ”.
“The happiness of your family and the tears of satisfaction of your mechanics are already worth five years of sacrifices”
Aleix Espargaró / Official Aprilia Rider
They, the racing team, those who get their hands dirty and those who draw in pencil, were the ones who saved Aleix from despair. “Every time I fell, the bike broke, and it broke a lot! When I got to the box, it was all hugs, applause, congratulations, slaps of encouragement. They always told me ‘Aleix, come on, come on, if it weren’t for you, we would be home.’ I felt like the Valentino Rossi of Aprilia, hence the courage, the desire, the enthusiasm, the sacrifice, the training and the passion that I put into taking them to the podium. Seeing the happiness of your family and the tears of pride of your mechanics make disappear, at a stroke, everything suffered in these five years ”.
A personal challenge
Aleix says that the Silverstone race, in which he fought, fairing by fairing, with his brother ‘Polyccio’ for the podium, he has seen only once, but the videos of his mechanics, the team, the party, the celebration, of contentment, of pride, the videoconference, coming down from the podium, with the people who were in the Noale factory, he has seen them dozens and dozens of times. “When you love racing, when you put so much effort into achieving your goal, only that achievement, when you achieve it, rewards you for everything you’ve done. And that happened to us at Silverstone. Of course it is ‘only’ a third place, of course it is! We are not idiots! But it is a bronze medal in a sea of sharks, with 12 official motorcycles, dozens of world champions in contention and we have achieved it by being an artisan factory ”.
Nobody considers the Aprilia that today will try again at the Aragon GP as the ‘ugly duckling on the grid, far from it! And, that, believe it or not, has been the work of Aleix Espargaró. “It has been the work of everyone, everyone, starting with Massimo (Rivola) and ending with Noale’s last mechanic.” No, no, believe me, it was this Catalan’s thing, because the Italians tried it with Italians and it didn’t work out. It was Laura, Max, Mia, Pippa and Zuki’s thing. The family that has endured the tough road to the podium at Silverstone. And this is only just beginning. He says.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.