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MotoGP Catalan GP

Vinales: Aprilia must “be smart” to avoid Barcelona MotoGP expectations after 2023

Maverick Vinales says Aprilia must “be smart” to avoid having massive expectations for the MotoGP Catalan Grand Prix after its maiden 1-2 there in 2023.

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing

The sixth round of the 2024 campaign takes place this weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and is expected to be a strong hunting ground for Aprilia.

This is because of Aleix Espargaro’s run to victories in the sprint and the grand prix last year at the venue, while Maverick Vinales was second in the latter to complete Aprilia’s first 1-2 in MotoGP.

Vinales says a repeat would be “a dream” this weekend, but has moved to stop expectation being mounted on Aprilia’s shoulders for past precedent.

“I don’t know,” he said in France when asked, after finishing fifth, if Barcelona was the track for Aprilia to return to the top step of the podium.

“It will be a dream for sure, but we don’t know. It’s difficult to say in this championship because everything can change.

“The tyres are a little bit different, so new technology. We don’t know how it works in Montmelo, so we need to be smart enough to not put too much expectation on ourselves, to be honest.

“If we have a good Friday we will put on expectation and we will go for everything. But first of all, we need to see how things go there. May in Montmelo, [there can be] a lot of rain. So, we’ll see.”

Photo by: Marc Fleury

What happened at the 2023 Catalan GP?

The Catalan GP capped off a whirlwind few weeks for the factory Aprilia squad, which began in August with a win for Aleix Espargaro at the British GP.

With the characteristics of Silverstone and Barcelona being similar, while the low-grip nature of the latter lending itself to the strong traction of the RS-GP – as well as Espargaro’s more old-school riding style, Aprilia was a force at the Catalan GP.

It was 1-2 with Espargaro and Vinales in both of Friday’s practice sessions, while RNF Aprilia’s Miguel Oliveira topped Saturday morning’s FP2.

Oliveira then topped Q1 on his 2022-spec RS-GP, while Francesco Bagnaia on the factory Ducati finally halted Aprilia’s stranglehold on the top of the times in Q2 with pole.

But Espargaro, starting second, overhauled him in the sprint to win by 1.989s, with Vinales third. And in the grand prix, Espargaro beat Vinales by 0.377s to score his second Sunday win of the season.

Aprilia’s winning form has faded again in 2024

The 2024 RS-GP came into the season as a bike that Vinales wasn’t happy with but Espargaro raved about over its step forward.

But Vinales was able to be on podium pace in Portugal after Aprilia was able to improve the balance for him to utilise his riding style properly. A gearbox issue thwarted his hopes, but a first victory since 2021 followed at Austin.

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

However, since then, Aprilia’s form has dipped away. Poor qualifying results for Espargaro and Vinales at Jerez made life difficult, while the latter experienced “a wear issue” with a part on the bike he raced that meant he struggled to ninth.

At Le Mans, Vinales could do no more than fifth as team-mate Espargaro faded out of the podium battle in the early stages to end up ninth (though two run-ins with riders also hindered his progress).

As MotoGP heads to a weekend in which Aprilia is expected to do well, Vinales was asked in France what the marque needs to do to break through the ceiling it’s seemingly stuck at.

“It’s a good question,” he said. “I wish to do the step in the next races. Obviously, we go to Montmelo and the expectations will be very high, but we need to be conservative [and consider] that maybe the Ducati has improved a lot.

“It will also be strong in this track. But for the rest of the tracks, we need to check how to make this next step. Obviously there will be tracks that will be better and not.

“I thought that when I came [to Le Mans] the weekend should be good, but the guys were telling me maybe this was not the best for the bike and in the end they were right.”

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