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MotoGP Catalan GP

Why Aprilia is “on another level” after Friday at the MotoGP Catalan GP

Aprilia dominated the opening day of action at the MotoGP Catalan Grand Prix, with VR46 Ducati rider Marco Bezzecchi branding the marque as “on another level”.

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Aleix Espargaro topped both sessions on Friday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, heading factory Aprilia team-mate Maverick Vinales.

The double grand prix winner set a new circuit lap record on his way to top spot in FP2 with a 1m38.686s, beating the existing record he set on his way to pole last year at the Catalan GP.

VR46 Ducati rider Bezzecchi noted that the RS-GP seemingly had much better traction out of the corners compared to the rest, which explained its advantage.

“My pace was already not too bad, but I was missing a lot of grip and drive speed,” Bezzecchi said on Friday.

“In the afternoon we improved a little bit. On the pace I am not too far. The Aprilias are on another level for the moment, but from the Ducatis, I’m quite close.

“Well, I saw Maverick, I saw Miguel [Oliveira] especially. What I saw is that they have a lot of drive grip compared to us.

“They look like they are spinning, but making more metres compared to us. On braking, I’m quite close, but on the rest of the riding they are faster.

“And in this track, the last sector and also the first sector, they make quite a big difference.”

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The Barcelona circuit is notoriously low-grip, which are conditions the RS-GP has thrived in. Most notably last year at the Argentina GP, on a dusty circuit where running was limited to two days due to freight delays, Espargaro stormed to pole and a maiden victory.

In Barcelona last year, he was on pole and set to finish second before miscounting how many laps he had remaining. And before rain affected running in Argentina this year, Aprilia ended Friday fastest of all and on course for a repeat of its 2022 heroics.

The agility of the RS-GP chassis, boosted by a new aero fairing aiming at bettering turning introduced at the British GP, also matches well to Barcelona’s flowing nature.

For Pramac’s Jorge Martin, who was 10th at the end of practice, the traction the Aprilias have is almost impossible to match for Ducati at this stage.

"I think that, like in Argentina, when they lack grip they manage to stop the bike well, I don't know why, and above all they have a lot of traction when they put the bike straight,” he said.

"We are still there spinning until fourth [gear]. Pecco Bagnaia has felt a little better than me, and Johann Zarco too. So surely, they have seen something that I have not been able to [see].”

Espargaro somewhat busted this perception, noting that the acceleration advantage the Aprilia has is actually down to the corner speed the bike carries because of how strong it is on entry.

“I think we create the advantage before [opening the gas],” he explained.

“This is my point of view. The Aprilia is the best bike on the grid, for me, when you release the brake [with] how much you can rush into the apex of the corner.

“So, the consequence that the riders can see if we accelerate better, but it’s because we are five, six, seven, eight km/h faster at the apex.

“So, that helps the traction a little bit. Yes, the traction is good, but when you don’t have to stop at zero – like in Austria – it’s amazing at 65 degrees [of lean] how fast you can turn with this bike. It’s crazy.”

The one unknown with the Aprilia remains its ability to get off the line on the same level as the Ducati and the KTM.

Vinales, however, felt he made “my best start of the year” on Friday during practice with a new clutch set-up.

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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