It was a double celebration at the Argentinian MotoGP round in April when Aleix Espargaro took his first ever premier class win, which was also Aprilia’s first since joining the 500cc/MotoGP class in 1994.
The breakthrough for the elder of the two Esparagaro brothers came in his 200th premier class start, capping off a weekend of dominance for the 32-year-old Spaniard.
The first Argentine MotoGP round since 2019 almost didn’t happen, though, due to freight delays that forced the first day of on-track action to be abandoned.
When practice finally got underway on Saturday, 2 April, Espargaro was strong, featuring near the top of the timing sheets before claiming pole with a 1m37.688s lap. Aprilia’s first ever pole in the MotoGP era, it was also Espargaro’s first since 2015 with Suzuki.
After the condensed practice and qualifying programme, Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) qualified second behind Espargaro for his third-successive front row start this season, with Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) equalling his best result, qualifying third.
When the race got underway, Martin got the holeshot ahead of Aleix Espargaro, with Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) making a fast start from the second row of the grid.
As Martin and Aleix Espargaro began to pull away from the chasing pack in the opening half-dozen laps, trading fastest laps ion the process, Pol Espargaro and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) scrapped it out for the final podium position.
Martin seemed to have the race in control by the halfway mark, especially when Espargaro made a couple of unforced errors on lap 11, but the veteran Spaniard recovered almost immediately, taking tenths out of Martin’s lead in the next two laps.
On lap 18 of 25, Espargaro made his first lunge for the lead, which was unsuccessful, as was another at the same part of the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit two laps later. However, a third attempt on lap 21 stuck.
Espargaro hadn’t shaken off Martin, though, who was adrift by only 0.2 seconds with two laps to go, while Rins was close enough to capitalise on any mistake from the leading pair.
Heading into the last lap, Espargaro had built a small margin of 0.8 seconds, which proved to be enough as he took the chequered flag to put himself and Aprilia into the premier class record books.
"I'm extremely happy about this weekend in Argentina,” an emotional Espargaro said after the race.
“Honestly, the race was not easy. I expected it to be a bit easier as this morning I felt very strong. But I think I had a smart race, and finally, after this long period with Aprilia, we achieved the victory and we are leading the championship.
“This is like a dream. We keep our feet on the ground, but I think we truly deserve this!"
Continuing the theme of firsts at Argentina, Espargaro’s breakthrough win saw him lead the rider’s championship for the first time in his career.
He held that lead for only a week, though, as victory for Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP) at the Grand Prix of the Americas vaulted him to the championship lead, while an eleventh place for Espargaro in the race saw him slip back to third in the championship.
Photos: Michelin, motogp.com