Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro went into MotoGP’s summer break on cloud nine. After defending champion Fabio Quartararo nearly took out the 12-year veteran in the Dutch TT, dropping him down the field, Espargaro charged back to an unlikely fourth-place finish. That career-defining performance solidified number 41 as the number one contender to Quartararo’s title defense. Sadly, things haven't gone Espargaro’s way since.
After a five-week holiday, the riders returned to action at the 2022 British Grand Prix. The Aprilia man gained pace throughout the weekend but a vicious highside crash during the FP4 free practice session left him with a fractured heel. Espargaro battled through the injury throughout qualifying and the race but ultimately finished in ninth place.
The Spanish rider bounced back in the two following races, capturing a pair of sixth-place finishes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stave off Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia from taking the second spot in the championship standings. Just three points behind Bagnaia following the 2022 San Marino Grand Prix, Espargaro looked forward to the Misano Test on September 6-7, 2022.
As luck would have it, the Aprilia rider went down near the end of the second day’s morning session, fracturing the fifth digit on his left hand.
“It’s nothing serious,” claimed Espargaro. “I could do a qualifying session now, but at the moment it hurts quite badly, so with the team, we decided to skip the afternoon test session. It’s a very simple fracture, which will heal by itself.”
Espargaro played down the injury, but he still has to worry about his recent pace. In the last four races, he’s finished behind teammate Maverick Vinales. Top Gun also outperformed his compatriot on the final Misano Test time sheets. Of course, Vinales will help Esparagaro remain a contender in the 2022 title chase, but he continues to gain influence within the Aprilia team.
“We have to follow the indications of both riders,” admitted Aprilia Sporting Managing Director Romano Albesiano. “We cannot go in one direction, but we must do two different types of development. For us, it is not a problem.”
With that news, hopefully, Espargaro turns around his recent form at the 2022 Aragon Grand Prix. If not, he could start losing his grip on a chance at the MotoGP crown and his captain's chair within the Aprilia garage.