Grand Prix of Jerez, Spain, fourth round of the MotoGP championship. Me again, Franco Perona, chief medical officer of Lifenet and head of the delegation of doctors and specialists working alongside the official Aprilia team.
This time we started off the race weekend on the right foot: the Aprilias were unreachable in free practice, setting the first and second fastest times. We had hoped for a day like yesterday’s both in Argentina and Austin. The atmosphere in the pits is one of adrenaline and optimism, especially thanks to the exceptional performance of our riders: Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro.
Rain falls on Jerez
All was well; at least until the clouds appeared over the circuit, lowering the temperatures of the asphalt and, consequently, of the tyres. Aleix was about to complete one of his best laps when unfortunately, he ends up in the gravel. A bad crash: apparently with no consequences, but we must step in.
In the pits, the typical skit of these frenzied moments begins. We look for the rider, to examine his medical situation, he first takes refuge in the truck, then goes to the motorhome. We are chasing each other around to no avail as I am driven on an electric scooter by an Aprilia mechanic who is trying to make his way through the crowd in the paddock.
We manage to find him soon enough, he’s already in the pits: as hoped, it’s nothing serious. Within a few minutes he is already on the second bike, trying to regain confidence with the track now that the asphalt conditions are totally different. It also starts to rain, a short but intense downpour. Meantime, the mechanics are back at work on the wrecked bike to get it ready for qualifying as soon as possible.
Pole position for Aleix!
There are two minutes to the end of practice and Aleix can make one last lap, with no traffic on the track. This is a crucial moment, the starting order for Saturday’s Sprint race and Sunday’s Grand Prix will be decided based on his result. First sector ahead, second sector even better… and on the third he holds the advantage! I run to the pit-wall just in time to catch a flash of lighting which is Aleix crossing the finish line: it’s pole position!
Unlucky Sprint and Grand Prix for Aprilia
The first pole position of the season is well celebrated in the box, with Espargaro acclaimed by his mechanics. On Saturday and Sunday, the bad weather will inevitably affect the race, but for now we enjoy this result.
On the day of Sprint race, amazingly, the sun is shining on the Jerez circuit. Aleix’s Aprilia starts well and confirms a good race pace, but with six laps to go the tyre betrays him again and he ends up in the gravel. The team’s fate rests on the shoulders of Vinales, who despite being among the fastest riders on the track, crosses the finish line in seventh place. Same outcome on Sunday, but swapping roles: Aleix after a good start finishes fifth, while Vinales crashes on the third lap.
The feeling, however, is good: Vinales is still in the top 5 in the standings, and the Aprilia has proven to be one of the best bikes in the paddock. The constructors’ championship is still wide open, it’s just in need of a pinch of luck.
Now a two-week break: we remain in Europe, next stop France for the Le Mans Grand Prix!