July 13, 2024
Vinales “proud” of Aprilia for Portugal MotoGP victory challenge

After its breakthrough season in 2022 when it finally became grand prix winners, Aprilia has made a strong start to the new campaign in Portugal.

Both Vinales and Aleix Espargaro were fifth and sixth in the inaugural sprint race, while Vinales pressured reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia for most of the 25-lap grand prix.

Vinales took the chequered flag 0.687s behind Bagnaia and felt like he could have caught the Ducati rider, but feels “the most important thing” was the fact Aprilia showed it could fight at the front of the field.

“At some points of the race yes, I thought I was able,” Vinales replied when asked if he thought he could overhaul Ducati’s Bagnaia.

“But I was quite comfortable behind Pecco, I was riding well, we were opening a gap.

“So, at the beginning I was just trying to understand the potential of our race, and it was great. I think on lap 10 or 11, Pecco did another step on the rhythm.

“I tried to follow him, I made a few mistakes on the brakes. Then I said I would cool down the tyres and the brakes and go for it in the end.

“That’s what I did, but he was smart, he was saving tyres through all the race.

“I’m really proud of our brand, of Aprilia, of the job of my crew. The most important thing is to make the fight in the front, and we did it, so we must be pleased.”

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Though Ducati and Bagnaia ultimately swept both race wins in Portugal, Espargaro – who was ninth in the grand prix – said after the sprint on Saturday that he felt Aprilia was much closer to its rival Italian marque than people think.

“This circuit is not really a good one to analyse the engine, but [on Friday] in the [technical] meeting I said congratulations to the engineers because the engine is good,” Espargaro said about Aprilia’s race engine, which it brought for the opening round of the season.

“I have the feeling… it’s still early, but I have the feeling that we are not as far aways from Ducati as people think.

“I think Aprilia and the riders, Maverick and me, we are strong. The championship is still long and I think we will be able to fight.”

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Vinales was equally complimentary of the RS-GP’s engine having been able to keep in Bagnaia’s wheel tracks throughout the Portuguese GP, adding: “Our engine is good. In the slipstream I was making a good top speed.

“But then I realised Pecco was saving the tyres, so maybe I pushed too hard in the beginning.

“Our engine is strong, it’s fast and I think corners like in Portimao where you exit with grip our bike is very good.

“I just feel competitive. Of course, if we can gain anything it’s good for the lap time. But it was quite fine.”

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