Gresini Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaró has hit out at former team Suzuki, slamming the Japanese manufacturer for the way they went about replacing him with Italian Andrea Iannone in the middle of the 2016 season.
The former Ducati rider was signed to replace Espargaró as part of a complete shake-up at Suzuki in the aftermath of Maverick Viñales’ departure for Yamaha, with Alex Rins completing a whole new line-up.
But, speaking to MCN at the unveiling of his 2017 Aprilia team, Espargaró hit out at the way that the events unfolded.
“The two years at Suzuki I was as treated like a king. It was fantastic, and everything I asked for I was given. But, in the last part they way they did things was not the correct way. It’s OK that they decided Iannone was my replacement – I’m not the boss of Suzuki – but the way they did it was not the correct way, especially when you’re not in a good place like I was.
“I arrived in Mugello on the Wednesday and my mechanic told me ‘Aleix, I don’t know if you know but we had a meeting this morning and Iannone is coming.’ They made a meeting with all of the mechanics and told them, and for me that’s not the way to do it. It really hurt me. I know I was not competitive, but the way it was done…”
However, with a new bike that he admits surprised him with his competitiveness under him for the coming year, the Spaniard is more fired up than ever for the coming season with Aprilia.
“I like a lot the difficult adventures! Aprilia is a big brand but they’ve never been competitive in MotoGP, so to arrive at 27 years old with the experience of already being a factory rider is a really interesting project for me. A lot of people told me that being at Suzuki and going to Aprilia was going two steps down, and that gives me a lot of motivation!
“If we’re able to put the Aprilia in the top five that’ll be unbelievable, but I’ 100% sure that we can do it. I’ve trained harder than ever, I’m full of confidence, and I think we’ll start even stronger than anyone expects.”