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MotoGP Thailand GP

Espargaro “couldn’t breathe” in Thai MotoGP race, “thought I was going to die”

Aleix Espargaro says he “couldn’t breathe” due to the heat of his Aprilia MotoGP bike in the Thailand Grand Prix and “thought I was going to die” after the race.

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Heat has been an issue for Aprilia riders for some time during races with extreme temperatures, with the marque testing a cooling tube on the fairing in recent events.

Sunday’s Thailand GP, won by Jorge Martin, was a sweltering affair, with Espargaro taking the chequered flag in fifth – though he was demoted to eighth after becoming the first rider to get a penalty under the new tyre pressure rules.

But speaking after the race, Espargaro admits some ‘panic’ set in during the final few laps as he struggled to breathe, while team-mate Maverick Vinales pulled out of the race due to the heat from the bike.

“Yeah, it was a difficult race,” he said.

“Sincerely, I couldn’t breathe. It was the hardest race of my life. In the last three laps I was panicking because I tried to breathe and I couldn’t.

“So, I was super, super worried. Yeah, when I came into the pits I thought I was going to die, I couldn’t breathe.

“It has been a really tough race for me to be focused. But for me, it’s like today’s race is a good example of my championship.

“We are position number five in terms of riders, the four riders who finished in front of me have been faster this year and they have better bikes than mine, that’s for sure.

“So, for me, today’s race is a pure example of my championship.”

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Espargaro, who called the 2023 Thai GP the “worst race of my career”, added: “[It was] all the heat of the bike, of the chassis, of the engine, everything, it’s coming from the middle – like the fuel tank – and is going into the lungs.

“And we couldn’t breathe. Maverick [Vinales] stopped the race due to this, he couldn’t breathe.

“So, he went into the pits and Raul told me in the middle of the race he couldn’t breathe. So, he decided to stop the pace and lose 10s in the last part of the race.”

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Espargaro says he doesn’t know why the Aprilia gives off the extreme heat it does, and notes that RNF’s Raul Fernandez told him he had no such issues on the KTM last season.

“They are trying things but for the moment nothing is working,” Espargaro said.

“We tried a tube [for cool air], we tried it in the warm-up and it’s not giving anything. I don’t know why the bike gives this temperature, it’s crazy.

“I can’t remember the last time I rode another bike that was not Aprilia, it was seven years ago, so I don’t remember.

“But especially from Maverick coming from Yamaha or Raul coming from KTM, I spoke with him and he said that he had no heat last season. So, it’s very strange.”

He added: “It always happens. Every single year in the same circuits from the last four seasons. But today was really, really on the limit.”

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