Will Aleix Espargaro Morph Into a MotoGP Test Rider?

The 34-year-old Aprilia driver contemplates his MotoGP future: continue racing with Aprilia or transition into a test rider role?

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MotoGP rider Aleix Espargaro now stands at a career-defining crossroads as his current contract with Aprilia expires at the end of this year — will Aprilia remain his “ride or die” or will he transform and evolve into a test rider?

“This is a very good question. I don’t know. Hopefully, Aprilia will offer a new job for me, but this is not the important thing,” Espargaro said in an interview with Motorsports.com. “I want to wait at least until Mugello to see how I perform, and then I will decide. I’m having fun this year, but I want to fight in the top five every race. If not, it [the contract] will be the last one,” he expressed, highlighting his high standards and expectations for himself on the track.

Less than two weeks ago, the 34-year-old Apreilia rider took P7 during the 2024 Red Bull MotoGP Grand Prix at COTA, really struggling the majority of race weekend with the circuit. During the opening lap of the Grand Prix, Espargaro’s bike experienced significant mechanical issue after his rear ride height device malfunctioned, which eventually forced him to stop and exit the race.

A recent report from Motorcycle Sports revealed that Espargaro really struggles with the Austin circuit, especially when it comes to those circuits that require riding in first gear and having to break very, very hard.

…in this track you use the first gear in five corners. For me it’s really difficult, it’s my kryptonite. And in the afternoon I improved a lot, I already was very fast from the first laps’.

What is a “Test Rider?”

In MotoGP, a “test rider” plays a crucial role in the development and improvement of a team’s racing motorcycles. Unlike the primary racers who compete in the championship races, test riders focus on testing the bikes under various “conditions” to evaluate new technologies, parts, and setups. Their responsibilities include:

  1. Bike Development: Test riders work closely with the engineering team to test new components, electronics, and overall bike setups. Their feedback is instrumental in making data-driven changes to enhance performance, reliability, and handling.
  2. Simulation of Race Conditions: They often simulate race conditions to provide reliable data that helps in tuning the motorcycles optimally for actual races. This includes testing bikes in various track conditions and configurations to mimic those encountered in championship races.
  3. Feedback and Data Collection: A critical part of their job is to provide detailed feedback and collect data about the bike’s performance, behavior, and any potential issues. This feedback is crucial for ongoing development throughout the racing season.
  4. New Technologies: Test riders are often the first to test cutting-edge technologies before they are used in races. This can include new engine parts, aerodynamic components, or electronic systems.
  5. Helping with Strategy: Their insights can also help the team strategize for race days by determining which setups work best under specific conditions.

Throughout race weekend, True Hollywood Talk was able to witness some of these test riders in action on-and-off the paddock.

At the end of the day, Espargaro chooses to continue racing, he has made it clear that he will only do so with Aprilia, the team he has grown with since first joining in 2017. and helped develop into contenders. However, he also revealed that his final decision will be determined by all of his upcoming performances up and until the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

As the MotoGP community awaits Espargaro’s decision post-Mugello, one must ponder whether in the next 2-3 years, could there be future opportunities for those riders who want to transition out of racing the track, and instead, look towards emerging technologies as a test rider?