Aprilia test rider Bradley Smith apologised for his mistake at the start of MotoGP Catalan GP when he crashed into Aleix Espargaro.
While there was mayhem at the front of the field in Catalan MotoGP race at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, it was a similar situation in the mid-pack when Aprilia teammates collided, resulting in a retirement for both and an injury for one.
Test rider Smith got another wildcard chance to start a MotoGP race alongside Espargaro and Andrea Iannone. The three riders started well but Smith’s mistake in the left-hander meant he went straight into Espargaro, with both falling down.
Also involved in the melee was Tech 3 KTM’s Miguel Oliveira, who had to avoid the crash which resulted in him losing track position. Espargaro made it into the pits but had to be carried over from his bike to the medical center and the hospital then.
While the full extent of injury is yet to ascertained but the initial reports stated that he has been diagnosed with a bone edema on the left knee. The Spaniard left a message on Instagram as he missed the lone ongoing test at Barcelona.
Smith, meanwhile, is testing on track with Aprilia along with Iannone. The FIM Stewards found him guilty and handed him a three-place grid penalty for the next MotoGP round he races in. The British rider though immediately apologised to Espargaro.
“I’m sorry about what happened today, even more so because Aleix was involved,” said Smith. “Unfortunately, in that braking section the situation was a bit chaotic, as often happens during the first laps. I hope he will have a quick recovery.”
The only saving grace for Aprilia was Iannone managing to complete the race after his issues in qualifying. He ended up 11th after tyre wear limited his race towards the end. Team head Massimo Rivola was disappointed with Espargaro’s situation.
He said that the Spaniard is a ‘pillar’ of the team. “This is undoubtedly a difficult time for us and Aleix’s injury is the most pressing issue right now,” he said. “He is a supporting pillar of our team and we hope to see him back in the saddle as soon as possible.
“Even more disappointing is the fact that it was Bradley who caused the crash, who is working on developing the bike. These episodes should not occur. Andrea rode a good race, positive in the early stages and then dropping off toward the end, due to tyre wear.
“We are making significant efforts to grow our project, but at the moment, the results are not very comforting. We have an important test for development in view of the future and this injury was the last thing we needed.
“But we are absolutely united in our determination to reverse the trend. It does not matter who hard and how long we need to work. We’ll get there.” Tech 3 KTM’s Oliveira was 12th in end after managing to save his bike from the incident.
His teammate Hafizh Syahrin did not have a good ending though, despite having looked strong in whole of the MotoGP weekend. The Malaysian was fighting in midfield when his engine let go, which the team is investigating – he is testing at Barcelona today though.
Meanwhile, Esparago’s post in English: “What a year we have, what a bad luck. Bradley has hit me very hard and goodbye to the home race after a warm up with good feelings! For now a lot of bone edema that does not show the involvement of the ligaments. Wait until tomorrow! But this is racing, so, Why so serious?”