Obviously, it’s never ideal to have a rough start to a race. But when you begin strong and fizzle out at some crucial point, that’s when a sense of failure really hits you at full force. You can’t help feeling like you came so close to the goal, only to let yourself down in the end. But what if you had to lose on purpose? Aleix Espargaro found himself in exactly this position at Le Mans. He’d gotten off to an excellent start and was fending Valentino Rossi off easily at 6th place when he felt something was wrong with his front tyre. He was soon forced to choose between victory and life.
“I did a good start and could keep a good pace for the early laps, then I felt something strange on the front tyre and couldn’t push as hard as I wanted. I saw the boards with the gap and I decided to conduct a wise race, holding the place and getting home safe with some championship points.”
— Maverick Viñales (@maverickmack25) May 5, 2016
And hold his place he did, maintaining sixth place all the way through despite slowing his pace. He came in 30 seconds behind Jorge Lorenzo and 18 behind his Suzuki teammate Maverick Viñales, who took the podium position Espargaro had been aiming for this entire time. While he clearly wishes he was standing where Viñales is, he bears no ill will towards the crew or his more fortunate teammate.
“My crew and the whole Suzuki team is doing a great job, we did big improvements and today’s podium from Maverick is evidence. My compliments to him, but this is a good sign of what our potential is.”
We’re inclined to agree. Keeping your place at a reduced speed is no meager achievement and is promising of an exhilarating finish the next time he hits the track at Mugello. Of course, provided a strong start translates into a strong finish.