The opening round of the 2014 MotoGP Championship takes place this weekend and after the first two days of practice at Doha, one rider has stood out, topping the time sheets in the first three Free Practice sessions: Aleix Espargaro.
We’re certainly not surprised to see the 24-year-old Spaniard there. Espargaro was a sleeper pick in Tom Roderick’s Top Five list of riders who could win the season opener in Qatar, while our MotoGP columnist Bruce Allen predicted Espargaro would be the first Open option rider to win a MotoGP race (and that’s over a former World Champion in Nicky Hayden and Aleix’s NGM Forward teammate Colin Edwards.)
Still, it’s somewhat of a surprise to see Espargaro doing well. He was the top rider in the now-defunct CRT category last season but Espargaro has yet to win a Grand Prix race in any class with eight full seasons of racing under his belt. In fact, Espargaro has only finished on the podium once, taking third in the Moto2 race at the 2011 Catalunya Grand Prix. That’s one podium in 142 races in the MotoGP, Moto2, 250 GP and 125 GP classes.
Granted, practice is a far way from actual racing, and the conditions in Qatar can be much different than the rest of the MotoGP circuit, but at this point, you can count us among his fans.
So in honor of his impressive start, our Weekend Awesome video features onboard video of Espargaro testing the NGM Yamaha racebike at Jerez last November.