Aleix Espargaro admitted that he believed “everything was lost” after escaping a crash with Fabio Quartararo in the early stages of the Dutch TT, before fighting back to finish fourth.
The Aprilia rider was biding his time behind leader and eventual Assen victor Francesco Bagnaia’s Ducati in the early laps of the encounter as he felt he had “the perfect bike”, though series leader Quartararo was similarly keen to fight for supremacy and elected to try and pass Espargaro at Turn 5 on the fifth tour.
The Yamaha rider misjudged his entry to the bend though and carried too much speed, losing the front of his M1 as a result and dragging himself as well as the innocent Espargaro into the gravel on the outside of the bend.
Having lost over eight seconds by the time he managed to ride through the gravel and re-join the circuit, Espargaro showed by far the best race pace of everyone to charge back through to fourth – the Spaniard taking two riders at the final chicane on the last lap in a stunning move to cap off his recovery in style.
While conceding he was “very angry” following the incident, Espargaro revealed the fact that he knew Quartararo was out of contention for points gave him the motivation he needed to try and recover as much ground in the title battle as possible.
“I was very angry in that moment (clash with Quartararo) because after the first two laps I felt that I was very fast and had almost the perfect bike, I said to myself ‘today you can win,’” explained Espargaro.
“The feeling was fantastic so when he hit me I was very angry, he made a bad judgement because I was super tight on the inside of the corner so there was no space, but it’s racing and this can happen.
“From that moment after I came back on track I said to myself ‘relax, focus and do the maximum that you can.’
“I went to the limit after the crash to try and recover some points, and I did a brilliant comeback.
“Once I came back on track and I went past the pits on the straight I saw P15 on my board and I felt everything was lost, you have no points and in a situation where you have nothing so everything from now on would be like it was free, like a present.
“I reset my mind and saw Fabio (Quartararo) wasn’t continuing so I knew that every point I could get would be one closer to him (in the championship), and this is what I did.
“I broke the lap record several times, so it was a fantastic race.”
Espargaro’s incredible recovery means he reduced Quartararo’s points advantage – the reigning MotoGP world champion exiting the race for good after crashing at Turn 5 for the second time due to a broken traction control sensor – from 34 entering the weekend to 21, with further scope for a gain at Silverstone after Quartararo was awarded a long-lap penalty for his part in the clash.