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The Aprilia MotoGP team has announced it has retained Aleix Espargaro for a further two seasons.
Espargaro, who has one premier-class podium finish to his name, joined Aprilia from Suzuki on a two-year deal in 2017 and finished 15th overall last year.
Frequent mechanical problems have hampered his and Aprilia’s start to the 2018 season, and the Spaniard admitted earlier this year that he needed to see improvement from the RS-GP bike to commit to a renewal.
His new two-year deal, which runs until 2020, means the 28-year-old’s MotoGP tenure is set to span at least 10 full seasons.
“I am very happy to stay with Aprilia for another two years,” Espargaro said.
“For the first time in my career, I am able to have stability and this is important to improve and grow together.
“I have a sole objective, an obsession, and that is to take the RS-GP to the podium.”
Aprilia’s MotoGP factory team has been run by the Gresini outfit since 2015, and an extension to the current deal between the two parties that expires in ’18 has yet to be formally communicated.
Espargaro’s new contract, however, puts to rest doubts over the Italian manufacturer’s commitment to MotoGP.
“This renewal is first and foremost acknowledgement of Aleix’s qualities,” said Aprilia MotoGP boss Romano Albesiano. “He is a fast rider and an exemplary professional.
“From the time he arrived, he has brought passion and motivation to the garage with a positive effect on the entire team.
“His contribution to the growth of the RS-GP is undeniable and I am certain that the next two years will allow us to achieve important results.
“Giving the technical project continuity with a rider who knows the team and bike well lets us plan development in the best possible way with an eye to the future.”
Espargaro’s current team-mate Scott Redding was brought in by Aprilia on a one-year deal to replace compatriot Sam Lowes, but has also endured a difficult start to the current season.
The Briton admitted recently that he was worried he could be running out of time to convince the manufacturer to keep him on board past 2018.
Aprilia is known to be monitoring the contractual situations of two Italian MotoGP riders – Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone and Pramac Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci.
Petrucci has already said 2018 will be his final season at Pramac, and has been holding out hope of a promotion to the works Ducati team, while Iannone appears likely to lose his Suzuki ride despite a recent upturn in form.