Aleix Espargaro insisted that pushing Brad Binder into a mistake – ultimately in the shape of a track limits penalty – was “in my plan” in the Dutch TT.

The Aprilia pilot enjoyed one of his strongest showing to date in 2023 at the Assen venue having overall struggled for top-line results thus far this season, Espargaro battling within the lead pack throughout the entirety of the 26-lap encounter.

While taking the chequered flag fourth by a slither having held off the advances of Jorge Martin’s charging Pramac Ducati, Espargaro was then elevated to his first podium finish of the year in third after Binder was docked a spot for touching the green outer extremities of the track at Turn 10 on the last lap.

While admitting he felt sorry for the KTM rider after losing the rostrum finish due to such a minor infraction, Espargaro affirmed that pushing the South African into a mistake such as that was “in my plan” – the Spaniard feeling that Binder is his biggest competition for a top five championship finish against the commanding Ducati’s this year.

“It was clear (Binder touching green on final lap), I feel sorry for him because even though it’s a rule you gain nothing but I knew with the soft tyre in the last laps he would struggle, and he was sliding everywhere,” said Espargaro.

“He accelerated really early there to protect because I was really close and he made a mistake, I knew when he touched the green and I feel for him but rules are rules.

“I had a good fight with Brad as he’s a really talented rider, I think we are the fastest riders without the red bullet so it’s not easy to be there for the podiums and I think he’ll be our main rival for a top five result in the championship, so today we won the battle.

“I knew that overtaking Brad was almost impossible but pushing him to the limit was in my plan, and it worked.”

Espargaro achieved his first podium finish of 2023 despite having to deal with an unbalanced RS-GP due to suffering damage to the aerodynamic wing on the front right of his machine in a clash with VR46 Ducati’s Luca Marini on the opening circulation, an ailment that he says made thing tricky in the faster corners even though the bike became more stable as the fuel load burned off.

“I had to work very hard and it was really difficult because on the first lap I had contact with (Luca) Marini and I broke the right wing, and especially in Turn 6 where I was strong all weekend I couldn’t recover time and in Turn 12 I was losing a lot as the bike wouldn’t turn and I had a lot of shaking, so it was tough to maintain the pace,” added Espargaro.

“In the slow corners like the chicanes the bike felt quite good (with wing damage) but especially in corners 6 and 12 I lost a lot.

“It started to get better in the middle of the race but at the start with the full tank it was really difficult and the bike wouldn’t turn, and when I forced it I got a lot of moving on the handlebars so it was tough and I didn’t understand what was going on.

“Lap by lap as the bike got lighter it became more stable, not performing as I expect but it was OK.”

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