Qatar MotoGP test: Aprilia more stable with big acceleration gains - Espargaro| Christina Bulpett | MotoGP
Aleix Espargaro fired his Aprilia RS-GP into action and straight to the top of the times as he drew first blood on Saturday’s opening day of testing at Qatar.
Alongside his impressive early times, the Noale stalwart was seen experimenting with both front and back holeshot devices and analysing a choice of aerodynamic packages, once again recording notable success.
Confident of his early performance, the Spaniard seemed equally assured that there were more improvements to come.
“It’s too early [to fully comment] but obviously we’ve made steps forward and it’s always nice to start the season like this. I think the lap time we did is competitive, it’s fast, to be leading the timesheets is a fast lap time so I’m happy about it but it’s just the beginning.
“Obviously we’re still trying many, many things, we have to find the balance because this bike is quite different from last year, especially on the aerodynamics side. It does not look like a revolution, but to ride it, it is quite different. Today I tried two different aerodynamic packages that we still need to understand.
“The bike is more stable so it has allowed me to accelerate much better which is more than welcome. We still have to understand the bike and see the strong points and the weak points. On the aerodynamic side they did a big, big job and it is really different in acceleration. I feel like we made one improvement and the bike has a lot more downforce, so I feel it more physically than last season’s bike.
“We had one of the slowest bikes last year, but now we are in P1 with a very fast lap time on day one.
“I think there is still room to improve, I have to say conditions today were not fantastic, it has been very, very windy. But to manage to go very, very close from my best lap time of the test [last year] or even faster than two years ago qualifying, it means that we are on a good way. I’m completely sure that on the next four days of testing, everybody will improve the lap times but we can improve as well.
“I’m not really focused about super fast lap, also the consistency, today I did two long runs of 10-laps and I’m very happy about it so tomorrow I will try a race simulation, try to do all the problems we have in front and let’s see how far we can go.
“I have to say that I am accelerating better than ever, but clearly the top speed we have to improve. Our top speed is lower than last year and we are losing 15kph compared to the Ducatis.
“Sometimes it is not just the engine. It is a bit more complicated than that, with the new MotoGP era from four or five years ago, with all the aerodynamics involved, it is more difficult.
“So there is room to improve there. But as I mentioned, the aerodynamics allow you to turn better or not, to accelerate more or less, and to make more top speed.
“It’s nice to start like this, especially after what happened with Fausto, so I’d like to dedicate this first day to Fausto and all members who have been working with him all his career and I hope they will be a little more happy after this day and, for sure, he will be proud of all of us.”