MotoGP rookie Aleix Espargaro recorded his best ever ranking in a premier-class track session with an excellent sixth place for Pramac Ducati during Friday practice in Catalunya.
Admittedly, Espargaro lives just five kilometers from the track, but he was keen to point out the result marks the continuation of an upward curve.
"How nice it is to be able to be so fast in front of your fans!” smiled the Spaniard, who was the second best Ducati rider and 0.877sec from fastest man Jorge Lorenzo.
“We are improving race after race, even in the free practice sessions. At Silverstone I was eighth on Friday, seventh in Assen and sixth now.
“It's my home circuit and I'll do my best to leave good memories of me to the people that will come here. This now is my best result since I joined MotoGP. Of course, the result of today is not very important, but I'd say that it's better to start in this way.
“Tomorrow it will be again a great battle but I will try to maintain the today's position."
Espargaro's track engineer Marco Rigamonti was delighted with his rider's performance and gave an insight into Espargaro's dedication.
"He is amazing in everything he does: he is always ready to learn, watching videos of old races or studying the trajectories on maps of the circuits that we give him,” he said. “He also spends much time with us in the box to analyze the data and I think that these results are the fruit of the great effort that Aleix is putting in his work. Tomorrow, with these track conditions, we can make a very good qualification. "
Espargaro's best race finish to date is eighth at Mugello and he sits twelfth in the world championship. His team-mate Mika Kallio was 13th fastest on Friday.
"Although 13th is not a good placement, I am confident for the rest of the weekend,” said the Finn. “We had worked on both bikes trying different solutions and tomorrow we will put together all the information we have obtained to set-up a competitive bike.
“I really want to have a good result here, last year I finished the post-race test in fourth position and this is proof that we can achieve a good placement here. It will be very important to get a good qualify position tomorrow, starting in the top ten is essential."