Aleix Espargaro is in no doubt the Aspar team's Aprilia will be the leading contender among the Claiming Rule Teams (CRT) in MotoGP this season.
The former Pramac Ducati rider has seized the opportunity to return to the premier-class, alongside Randy de Puniet at the Aspar team, following a season in Moto2.
And although the Spaniard is under no illusions over the size of the challenge faced by the CRTs to reach a respectable level of competitiveness in motorcycling's elite class, Espargaro is confident of edging closer to the front as the championship progresses.
Espargaro, who will continue developing the Aspar Team's ART bike at Jerez next week, told MotoGP.com
“It's clear that we will evolve and CRTs will get progressively closer to the front. It's logical and obvious that we'll suffer in the first few races, but the idea and the goal must be to get better in every GP and then toward middle or end of the year to be as close as we can to the front, especially at the smaller circuits.”
Reflecting on his debut on the bike at the Valencia test, Espargaro added: “As far as power and riding, the bike is very different from a Moto2 bike, and I have had to re-adjust my riding.
“But I'm happy, the bike works great. We have to learn to make good use of the electronics, I think that's the most important thing, and like I said, I also have to adapt and improve the bike gradually.”
Aspar was one of several CRTs to miss the recent official Sepang test and Espargaro was thus unable to compare his bike against other 2012 machines.
“Clearly, I would have liked to have gone to Malaysia, but it made sense not to go, the bike is still green and training in Europe is much safer, because if something happens you have the factory next door,” he said.
“So we haven't been measured against the teams that went to Malaysia, and now we are going to test in Jerez, then in Aragon, and then again at the official test in Jerez, which means that we'll see where we are before the Grand Prix in Qatar, though I think the Aprilia will be the bike to beat in the CRT category.
“Jorge Martinez and Aprilia are working hard and we all can't wait to see how far we can go this year.”
The Aspar team has secured a title sponsor in the form of the multinational Power Electronics company.