Northern Ireland's Michael Laverty is confident he can take a significant leap forward at the second MotoGP World Championship round in Austin, Texas in less than two weeks' time after finishing 17th on his debut in the class in Qatar.

Laverty, who started from the back of the grid on the PBM Aprilia CRT machine, had been aiming higher than his final race position, but the 31-year-old is taking heart from the team's progress with the new bike.

He held off Lukas Pesek to avoid finishing dead last and believes better days lies ahead.

"It is great to get the first round under our belts and to bring the bike home safely.

"It's not the position we wanted but we have to keep reminding ourselves that Rome wasn't built in a day," Laverty said.

"We are making good progress with the PBM bike and all things considered we are not that far away from the top CRTs at this stage.

"I believe we can take a good step forward in Austin for round two."

Laverty's team-mate, Colombian Yonny Hernandez, finished 14th overall on the updated version of the ART raced last year in the series by James Ellison to seal fourth place in the CRT classification, just over a second behind Hector Barbera on the Avintia Blusens machine.

"I did not have a good start and lost some positions but was able to recover them before the end of the first lap," he said.

"The bike set-up felt good, so I was able to push hard and I had a nice fight with Hector Barbera in the race.

"I am happy with the result and scoring two points for the team and championship is great," added Hernandez.

"With more time on the bike and set up work for the latter part of the race, I am confident of improving further."

Phil Borley, the team's technical director, said Laverty's result reflected the lack of time the Northern Irishman had to set up the machine, which he only rode for a limited time on the final day of the second pre-season outing in Sepang.

"We are pleased with the results as both of our riders rode their bikes at a high level.

"Michael's race was affected by the lack of time we have had setting up the new PBM bike but his race lap times were consistent and we are more than happy to have finished our first race at a respectable pace," said Borley.

"Yonny did not have the best of starts but soon got into a strong rhythm and achieved a points scoring result.

"With the benefit of the race data for both of our riders, we now look forward to the Texas race."