The opening laps of Sunday's German MotoGP saw Aleix Espargaro battling at the front of the field - on his privateer CRT Aprilia.

Espargaro (#41) had achieved a similar feat in last year's damp Valencia race, but this was the first time a CRT rider had done so in a 'normal' dry race, albeit aided by the softer specification rear tyre now available to the privateers.

The early race heroics - which saw him threaten Valentino Rossi for second - followed a best yet fifth on the grid in qualifying at the twisty Sachsenring circuit.

Although he dropped down the order, Espargaro spent much of the race in a tight battle with factory Ducati star Andrea Dovizioso for seventh, which the Italian won by less than 0.3s.

"I am very pleased with our start to the race," said Espargaro, unbeaten in the privateer class this year and with eighth place scores at the last four events. "I knew I could be fast with the soft tyre on the first few laps, so I did what I could to stay ahead.

"I pushed hard, but inevitably, gradually, I lost touch with the frontrunners. Today was the hottest day of the weekend and increased track temperatures hindered the situation somewhat."

Espargaro crossed the line 30 seconds from race winner Marc Marquez, after 30 laps.

"I think we had a great race and the difference to first place was the smallest so far this year. I fought to the end with Dovizioso and passed him a couple of times, but he always got back ahead on the downhill. We again picked up plenty of points and were fighting with official bikes, we are in a good position in the championship and I'm very happy with this eighth place."

Despite his form this season, Espargaro appears to have few options in terms of moving up to official manufacturer machinery next year. However if Aprilia take advantage of the 'claiming rule' removal to upgrade the spec of their ART, it should be even more potent package in 2014.

Espargaro's Aspar team-mate Randy De Puniet hasn't felt so comfortable with his machinery and made a switch back to the 2012 chassis, in search of better front end feel, during warm-up at the Sachsenring.

The Frenchman, also test rider for the Suzuki MotoGP project, declared the decision a success and finished in twelfth.

"This morning we decided to go back to the 2012 chassis, because from the beginning of the year I have had a lot of difficulty adjusting to this season's one," he said. "The difference is small but in the warm-up I found the best feeling of the weekend with the bike.

"So I decided to keep the chassis for the race. On the first lap of the race I had to adapt to the behaviour of the bike, which made me lose several positions and some time, but luckily I was able to pull myself together. However, it was too late to keep up with Pirro and Hayden.

"I think I was the only rider who used the soft front tyre, as with the hard front I could not ride well. When I was passed by Barber? I stuck behind him. I'm happy because today we finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. As the laps went by I could enjoy riding again."