Pol Espargaro says he found the going tough as the Spanish prospect tackled the Motegi circuit in Japan for the first time on a MotoGP machine.

But nonetheless, the series rookie - who sealed the Moto2 crown at the Japanese circuit in 2013 - managed to set the seventh fastest lap overall as he finished ahead of team-mate Bradley Smith and only one tenth of a second behind Marc Marquez.

Espargaro is adapting the hard braking nature of the Twin Ring track but is learning 'step by step' and is confident he can take a big leap forward on Saturday on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine.

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"In all honesty it was quite a demanding day today. The track is not an easy one to ride due to the hard braking, as well as working out where the references are for each corner and we are still learning step by step," he said.

"However, the final result itself is not bad at all and I am convinced that we have a large degree of improvement to make. For tomorrow, I certainly need to work on my riding style and afterwards we will try to fix some minor issues with the bike.

"At the moment we are losing most of our time in the intermediate sectors of the circuit and this is where we will focus on for tomorrow," added Espargaro.

"Once we make these improvements I am certain that I will be able to have a strong qualifying where I intend to score a top grid position for the race on Sunday."

Espargaro's fastest lap was a 1m 46.041s, only 0.064s ahead of British rider Smith in eighth place on the satellite YZR-M1.

Monster Energy, meanwhile, has confirmed it will remain as title sponsors of the Tech 3 team for two more years until 2017.