Fausto Gresini has played down Aprilia's inauspicious return to premier MotoGP competition, insisting its rate of progress remains 'in line with expectations' given its earlier-than-planned return to the series.

Racing an adapted version of the increasingly dated ART, the RS-GP has struggled to mount a mid-field challenge in the hands of Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri, though the former is at least on the board after finishing 15th in the United States.

For Gresini, whose eponymous team is preparing the Aprilia factory effort, the shrinking gap to the group in front says to him that the bike is making strides heading to the first, more familiar European round of the season in Jerez.

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"At Jerez the long European season of the Championship begins on a track where we have already tested," he said. "It would be nice to be able to take a few more steps forward. After all, in Argentina we already showed that we can fight for positions from twelfth on, which is in line with our expectations. We'll keep working to grow step by step, determined and strongly motivated."

Indeed, Aprilia Racing manager Romano Albesiano is realistic to the challenges associated with entering MotoGP a year earlier than originally planned, but is satisfied with the early indications.

"The first three races showed us just how big a challenge we accepted by entering MotoGP a year ahead of schedule. It's no surprise but rather it confirms that the level of bikes and riders, grown compared to recent seasons, is very high.

"For this reason we are looking at our initial progress as a positive and important sign. In particular in Argentina both riders crossed the wire, reduced the gap behind the leaders and finished just a few seconds (just over four) behind that central pack which is our goal at the moment. Marco has also come much closer to Alvaro in confirmation of his improved feeling with the bike.

"These are all important indications that we need to confirm. The next few weeks will also let us to speed up development on the RS-GP, an operation which is quite complex during non-European rounds, following the indications that can out of this first part of the season."