Friday was a day of positives for Aleix Espargaro. Racing a handful of miles from his hometown, the 25-year old was smiling after Suzuki's new engine powered him to the top of the MotoGP time sheets in Montmel?.

The elder Espargaro brother admitted he was 'a little afraid' before testing the factory's new engine on Friday, hoping the added power would not off-set the machine's now customary sweet handling and front-end feel.

However early indications suggested the power delivery is now better than it had previously been, with the engine offering a smoother power curve in the lower revs.

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Add to that the GSX-RR has gained two-three kph through the speed traps, a factor that could prove crucial as he attempts to stay in the slipstream of the faster Yamahas.

"The engine is something more," said Espargaro on Friday afternoon. "We've gained about two or three kph. We were always one k down on Bautista and now we are two kph up. This is great but we need more. After five months Suzuki is working hard.

"The weird thing is the power delivery is even better. The engine character is completely different. It's a lot more smooth in the bottom which is great news.

"When they decided to bring the new engine I was a little bit afraid. Sometimes it can be too aggressive. It was really smooth in the bottom but also the electronics change, the engine brake change. We still need some time to understand it."

Third fastest overall in FP1, Espargaro was staggeringly fastest through sectors two, three and four, underlining the machine's ability to turn on a sixpence.

In the afternoon he climbed two places, setting the fastest time of the day - just 0.2s slower than the outright circuit record - to leave Marc Marquez's Honda second, 0.28s behind. Again, he was fastest through the curvy, undulating fourth sector but this time by more than three tenths of a second.

"The fourth split is with really fast, difficult corners," he said. "Again the Suzuki is not the best in the MotoGP class but it's really close to the best. We are really competitive."

Asked whether the new engine has helped with acceleration, Espargaro responded, "It's not better. For us it's easy to open the throttle but it's not better. The top speed is usually better."

Commenting on how it will affect his ability to battle in the race, Espargaro believes his proximity to the Yamaha's fastest speed is of great significance.

"Now I think we are about three or four kph down on Yamaha. With three or four kph difference I think we can go with them in the draft. This is very important. In the race as soon as they open a gap of three metres they leave. If we are able to follow them in the draft it's a big advantage."