Walking with a limp that conveyed a punishing pre-season of numerous crashes and injury, Aleix Espargaro was relatively upbeat on the final night of MotoGP testing at Qatar, despite recording his eighth crash of the winter.
The elder Espargaro brother fell at turn three while applying full throttle after recording positive feelings with Suzuki's new chassis, a component with which it appears both he and team-mate Maverick Viñales will begin the season.
Ending the three days 15th overall wasn't a true reflection of Espargaro's potential, he said, as a string of crashes (three in Valenica, two in Phillip Island and Qatar) have plagued preparations for his second season in Suzuki colours.
“A big crash again, a very very big crash,” began the Catalan. “I was really quick in corner three, full throttle, I lose the front. So I think it's crash eight of the pre-season. It's really a disaster of a pre-season. Actually, I was quite happy, because when we start to work with the 2016 bike today, I felt immediately great.
“In my first run with a hard tyre we were faster than all weekend with the 2015 bike, so it was fantastic. I keep the soft rear tyre, and the grip is so high, the grip is two times more grip rear, but I crashed on my second lap, so I couldn't improve my time. It's a shame, because I think we are much better than we showed today on the classification. I can't wait to come here and I hope in the race to be better.
“I was completely full throttle, and I start to lose very slowly the front, full throttle. I think there was not enough weight on the front. But in that corner, it is difficult to put weight on the front, because you are full and you don't brake on that point. Our preseason wasn't good about the front grip, and again I crashed. So I hope we can learn something and keep improving for the race.”
Both riders used all three tests in 2016 to test the '15 and '16 frames back-to-back, with Viñales voicing his preference for the older model on Thursday. Yet, a day later and it appeared Suzuki had decided to use only the '16 chassis from the first race of the year.
“I think it's clear that we will have both bikes 2016 spec,” continued Espargaro. “Not a big difference between 2015 and 2016, but at least I'm able to put a little bit more load on the front. So it looks like it's a little bit safer. But anyway, we need to work, because we work nearly all the time with the 2015 bike in this test, and we used the 2016 just two runs, but it's strange, but I was really quick immediately. So for sure we need to insist more with the 2016 bike.
Espargaro also continued working with Suzuki's new seamless gearbox, with technicians finding a way to make gear changes smoother and softer.
“We keep working with the gearbox, we tried something different on the seamless type 2, something to make the seamless a little bit smoother, and softer, because yesterday it was quite aggressive. It worked, so I'm happy about the performance.
“The general feeling is that the engine is much better. I think we have to work a little bit on the aerodynamics, because my top speed compared to Maverick's top speed is too different. It means that the power is much better, but aerodynamics we need to work.”
Finally, Espargaro also expressed his preference for Michelin's '36' front tyre, the softer option of the two that riders tested.
“The 36. The 36 for me is the best tyre. I think the general feeling is like this, the 34 I have a little bit of chattering and no feeling at all, so I hope we can have the 36 for the race.”