Pol Espargaro will head to the first European MotoGP round as the leading satellite rider, holding fourth in the world championship and with almost double the points of this time last season.

It's been a case of solid but not spectacular performances by the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider, who has crossed the line seventh, sixth and seventh in the opening trio of races.

His latest points haul came despite starting just 13th on the grid at Circuit of the Americas.

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"I certainly didn't feel very comfortable on the bike but having said that I did my very best in trying to keep it on two wheels," he confessed. "At the beginning of the race, we decided to use the softer front tyre and in all honesty, it was really tricky to follow the other riders on full fuel load. Yet, once the tank emptied a bit, I was able to start pushing and I began catching my team-mate.

"Then suddenly, I saw some crashes in front and I even had a moment myself, so I decided to settle down as I wanted to finish the race and leave the US with some valuable points. In the end, this is what we achieved, so now I am 4th in the championship which is a nice gift for the boss, as it's his birthday.

"The next GP will be back in Europe and on my home soil so I can't wait to go to Jerez, especially after the positive start to the season so far. Of course, we go there with the aim of improving our performance further, but I believe that this year more than ever, consistency is the key for a strong championship result."

Team manager Herv? Poncharal added: "Maybe the results haven't been incredibly exciting, but at the end of the day, he is fourth in the championship. We knew that these first few rounds would be tricky with challenging circuits for us yet after all, it was always going to be very important to arrive in Jerez with a strong position in the standings."

Only factory stars Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenz and Valentino Rossi are ahead of Espargaro in the championship standings.

Espargaro's team-mate Bradley Smith fell and remounted on his way to 17th place in Austin.