Aleix Espargaro feels the Suzuki GSX-RR he has ridden in the past month is the best machine he has ridden in MotoGP, and lauded recent set-up advancements that have allowed him to brake later, and push the front end harder without fear of crashing.
The Spaniard has admitted to struggling with the adaption to Michelin's new 17-inch front tyre, a new component that saw the Catalan crash out of several races, while team-mate Maverick Viñales has established himself as a regular podium threat.
After a frustrating crash at Misano, Espargaro altered the set-up of his Suzuki's front end, and his showings and results have only been positive since.
One of the most telling stats to come out of the Japanese Grand Prix was that two Suzukis placed inside the top four for the first MotoGP race since 2007. That both Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro contested the podium places again at Phillip Island gave weight to Espargaro's words.
“I think this is the best bike I've ever ridden in MotoGP,” said Espargaro the elder at Sepang.
“The strange thing is this bike is not so different from the Qatar race but I think slowly we put everything together and the bike now is really competitive.
“Suzuki is a very big brand but I think they've never had a bike like this in the history of MotoGP. It's quite close from Yamaha and Honda. They just need a little bit more power and to improve the electronics. But it's a really, really nice bike to enjoy.”
Espargaro believes Viñales' impressive, consistent season has put him within touching distance of third-placed Jorge Lorenzo in the title fight has proven the pedigree of Suzuki's GSX-RR from Qatar.
Yet recent strides that Espargaro, who will move to Aprilia's factory team for 2017, has made with set-up ably demonstrate the competitive nature of the package, and have left the 27-year old wanting the season to continue long into the winter.
“Obviously I've improved a lot. The bike has been competitive all season and Maverick has been really strong. Obviously I have improved. But also the setting. I was struggling a lot with the front part of the bike. I couldn't feel anything. I just crash, crash.
“So from Aragon and especially in Japan we change a lot the front part of the bike. I started to feel great. It's a shame the season is finishing because I felt very strong.
“Actually in the last two races I fight with Maverick and until the last five laps I was in front of him. This is a big, big step. I wish we could have more races but there are only two more.
“In MotoGP a small step can make a big difference. This is the best class in the world, with the best riders in the world. Just one, two, or three tenths can change everything.
“My feeling change a little bit so I'm able to push more in the entry of the corner, going with the brake with more confidence. Then the bike turns more. Everything is a lot more easy so definitely I can push a lot more without the risk of crashing all the time.”
Responding to Lorenzo's comments that, electronically, the Suzuki is currently better equipped than the Yamaha, he added, "It's difficult to know. I've never ridden a Yamaha so I don't know.
"Sincerely I think that one of the weakest points of the Suzuki is still the electronics. Especially when it's very hot we suffer more, because the rear tyre spins quite a lot. In the wet I still suffer a lot. I have to improve a lot the electronics but sincerely the Suzuki is not very far away from the Honda and the Yamaha."