An adrenaline filled Aleix Espargaro declared a fantastic top six finish in Qatar was "just the beginning" of Aprilia's rise toward toward the front of MotoGP, as he exceeded all expectations on his race debut for the Noale factory.

Espargaro completed one of the performances of his career, outdoing his prerace target of finishing in the top ten to come home sixth, seven seconds behind the race winner and just one second off Marc Marquez, top Honda finisher.

After a fairly slow start, Espargaro was the third quickest rider in the race, and was delighted with the pace and consistency of the RS-GP in the later laps. The traction, he said, was giving Dani Pedrosa's Honda RC213V a run for its money in certain places.

"We crossed the line less than a second from Marc and Dani," he began, revelling in the factory's joint-best finish in the four-stroke MotoGP era.

"Obviously it's going to be difficult to repeat it. Sincerely, the bike is great in the race. It's a real 'Sunday bike'. When the traction drops the Aprilia is fantastic.

"This is something that in every single track when it's very hot, and no one is able to go with the soft and I'm able to go with the soft, we'll have some advantage. The bike's traction is really good.

"We still need to improve our speed in qualifying but we saw during the winter tests that we were able to be competitive with the really used tyre. Obviously, I was not looking for the top six, but yes for the top ten.

"I'm happy because I could overtake Dani on the straight. This was like a dream. I've never had something like that. I think it was because in the last corner the traction of my bike was a lot better than Honda.

"I almost touch him on acceleration and this is why my speed was very good. We need to still improve the acceleration when we have new tyres. The first few laps, I couldn't overtake anyone. It was impossible.

"Everyone was closing the line and accelerating like an animal, like a monkey. It was impossible to overtake! Then after eight laps everything was in a more normal way and I start to overtake and go in front.

"The bike's engine...we need to improve acceleration but because we have good traction the bike is good."

While delighted with the bike's consistency, Espargaro knows that extracting the best from the package over one lap is an area that still needs som attention going into the next races.

"We need to improve qualifying," he said. "I think that if we had started in the top ten today we could have fought for something better than sixth.

"The better this is to try and get the top ten. To try to stay in front of every private bike. It's going to be difficult but we have some advantge but we have to keep working. Yeah, I'm happy."

When a journalist jokingly put it to the Catalan that if critics were to be believed, he was supposed to have joined an inferior team after his departure from Suzuki, Espargaro had a ready-made comeback:

"They need to wait because this is just the beginning! We're going to put the bike on the top. I'm 100 percent sure."

Cal Crutchlow - Career Profile by Crash_net


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