Aleix Espargaro says his excellent sixth place at Aragon underlines the progress that has been made with the Aprilia RS-GP this season as he prepares for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.

Espargaro is on the crest of a wave following his performance in Spain on the Italian machine and the Gresini rider hopes he can build on the result at the Twin Ring circuit.

“Aragon was a fantastic race for me and I enjoyed a lot during all the race. At the beginning I didn’t have a great start but lap by lap I felt better and better and to be able to fight with Andrea [Dovizioso] and both Yamahas in the last part of the race was fantastic for Aprilia and for myself,” he said.

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“I can’t wait to try the bike here because I think it is a track that suits my riding style and also the Aprilia. The bike is not super different from last year and I would say that the base of the bike is almost the same, but we completely changed the geometry and the weight, everything, and race by race I feel better and better.”

The Spanish rider has taken heart from his competitiveness this year, although he admits there is still a lot of work to do in order to get closer to the podium places.

“We are growing a lot, we are getting seriously close to the top guys; still we have to work a lot because we are still far to fight for the podium but I think we are doing a great job. I feel super great to get Aprilia close to the top brands and we have to continue like this,” said Espargaro, who impressed at Motegi last year as he battled with Maverick Vinales.

“It’s a circuit that I like and I think I am a good rider on the brakes, and this is very important. Last year I had a good fight with Maverick for the podium until the end and finally I finished fourth, so I have good memories.

“With Aprilia I feel especially good on the brakes, with the stability of the bike on the entrance of the corners, which is one of the most balanced things of the RS-GP,” he added.

“I can’t wait to try and I hope we can at least ride in the dry in some sessions but it doesn’t look that good, so we will see and try to adapt in the wet as well.”