During last October’s American Grand Prix, Espargaro suffered a total of five crashes, yes five!

And although a new track surface in parts has been laid down in order to eliminate some of the bumps around COTA - should definitely help Espargaro and Aprilia based off of last year’s showing - the main reason for the Spaniard believing he can challenge at the front, is his and the 2022 RS-GP bike’s brilliant form at present. 

An excited Espargaro said: "I have no doubt that it’s going to be completely different. I was very happy to win in Argentina, but what makes me more happy is that we showed in the first three rounds that we are very competitive. 

"I feel good with the new bike, the new bike is a lot better. The proof is that I was also able to overtake Jorge [Martin] on the straight, which means that overall the Aprilia has grown a lot. 

"This gives me a lot of energy for this American round. I know it’s not going to be an easy one and I know Portimao and Jerez will be a little bit easier for me and my bike. 

"But this is a challenge, a big challenge for me and I love the challenge."

Espargaro now part of the 'Elite' group...

It certainly will be a challenge as Aprilia have never really gone well around the Circuit of the Americas, whether that be in Espargaro’s hands or any other rider. 

The new championship leader delivered one of the performances of his career in Argentina, a performance that has many thinking Espargaro can battle for the title. 

While the names Fabio Quartararo, Joan Mir, Francesco Bagnaia and Brad Binder are likely to be his main competition, and yes we’re including Bagnaia based off his potential rather than results thus far, Marc Marquez should be a name to watch, so long as he stays healthy. 

During the pre-event press conference Marquez was obviously the main attraction after it was confirmed that the eight-time world champion would return this weekend.

But when asked whether Marquez’ on-track return is a possible threat to his ability to fight for race victories, Espargaro was left slightly uncomfortable…

"I don’t really like this question because Marc is one of the best in the history and especially here in America. But also, the rest of the field is really strong this year," explained Espargaro. 

"To win is very, very difficult. I’m happy for him that he is back, not for the championship, but for him personally. 

"I think what is happening to him over the last year is extremely difficult to handle. 

"You have to be very brave and have a very strong mentality. Obviously, to win; if it was super difficult before then it’s a little bit more. But this is MotoGP and the best riders have to be here."

With regards to Marquez, seeing a clean weekend (no crashes) or injuries would be a huge benefit to him, but also the world championship.

For that to happen, avoiding crashes the likes of which we witnessed in Mandalika is key, although interestingly, Marquez has said the chance of diplopia coming back for a fourth time will remain there for the rest of his career, thus focusing on racing and not what could take place is his priority.

What are the chances of diplopia returning?  

Marquez said: "I asked my doctor what the percentage is ( of re-injury) - I had the injury in October, now again, what happens if I stop one year completely, and he said that I will have the same risk this weekend, the same risk in one year, or two years. 

"In the end it is a nerve that when I have the impact it moves a bit and creates that. 

"It’s one of my weak points, but If I’m here it's because of racing. I cannot think about that. 

"This is my passion and I’m here to race, not think about injuries."