Although the gap between Espargaro and MotoGP champion Francesco Bagnaia was over a second on the final day of pre-season testing in Portimao, the former Repsol Honda rider felt as though steps forward were made compared to day-one.

Far from the case a few years ago, a second off the pace in MotoGP now means 18th position which will however be of concern for Espargaro and KTM.

Only Brad Binder managed to get within nine tenths of the top time on day-two, while Espargaro’s P18 finish saw him end the test directly behind the second factory KTM of Jack Miller

Speaking after Sunday’s action, Espargaro said: “Today was much better than yesterday so it feels good. We are just one second away from today’s fastest man, which is not bad on this track. 

“Of course, we would like to be higher in the standings, but we tried many things these two days. 

“We worked on the race pace quite a lot and there are some positive things, but we are missing something, especially on this track on which our grip is not the best in the rear. We had a very productive day today, so I am happy. Let’s go racing!”

Although KTM have struggled relative to Ducati and Aprilia, signs that they can fight at the front in 2023 have been there, particularly in Sepang, as Espargaro showed a lot of promise in race trim.

And with the only rookie Augusto Fernandez in the class alongside him, Espargaro has the responsibility of leading the team, according to Poncharal. 

"We’ve got two riders who are incredibly motivated, invested, and committed," Poncharal told "Pol is for sure the GASGAS captain. He feels happy to be back home. He loves the DNA of this bike and is ready to show Pierer Mobility bosses that they were right to have him back. 

"Augusto comes with a humble attitude and he knows he has to work and is working without making too much noise. 

"For him it’s double learning because he has to learn the MotoGP class and learn the new format. But he is ready. On Pol’s side and Augusto’s side, I can only see smiles."