Aleix Espargaro put Suzuki as high as third during practice for the season-opening Qatar MotoGP, but the GSX-RR's lack of horsepower left him vulnerable in the race.

Making his factory debut from eleventh on the grid after overcooking his qualifying lap, the Spaniard had hopes of a top seven finish in the race.

But the known lack of horsepower, a hangover from last year's Suzuki reliability problems, saw Espargaro ranked just 23rd out of the 25 riders on the top speed charts. Last year's Open class champion set a best weekend speed of 335.2km/h, which was 15km/h behind the factory Honda of Marc Marquez.

After some spirited opening laps, Espargaro spent much of the race where he had started, taking the chequered flag in eleventh place and 19.9s from race winner Valentino Rossi (Yamaha). Espargaro's rookie team-mate Maverick Vinales finished 14th.

"It's the first race so we have to be proud because after a lot of years that Suzuki was not racing both bikes finished the race. This is a positive thing," Espargaro began. "But I can't say I'm happy with this result as this is probably the worse position I've been in since last season and I honestly thought I would be higher-up in the classification.

"We had a few issues with the machine but we all know that the main problem now is the power. I was with my brother [Pol] and Smith for almost the entire race and really difficult to follow them on the straight. We lose a lot of speed.

"Engineers in Japan are working hard, I know, but unless we get some more horsepower, it will be very hard to get to the front. In any case I've also had good feelings from the race; I ended it and I got points, which was our objective. We are all fully focused on our development process and I'm sure we will get even better results soon."

Vinales, who finished 14 seconds behind Espargaro during his first premier-class race, revealed he rode much of the race without his traction control functioning properly.

"It's been an amazing experience! Racing with the top riders in MotoGP is something unbelievable and I'm so happy with the experience," said the former Moto3 champion and Moo2 race winner.

"The race has been strange; soon after the start I had some issues with the electronics and I lost some traction control, so I had to rely only on my wrist, but the machine was performing well so I decided to keep on and finally I ended the race and got two points.

"This was our priority, so I'm satisfied. We know where we need to improve and also what went wrong with this race, so we can work on it and hopefully be even more effective in the next race."

Qatar was Suzuki's first race as a full time MotoGP entry since 2011.