Sam Lowes brushed off a late crash at the close of testing in Qatar, and feels he and his Aprilia team have found a "really positive direction" after a late set-up change greatly improved his overall feeling.

One of four class rookies stepping up to MotoGP in 2017, Lowes ended the test 19th fastest, 1.8s off the top time.

But bearing in mind his consistency with medium tyres, overall feel with Aprilia's 2017 RS-GP, and the fact it was his first experience with this year's machine, the 26-year old was more than pleased with progress through the test.

"We had a few issues today and a crash at the end, which was a shame because honestly we've worked on so many different things. We put a package together, went out and the bike felt so good," said Lowes on Sunday.

"I nearly came in after my out-lap and say to the guys, because we had made that big a step. Unfortunately I had a little crash, tucked the front. I thought I could save it for about 20 metres but then I lost it.

"We're improving a lot. Like I said before this test, under the radar. Even today I've got better pace than it looks. I think we can have a good start to the race weekend, build on where we got today. The direction that we've found is a really positive one.

"The way today was, we missed some time. We had a few little issues, and went in the wrong direction, trying to make the bike a bit longer. A few things but we need to do it.

"I've not done so much on this bike. It's more different than I expected, but in a positive way. That's a good thing. But we have to try things now, because it's time. It meant we had a stop-start day.

"The feeling we had at the end - we put the front a bit closer to me - honestly I felt a lot more in the handlebars, a lot more on the track. When it gets close to 10 o'clock here it is strange.

"On a race weekend all the sessions are before. I'm in quite a positive mood. We know where we need to go. Obviously the tyre situation, it would have been nice to have had a time attack to see.

"But to be honest if I can lap in the 55s and race in the 56s we won't be far off. We just need to keep working and see where we're at. The race is completely different.

"The base setting that we've got now, we can just fine tune on the race weekend. This week we've changed a lot. Where I'm at at the minute, it was what we needed to do. I feel quite relaxed and I think I'll turn up and have a go."

Pushed on his targets for the year ahead, Lowes gave a pragmatic assessment. Final positions won't be of the biggest interest, as the Englishman insists true progress will be measured by his distance to the class' leading riders.

"The target for me is: say I'm 40 seconds off at the end of the first race and I'm ten seconds off in Valencia, that's the target. It's hard to put a position on things. At the start you don't know how everything is. I want to see a clear progression.

"Obviously there will be [tough] moments in the middle of the season but if I can be a lot, lot closer at the end then that's the goal. Obviously I want to be in the points at the first race. I can be there.

"At the moment I've not really got the confidence to push for one lap time. That'll come. But in the race you don't need that. So I think in the race we'll be a little bit stronger than what I am now in the one off pace.

"If I can start in the points, then midseason [fight for the] top ten and get a lot closer to Aleix after the first two or three races. Honestly the average pace isn't so bad now. You know he his for the one lap. For me, that's really positive.

"You know, start off in the points and work towards the top ten and then to have a win," he smiled, only half-joking. "No, the goal is to keep working and to have a bike. They're doing a good job. The bike's improving a lot and has the potential to be in the top five or six when we're ready."



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