Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia used a one-day test at Valencia to work on a suitable development direction to carry the RS-GP toward consistent top six places in 2018, with the bike’s engine and weight distribution particular points of interest.

Less than a fortnight on from a disappointing crash out of the Grand Prix of Misano, Espargaro described this season as “a big frustration”, one during which he and the Noale factory have failed to take advantage of positions of promise.

But with a post-race test on the Adriatic coast ruined by rain, Aprilia’s riders went to Valencia earlier this week, where Espargaro tested “really big changes” that were orientated around extracting more from his late-braking riding style.

Both the Catalan and team-mate Sam Lowes have found it difficult to lap quickly with a full tank of fuel, the pair regularly noting the RS-GP’s ability to maintain a solid pace throughout a race. Addressing this was also in the focus of Aprilia engineers at Valencia on Monday.

These changes were very much with 2018 in mind, a year Espargaro described as “is crucial for Aprilia and myself,” although the Catalan indicated some may filter through to him come the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.

“The Monday test at Misano had no real meaning because it was very wet so we worked on some engine maps in the wet to try and improve performance,” explained Espargaro. “The Valencia test this week was very good though and we worked on some things to try and move in the direction of the 2018 bike that would suit my riding style more.

“The engineers prepared many new parts and it felt strange because of the bikes geometry, weight distribution and other things for the 2018 bike. I was very happy after the test because it will be in the direction of my riding style. We have ideas to put the weight in different places on the bike.

“[They were] Really big changes because at the moment we are at the limit of the possibilities of frame. We work in this direction and at the beginning the bike was super different for me. The start of the test was very difficult, I even had a big crash on the morning, but in the afternoon I felt a lot better.

“It was very interesting and I'm happy because they are really listening to my feeling and I think it’s important that the bike goes in the direction that I need. This is what it looks like.

“The engineers have said that they have been able to see a big improvement from the engine but also reliability is very important because it has been a problem this year. For the chassis, it is not that bad. I just need a little more turning off the brakes, and especially the weight distribution at the beginning of the race.

“With the full tank I suffer and they work in this direction. I feel strong with this bike in 2017 and even though the results haven't been impressive I feel that for next year I can be in the top six. This is why we’re working.

“It’s not really about the chassis. it’s more about the weight. When I release the front brake we don’t really like how the weight is in the bike. We are working on this. It’s not easy. We work on the weight of the bike and the rear position. Many, many things. We work on a full tank, to change the centre of gravity on the bike.”

On whether these changes could be introduced before the end of this season, Espargaro stated, “Difficult. They would really like this, more than me. Sincerely I think we have plenty of time in the winter. But they are really anxious to improve which is good. Maybe if we are able we will try on the last race of the Asian trip. But this is nothing.”

And what of this year’s season, a year which sees him sit 14th in the world championship standings with just 43 points to his name? Does the elder Espargaro view it with frustration?

“Yeah, a lot,” came the reply. “A big frustration. They know I’m really angry about it but I made some mistakes. There were a lot of rain races in which I wasn’t very competitive. Then we broke the engine in three races when I was in sixth place in two of these and in Barcelona I was fifth. In Argentina I was sixth and I crashed.

“We lose many, many points and in a championship, if you want to be in a good position, you cannot lose that many points. I really, really believe we are a lot stronger than many riders in the championship. But there is no meaning if you don’t finish the races. We have to try to be very fast in the next races and prepare for next year, because next year is crucial for Aprilia and myself.”


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