For Aleix Espargaro, Sunday was a realisation that, no matter how valiant his efforts, no matter how much he risked, the Aprilia RS-GP is lagging some way behind its MotoGP competitors in its current guise, after the Catalan was continually outgunned in Thailand.

The 28-year old could place no higher than 14th on the combined timesheets, 0.92s back of pace setter Dani Pedrosa, after three days of testing at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, a feat that required maximum effort on his part.

After failing to trouble to top ten on days one and two, Espargaro-the-elder claimed Sunday “was one of the days that I put in more effort in my time with Aprilia,” when he repeatedly pushed his current package to its limits on track, while attempting to find a solution for a notable acceleration deficit off it.

Espargaro and team-mate Scott Redding had one 2018 RS-GP apiece in Thailand, but due to delays, both machines were fitted with ’17-spec engines. Aprilia technical chief Romano Albesiano confirmed to that Aprilia’s latest motor will not be ready until the first GP of the year in mid-March.

As a result, the accelerating capabilities of Espargaro’s machine were no match for the strongest in the field through the 2.8-mile track’s unimaginative opening two sectors, which features three considerable straights, punctuated by slow, low-gear bends.

“‘Positive feeling’ is not maybe the right word,” began Espargaro, reflecting on the test as a whole. “We improved a little bit on the last day but we struggled. Sincerely I was struggling a lot at this track. We know perfectly where we have to improve. We know it’s a matter of power – one of the big issues at this track.

“Also there is a type of corner – stop and go – which is not suiting the RS-GP perfectly but today was one of the days that I put in more effort in my time with Aprilia. I pushed a lot and worked very hard during the day, but we’re still far, far from the top guys.

“I tried everything and risked a lot like Saturday qualifying, and we could not go or finish where I was aiming. Anyway, [we have to] keep going and we hope to receive something in Qatar that will be new.”

Not that he was overly worried. Espargaro reiterated his full confidence in the Noale factory, stating its engineers are fully aware of what is needed to bring the RS-GP toward the top six, where its rider intends to finish more often than not this year.

“I have a full confidence in Aprilia. It’s just February in 2018 so we have plenty of time. Obviously, as soon as we can receive some upgrades, it will be much better. The engineers are working hard.

“They know perfectly what I need to be closer to the top guys. It’s not just us that are struggling. All brands have some problems. We know our ones and again I have full confidence in Aprilia and we hope that by the Qatar race the bike will be more ready.”

And the problems were mainly in acceleration, rather than top speed, he confirmed. “The reality is that top speed in fifth and sixth [gears] and aerodynamically our bike is not bad,” he said. “I’m quite tall but the top speed is quite good. Our winglets are the smallest ones of the grid, which doesn’t help in the wheelie, but it helps with the top speed.

“The top speed is not a problem for me but the acceleration from first to third we are losing quite a lot. We tried many things on the electronics and many things over these three days, but it is not enough. It is a matter of pure torque so I hope we can improve.”


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