Aprilia Racing manager Romano Albesiano is targeting the factory's best ever four-stroke MotoGP results with the new version of the RS-GP.

Aleix Espargaro equalled Aprilia's top four-stroke GP finish of sixth on his debut for the team a year ago in Qatar.

The Spaniard later matched that placing in Aragon - less than six-seconds from the winner- kicking off an encouraging run that saw Espargaro claim fourth on the grid in Japan and be fastest on Friday at Phillip Island… only to sustain a hand injury in the race.

But despite such flashes of form, Aprilia went on to finish sixth and last in the manufacturers' championship, having lost out to KTM at the final round. Espargaro was 15th in the world championship and Sam Lowes 25th.

The modifications made to the RS-GP for 2018 include a brand new frame, with revised weight distribution. Some big changes were also made with a new front suspension and a new carbon fibre swingarm, which will be further developed during the season. The bike also features a new airbox and exhaust, plus upgraded engine.

"The 2018 RS-GP is an in-depth optimisation and evolution of the concepts we had on the track last year," said Aprilia Racing Manager Romano Albesiano. "The frame is radically new, as is the airbox, the cooling system and the aerodynamics.

"The new project's first positive step was the popularity with the riders during the winter tests. They both noticed straight away how much the bike has grown. This reaction is never a given when you introduce such significant changes, but it makes us optimistic for this new MotoGP season."

In terms of targets, Albesiano stated: “We'll be able to tell better after the first races. We certainly expect this to be a very heated championship where you cannot make even the smallest mistake.

"I expect consistent growth from Aprilia throughout the season, as already happened in 2016 and 2017. The goal is still to battle for a position in the top five regularly.”

On where Aprilia has room to improve, Albesiano replied:

“The biggest area where there is room to grow at the moment has to do with ‘fire power’. Being a relatively small racing department, but one with extraordinary skill, we are able to cook up a lot of interesting ideas. If we had a few more elements, we would be able to create them more quickly.

"In such a tight competition, the speed with which the concepts developed in the racing department get to the track becomes fundamental. We are also working on this front to take another step forward.”

Piaggio CEO Roberto Colaninno paid tribute to what the Aprilia Racing department, rumoured to be the smallest of any MotoGP manufacturer, has achieved:

“It is an extremely particular honour to see first hand how this cutting-edge technology is born in a racing department made up of young people who are our valuable wealth of knowledge, led by highly experienced engineers.

"Our best wishes go to Albesiano and his staff today. They have the task of translating this work into results. It will be a difficult season, with very strong rivals, but Aprilia, as we saw at the end of last season, has everything it takes to succeed.”

Espargaro was 15th and new team-mate Scott Redding 22nd in terms of fastest lap time, during the final pre-season test in Qatar.

The season-opening race takes place at the Losail Circuit, next weekend, where Espargaro will aim to repeat his heroics of one year ago.


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