Aleix Espargaro is hoping he and Aprilia can iron out last year's mistakes and make the most of a 'lighter, more reactive' RS-GP to climb ten places in this year's MotoGP championship standings.

The Spaniard made a memorable start to his Aprilia career by matching the factory's best four-stroke result with sixth place on his debut in Qatar.

While he repeated that feat later in the year at Aragon, Espargaro also failed to finish seven races and missed two others with a hand injury at Phillip Island.

That meant he could only manage 15th in the final standings, with Aprilia sixth and last of the manufacturers.

“Looking back at last season, we demonstrated a high level of performance, taking the RS-GP to important results but at the same time we made a few mistakes that penalised us in the end in terms of points," Espargaro confirmed.

"Looking at 2018, I think we will be able to be close to the top consistently.

"The 2018 RS-GP proved to be better than the previous model straight away. It is lighter and more reactive. The guys at Aprilia moved in the direction I had hoped.

“From the first time I swung a leg over the RS-GP, in the 2016 Valencia tests, I found an extremely stable bike in braking. This is a characteristic that has been improved even further with the 2018 model, which is even better going into and through corners.

"We still have room for improvement, especially in acceleration from low speeds, and that is where we are focusing our work.”

Espargaro finished pre-season testing just 15th on the timesheets in Qatar, with new team-mate Scott Redding down in 22nd.

"In Doha we have been struggling a bit to take full advantage of the new tyre for a fast lap, but we were competitive in terms of pace," he explained. "I believe in our potential and I am confident that we will be battling for the top 8 straight away."

The MotoGP podium finisher added: "2018 will be a fundamental season for us. A sort of baccalaureate. We know that we can be competitive and we also know where we need to improve. If we are able to be consistent and focused race after race, we'll be able to bring home some nice satisfaction.

"A goal? To stay in the top 5-6 of the championship. Given the incredible level of our rivals, it will be difficult, but we can do it.”



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