Scott Redding starts his first season as a factory MotoGP rider, with Aprilia, aiming to put the RS-GP into the top six.

That would be better than he achieved in his final season at Pramac Ducati, but with team-mate Aleix Espargaro managing sixth for the team last season, Redding is confident the new and improved version of the RS-GP is up to the task.

“The 2018 bike definitely has great potential. We did some comparative tests with the old model both in Sepang and in Thailand, confirming the growth of the new bike with respect to the old," he said.

Nonetheless, it hasn't been a seamless transition for Redding, who needed to go his own way on set-up.

"We initially used the 2017 settings on the new bike, but it didn't work for me, unlike for Aleix. He has a lot more experience with the Aprilia, whereas I, partly because of my physical build, have rather a different riding style," Redding explained.

"So we started to experiment, even making some gambles, because in this first phase it is important for me to explore all the directions in order to find the right line of development."

Espargaro finished pre-season testing just 15th on the timesheets in Qatar, with Redding in 22nd. But with the Aprilia renowned for saving its rear tyre, both expect to be much higher up by the end of the 22-lap grand prix.

“I want to take the RS-GP to the top six. Last year, Aleix showed that this is a result within our reach and I believe that the new bike has even greater potential."

The tamer handling of the Aprilia compared to Redding's previous Ducati has also allowed the tall Englishman to shed weight over the winter.

“Physically, I have lost quite a bit of weight. It wasn't easy because I really needed to get rid of muscle, not fat. The fact that I immediately found the RS-GP to be less demanding than I was accustomed to helped me. It requires less energy to ride.

"I also worked with my technical material suppliers to lighten the helmet and leathers as much as possible, since every kilogram less means shaving off tenths on the track. I am pleased with the results achieved. I have prepared for this championship in the best possible way.”

The season-opening Qatar MotoGP takes place next weekend.

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