Aprilia finished sixth and last in the 2017 MotoGP constructors' championship, after losing out to new manufacturer KTM by just five points.

But with four rounds remaining in the 2018 season, the Italian factory has closed to within three points of KTM - outscoring the injury-hit Austrians at the last three events, including a sixth place by Aleix Espargaro in Aragon.

This weekend's Motegi round is another favourite of Aprilia's Espargaro, who qualified fourth and finished in seventh in last year's wet Japanese event.

"I love everything about Japan: the country, the fans, the food and the Motegi track too," Espargaro said. "I have always been competitive on this track. It is a layout where the braking sections count for a lot and both the RS-GP and I are strong in braking."

Team-mate Scott Redding - sporting a new haircut and tattoo following the Buriram round - will be seeking his first points since the summer break.

"I want to start here at Motegi with the same feeling I had in the Thailand race. We will find different conditions - lower temperatures - and that should give us a hand," said the 2019 BSB rider.

"Given the results of the last race, the goal is to start a few positions further forward in order to be able to battle in the points more easily."


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