Not even visiting a personal favourite that suited his bike in the past is a guarantee of a positive weekend, according to Aleix Espargaro, who will have a new Aprilia RS-GP at his disposal for the MotoGP outing at Phillip Island.

Aprilia engineers have worked frantically in the past weeks to assemble a machine to their lead rider’s liking. Espargaro will have the re-vamped bike, which contains parts from his ’17 machine, and new components, available for the first time in Friday’s FP1 session.

The aim is to eradicate Aprilia’s rear traction issues that have plagued riders Espargaro and Scott Redding through a difficult year. “[We’re] Looking for more rear grip and less spinning,” said the Catalan, who retired from last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

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“It's a track that I like, but I also like Japan, and that was a very difficult weekend, so…,” began Espargaro. “In the last years, I was very competitive here, I crashed with Forward fighting for the podium, with Suzuki fighting for the podium, and with Aprilia, in the first group.

“So we've been competitive, but we need more consistency, and last year I was strong all weekend, and I felt quite competitive, close to the top guys. So I hope we can repeat it this year.

“At this track, we spin quite a lot, and this year, our biggest problem has been the lack of grip, always spinning a lot, so we will see during the race this year. It's quite cold, so I hope that it will not be a big problem.

“We have a quite different bike that just arrived here from Italy, looking for more rear grip and less spinning, because this year we have a lack of grip, so we'll see how the bike works.”

So how does the new bike differ to what he rode in Japan? “[There is a] Big difference,” he said. “Also the electronics, the chassis, the fairing. It's like a hybrid bike, some parts from last season's bike, some new parts.

“Also we’re trying to change the geometry, the weight especially, trying to put more weight in the rear to improve the rear grip because this is the biggest problem. Trying to transfer a lot more, because we are not transfering as I would like. It's a big difference. I hope it works, so we will see tomorrow morning.”

Espargaro has often complained the ’18 RS-GP has lost the positive characteristics of its predecessor, a machine he took to seven top ten finishes in 2017. Is it therefore a relief to have components from the ’17 bike available?

“In some parts, yes. Some parts of the 17 bike. We're trying to make a mix of bikes, and I was asking for this to come before, but it has not been easy to assemble a bike like this and make it happen. The plan was to ride for all three flyaway races, but finally it arrived at the middle one here.”

Phillip Island is one of the jewels on the MotoGP calendar. Asked to comment on what makes the high-speed layout so special, Espargaro explained, “You never stop the bike. A very, very fast track.

“Normally you have a hard brake and hard acceleration at every track of the calendar, not here, it's always very smooth, a let's say, consecutive corner track, there is no space between the corners, so this makes the track very different.

“Obviously the weather is really strange here, very cold, not easy to warm the tires. I would say that it's one of the more, close to being dangerous tracks that we have on the calendar, but I don't know why this makes the track enjoyable, and I think almost all riders like this layout.”



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