Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro says his squad’s 2019 bike is “definitely much better” than its predecessor and is encouraged by the early signs ahead of the 2019 MotoGP season. 

The Italian squad has made significant changes after finishing bottom of the manufacturers’ standings for a third successive year in 2018, bringing in ex-Ferrari man Massimo Rivola to spearhead its MotoGP operation, while Andrea Iannone has replaced Scott Redding in its line-up and Aprilia has bolstered its test team with the signing of Bradley Smith

Espargaro - who topped last week’s Sepang shakedown - set the 13th-fastest time on the opening day of pre-season testing at Sepang and ended up 0.981s off the leading pace of reigning champion Marc Marquez.

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“Definitely [it is] better than the ’18, much better,” said Espargaro when asked for his first impressions of Aprilia’s new RS-GP. 

“There was a mistake on the ’18, we were completely off with the design of the bike. 

“The ’19 bike, let’s say, is more in the direction or quite similar to the ’17, a bike that I liked a lot from the first moment I jumped on at Valencia two years ago. 

“But that is two years - we have to improve still a lot and we have room to improve. We have to improve in many areas.” 

Espargaro admitted last year’s design forced him to change his riding position and he insists he is much happier with the improvements made to Aprilia’s new challenger. 

“I just feel at least that I can ride the bike and I can be aggressive on the brakes,” the Spaniard explained. 

“The position and everything suits me more. Last season all the time I was not feeling the bike. It was feeling very bad.

“Last year I tried to change many things, including my position but nothing worked. Here since I arrived I tried two seats, I try the handlebars and I feel good. 

“I start to touch with both elbows and I didn’t all last season. The position is more close to the ground. In terms of the position the bike is really better.” 

While Espargaro says he is now “feeling really good” on the bike, he admits his new Aprilia is still lacking in a straight line and suffering from sliding through corners. 

“This bike is very good but we need a lot more power and to improve also a lot the electronics, the second part of the corner we still have a lot of sliding,” he added. 

“The ’19 bike is super good in the first part of the corner but in the second part we lose a lot. In a track like this with the straights, nothing more I can do.

“I think humanly and technically I have one of the best teams that I have had in MotoGP, I feel really good with them but the bike we have is the bike we have. We try to maximum but we cannot do miracles.”

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