Pol Espargaro says after trying more KTM test pieces than the rest of the MotoGP grid at last week’s Qatar pre-season test he accepts making clear and sizable performance gains will be tricky to gauge but is eager to see the results of the intensive winter programme at the opening race of 2019.

The Red Bull KTM rider has been a key part of the extensive testing schedule given his experience on the RC16 compared to new team-mate Johann Zarco, adjusting to life after two years on the Tech3 Yamaha, and new test rider Dani Pedrosa who was sidelined after needing stem cell surgery in late January.

Espargaro feels gains KTM has made on controlling and turning with its MotoGP challenger are noticeable, with hints of its progress as he broke into the top 10 on the final day of the Qatar test two weeks ago, but concedes its full progress can’t be verified until it returns to racing action this weekend.

“Nobody in this paddock tried as many things as we did in this test. We had many more pieces with a lot less information so our evolution is harder,” Espargaro explained. “It doesn’t matter how good the rider is – at this high level of MotoGP – if you don't have a fast bike then there is not much the rider can do. I think it is a pack. Obviously I improve ever year and I make sure I try to, and the same can be said for the bike: so it is a pack.

“About the position we don’t know because last year as we had some situations where we were very close with the times but far away with the position.

“We haven’t put into our minds to be sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth: our target is to be close on lap times. If we are close at the end of the race and by that I mean less than fifteen seconds, this will be important for us because it means less than a second a lap.”

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MotoGP rookie Miguel Oliveira, who joins the new-look Red Bull KTM Tech3 squad, has echoed Espargaro’s comments and feels while he’s adjusting to the premier class he hasn’t been able to show his full potential in testing as he has not had the optimum setup due to its planned programme.

“I think testing in general has been going pretty good. Sometimes the performance has not been what we wish, because we need to filter a lot of stuff we were testing, and sometimes, when you have a new tyre, you don't have the best combination of bike,” Oliveira said. “Obviously, the overall performance, I think it's a little bit better. Our reality is not the one we are showing at the moment.

“At Qatar, there was quite a big gap from Pol to us, so it means that the bike is capable of being fast, at least for a lap, so this is what we need to do.

“But in general, I feel quite good, the bike is helping me to go even faster each time. But it's not the easiest.”

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