Andrea Iannone says sticking to his working process with Aprilia is beginning to pay off as the Italian rider climbed up the order into the top six on Friday practice at Assen.

Having struggled to adapt to the Aprilia RS-GP since switching from Suzuki over the winter, Iannone caught the eye with some impressive laps on Friday practice ahead of the Dutch MotoGP.

After narrowly missing out on the top 10 in FP1 in 11th place, Iannone moved up to sixth place after setting his fastest lap time with the aid of a tow from following Marc Marquez to produce a 1m 33.355s.

While Iannone did suffer a late FP2 crash at Turn 9, the former MotoGP race-winner remains optimistic of pulling off a breakthrough race weekend at Assen with Aprilia.

“This was undoubtedly a positive day. I was able to find a good feeling straight away. It is an important result for me, for the team and for Aprilia,” Iannone said. “We did not change our approach, but we are continuing to work step by step.

“There is still margin for improvement. I am very fast in some sectors, whereas in acceleration from low speeds, we are still losing a few tenths.

“The crash at the end of the session kept us from improving further. With the soft rear tyre, the bike loses a bit of the good balance that we had with the hard. In any case, it is a nice way to start this weekend.”

But on the other side of the Aprilia garage, Aleix Espargaro has conceded his knee injury is holding him back from similar progress as he ended the day down in 19th place and a full second slower than Iannone. Espargaro picked up the injury after crashing with Aprilia test rider Bradley Smith during the last round in Barcelona which saw the British rider slapped with a post-race penalty for causing the collision.

“To be honest, I had hoped to feel a bit better,” Espargaro said. “Instead, in the high-speed direction changes where you have to use your body, I am struggling.

“My knee is in pain and I am unable to apply the right force. The crash in FP1 was also due to this. On a left-hander I was unable to lean as much as I should have, and I lost the front end.

“Tomorrow, things should improve. The first day is always the one where you struggle the most. Now I need to rest and try to recover.”

 

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