Aleix Espargaro’s first experience of the new Aprilia MotoGP bike left him with plenty to smile about but also a list of demands to extract better performance as he focused on the team’s new 90-degree V4 engine.

The Spanish rider had been a constructive critic of the Noale factory in recent times as his demands were not met, but the highly-anticipated debut of the 2020 RS-GP machine at the Sepang tests has already given him confidence for the season ahead.

Espargaro ended day one of the Sepang test in seventh place just 0.482s slower than the timesheet-topping lap by Fabio Quartararo on the finely-tuned 2019 Petronas Yamaha.

Describing it as a revolution of changes headlined by the 90-degree V4 engine, a step away from the narrower V angle and coming into line with Ducati and Honda, Espargaro has been most impressed by the stability and handling of the new bike.

“Definitely much better, it is difficult to compare because it is early in every single area. The best thing I will say is the turning,” Espargaro said. “When you release the front brake the bike turns a lot more and the position of the rider is also much better.

“I would say even more but apart from the turning the stability, the general stability and the smoothness of the whole bike is unbelievable. It reminds me a little bit like the Forward Yamaha I rode six years ago, and this is very good because I think it was one of the best bikes I have ever had. So, I think we are just at the beginning, but we are in a good way.

Espargaro debuted the 2020 Aprilia at the Sepang shakedown but his mileage was limited because the engineers are looking to gradually bed in the new engine specification. Despite being limited to 43 laps on day one of the Sepang test and denied the chance to complete a race simulation, he’s hopeful of pulling out better low-end torque to take the fight to his rivals.

“The new engine character is also a lot easier to ride. Super electric but we are still missing quite a lot of acceleration,” he explained. “But overall to be here on the first day I am satisfied. I think this bike has a lot more potential.

“The engine is very young. Before the first race simulation we need to do more laps together. Let’s see. Today has been very good with no problems at all. The engine has worked really good but a race simulation is very demanding.

“It is very early and we have to see. I am expecting to still push a little bit more with the engineers for the engine. I am looking for more revs and better acceleration. During the day we improved quite a lot but the bike is very young and I was not able or allowed to do long runs today.

“I was not super-fast over one single lap but even like this from one-tenth from the fast guys, but the pace has been really good with 20 laps on the tyres. I managed to ride all day in low 2m 00s so this is very, very good.”

Espargaro was joined on track by stand-in test rider Lorenzo Savadori on the opening day of the Sepang test as Andrea Iannone remains banned due to his ongoing anti-doping case.

Bradley Smith is expected to also be in action for the Noale factory but did not take to the track today, but Aprilia has already notched up considerable testing mileage at the Sepang shakedown with both its test and race riders permitted to take part under MotoGP’s Concession rules.

 

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