Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia have already been labelled as the dark horses for the 2020 MotoGP season and their pre-season testing momentum continued to build on the final day in Qatar.

The Spanish rider focused his last day of pre-season testing around a race simulation with the all-new RS-GP and duly impressed with a sequence of 13 laps all under the 1m 56.1s marker while his lap times also caught the eye as his pace increased when the fuel load lightened.

It points towards strong performance gains from the 2020 Aprilia while also being kind to its Michelin tyres over the long run. With tyre life proving pivotal to race craft in the current MotoGP era, Espargaro’s efforts and lap times at the end of testing gave evidence to his confidence with the new bike.

“These were three intense days. We did not turn a lot of laps, but we did a lot of work, also taking into account the inevitable hiccoughs that come with the youth of the RS-GP,” Espargaro said.

“Overall, we confirmed the potential that had already been seen in Malaysia on this track as well.

“Especially today in the race simulation: I was able to maintain a good pace. In fact, the feeling improved lap after lap.”

With the 2020 RS-GP still in its early development phase, as the 90-degree V4-powered bike made its track debut at the Sepang shakedown earlier this month, Espargaro is eager for his Aprilia engineers to assess its current haul of bike data to put together its optimum package for the 2020 MotoGP opening round at the Qatari track.

“Now we’ll need to do a good job analysing the data over the next ten days and make the right choices,” he said. “Putting together a package that will allow us to be competitive already in the first race weekend. Aprilia wants it, I want it and I am confident that we will succeed.”

On the other side of the Aprilia garage, Bradley Smith continued to fill-in for the suspended Andrea Iannone as the Italian awaits a decision on his FIM anti-doping case.

Smith, who will be called into action if Iannone is unable to race in two weeks time, worked on both the current package and development options to help plot the updates planned for the RS-GP. Having steered away from targeting an outright fast lap, the British rider did end the final day bottom of the times but remained content with his objectives fulfilled for Aprilia.

“We did a good job. We concentrated first on testing functionality and then on a few development ideas, not only short-term, but also to give the engineers a direction for the evolutions in the coming months,” Smith said.

“On a completely new bike, every lap is as precious as gold. The first race on the calendar is just around the corner, and we need to speed up the growth process to have a good base to start from.

“In terms of the ride, I am pleased with the progress made concerning the pace, whereas I am still lacking a bit of confidence when it comes to doing a flying lap. That is not the most important thing right now, though.”

Aprilia and the rest of the MotoGP grid will now take a break and prepare for the 2020 opener in Qatar on March 8.