Aleix Espargaro set a blistering pace on day-one of the Sepang MotoGP test as he finished just over tenth slower than the all-time unofficial lap record.

Espargaro set a 1:58.371s on just his ninth lap of 42, which is +0.132s off Danilo Petrucci’s 1:58.239s that was produced in 2019 - the same year as the official lap record (Fabio Quartararo) and best race lap (Valentino Rossi) was set.

Untroubled for much of the day, Espargaro then saw his time come close to being beaten during the final hour as team-mate Maverick Vinales went within +0.013s of Espargaro’s time. 

While it’s only subtle changes that have been applied to the 2022 RS-GP bike as opposed to a ‘revolution’ that took place following 2020, Espargaro is already feeling better with the current bike despite securing his best ever MotoGP season in 2021.

Talking after the opening day, Espargaro added: "It hasn’t been a revolution. Last year the bike was a big step compared to 2020 bike. Last year the championship was quite solid. We finished 8th with more than 120 points. No revolution needed. Just to keep growing, keep getting closer to the leaders. 

"This is what we did with the ‘22 bike. I feel better with the bike. I like it a lot more than the 21. It’s not just how good I feel. It’s also how good the bike is in comparison with our rivals. 

"This is always the key. We are not racing alone. Doesn’t matter if we improve 1s. if the rest improve 1.2s then the bike is 0.2s slower. 

"You always have to be careful. We need to do a lot of miles before Qatar. I’m positive and I think we did a good job over the winter."

One change that has been fairly noticeable is the thinner frame on this year’s bike, an area of change that has produced better turning according to Espargaro.  

"We did a good step in this," said the Spanish rider. "This was the plan when I was talking with Romano [Albesiano] at the end of the season. 

"It’s not easy to put the electronics and the engine and all the stuff in the centre of the bike. Such a big number as we did. 

"When I went to Noale 3 weeks ago for the photo-shooting I jumped on the bike and thought, ‘Wow, it’s like a Moto2’. 

"The difference is huge in last year’s bike in this area. From lap one it helps a lot to throw the bike into the corner. The strongest thing about the bike is the turning. We are missing some things with the chattering. But the turning is really an improvement and it’s due to this."