After struggling with a lack of rear grip during his debut Repsol Honda season, which came to a painful and premature end with a huge free practice highside at Valencia, Pol Espargaro says the all-new RCV has been made faster and safer for 2022.

"Sure it's going to help me. The new bike is a little bit more based on the rear which is what I was looking for," Espargaro said.

"Definitely, with the low grip on the rear I was struggling quite a lot last year. We were having quite a lot of crashes by just not warming enough the tyre. This means that our contact on the rear was too poor.

"We, all the riders, were complaining about that during the past year and honestly speaking Honda did a very good job.

"This year, the bike is working much better in this respect and hopefully we're going to be faster but also safer, which is also important, and it's going to help me also for my riding style.

"I feel like the bike that we have now is more on the line of the other bikes.

"With a new bike, we also know we are going to improve through the year, but I really think that our starting package is something great and that from Qatar we will feel ready to fight for something great which is our target.”

Honda's RC213V isn't the only heavily revised machine, with Ducati - the manufacturer to beat by the end of last year - also upgrading large parts of its MotoGP racer.

"Ducati is trying their new bike and we don’t know fully their best. I mean some of the old Ducati bikes are super fast and some of the new spec for example did one good lap but you see them struggle [on the timesheet].

"But actually it's not that they are struggling, I think it's that the new bike needs time, as in our case. The other manufacturers that maybe have their bikes more under control are doing better times."

Espargaro was tenth fastest on the Sepang test timesheets, which saw the top eleven riders – from five different manufacturers – covered by less than 0.3s!

"There are many riders in good shape. Also Aprilia seems to be very fast. But it's still early in the pre-season, we've only done two days. But now we just have three days left," Espargaro added.

The Spaniard arrived at Repsol Honda from KTM with high expectations, but after one pole and podium in 2021 Espargaro's first target is race victory.

"Last year was a season with a lot of ups and downs but finally we could end the year doing good results," he said. "Honestly, I think Valencia could have been our best result because I was really fast and felt ready to achieve something great.

"But now I am sure this year we are set to make something great, something better than last year and hopefully we can fight for that first victory in MotoGP.”

"My target since I joined Honda is not to be in the top five, it’s to win races and try to win the World Championship. That’s why I wake up every morning and I train like I do, it’s the only thing I am thinking about every day. I am set to do it."

To achieve that goal Espargaro would need to overcome team-mate and six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez, preparing for his first title assault since 2019 after being dogged by injury for the last two years.

“[The first rider to beat] has to be your team-mate!" said Espargaro. "This is one thing that all the riders will say but it’s real and in my case, I am in the hardest place because my team-mate is one of the greatest riders in MotoGP history.

"It means my job is going to be harder than the job of the other riders, but this is also going to give me more motivation. It’s not the same as trying to beat a rider for tenth as trying to beat the number one.

"This is, as I said, a huge motivation for me and I am going to try and do it.”

Espargaro's last chance to tune his new Honda before the Qatar season-opener takes place during the Mandalika test this weekend.