Fears that Aprilia's MotoGP progress could be halted by the end of the Covid technical freeze appear to be unfounded, if pre-season testing is anything to go by.

The last factory still with access to technical concessions has the luxury of making design changes in every area, barring aerodynamics, throughout the racing season.

That means there is less urgency to introduce new parts during the winter, but it was a highly-evolved RS-GP that turned up for testing at Sepang and Mandalika.

"The bike improved in almost every single part," said Aleix Espargaro, who handed the factory its long-awaited first podium with the RS-GP at Silverstone last season.

"It hasn’t been a revolution, but the evolution of every single part of the 2021 bike is clear.

"Agility, corner speed and turning are the places we improved the most. Also, the engine is a bit stronger. Aerodynamics as well.

"The bike is better, faster and wheelies less than '21. We’ve almost improved all the bike."

The combined efforts of Espargaro and team-mate Maverick Vinales kept the black 'stealth'-liveried machine inside the top three during all five days of testing.

The bike also looked highly-competitive for average pace, but Espargaro is keeping his feet on the ground until the real racing starts in Qatar on March 6.

"The problem is testing is testing. It’s completely different than racing. If you have good pace, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win the race," he said. "You have to deal with the other competitors. The temperature and pressure of the front tyre usually increases if you follow somebody."

Also of concern is that the 2022 RS-GP's impressive cornering speed could be blocked when following other riders, using a stop-and-go style.

"We’ll discover when we race, but I have the feeling our bike is a little bit better when we are alone than fighting with the others," Espargaro said.

"Our bike is better than our competitors in terms of corner speed but if you are not allowed to do the corner speed, you’re in trouble.

"Anyway, we improved a bit the engine. We could see this and that’s going to be helpful for the races I think."

After the podium and eighth in the world championship during 2021, Espargaro starts his sixth season with the team knowing they are 'closer than ever' to victory.

"Last year we achieved the first podium. But I think this year the championship is going to be the most difficult of the history in MotoGP. The level of the bikes and riders are unbelievable," he said.

"But we’re closer than ever, even if [winning is] a very difficult target. I will try."

"The thing that would make me satisfied would be to improve on the championship of last year," he added. "So, if this year we’re able to be close or even score more than 200 points and stay inside the top six in the championship, that would be realistic.

"You cannot finish eighth and the next year win [the title]. This is difficult. This is what I want, but difficult… We’re doing good. The new bike works good since the first laps in Malaysia that Lorenzo [Savadori] did. Overall, we are happy."

Espargaro was third fastest (+0.325s) on Sunday's final day of pre-season testing at Mandalika, with Vinales in seventh (+0.418s).