Achieving Aprilia's best result since it returned to MotoGP in his team debut in the Qatar Grand Prix felt "like a dream" to Aleix Espargaro.
Sixth for the ex-Suzuki rider at Losail beat the seventh places last season that had been the current Gresini-run Aprilia project's high point to date.
Espargaro was battling the factory Hondas of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa at the end - splitting them to run fifth for a while - and reckoned a podium finish was possible had he qualified higher than 15th.
"We almost beat Marc and Dani, so for Aprilia to fight with two factory Hondas in the first race of the year is like a dream," said Espargaro.
"I knew that we would struggle in qualifying because I am not able to push on a single lap. But regarding the pace I'm very happy.
"During the winter I could show that when the tyre drops the Aprilia is great. The traction of the bike when the tyre drops is very good.
"We need to keep working and to improve because it's very difficult starting from 15th on the grid to fight for top five.
"I think if we had started in the top 10 we could have fought for the podium."
Despite the result, Espargaro admitted it would be unrealistic to expect Aprilia to challenge for the top six in every race. But he believes a regular top-10 presence is achievable.
"It's not going to be easy to fight in the top six, and fight with Honda in every single race - it would be stupid from my side to say this," he added.
"But overall I think the Aprilia has improved a lot.
"I still need to understand the bike a lot more, but the bike is competitive.
"The objective is not to fight for the top six, it's to fight for the top 10."