Aleix Espargaro says his 2020 Aprilia RS-GP MotoGP bike reminds him of the Open class Forward Yamaha he rode to a podium in 2014 owing to its "unbelievable" smoothness.
Aprilia enters 2020 with a completely overhauled machine, which Espargaro has spent the past week testing for the first time at Sepang at the shakedown and at the official test on Friday.
Espargaro ended Friday's running just over four tenths off the pace in seventh, and enthused about the bike's improvements over its predecessor - though he admitted the RS-GP's new 90-degree V4 engine is still missing acceleration relative to rival bikes.
"Definitely much better," he said when asked by Autosport to compare the 2020 and 2019 RS-GPs.
"It's difficult to compare because it's very new in every single area. The best thing I will say is the turning; when you release the front brake the bike turns a bit more.
"The position of the rider is also much better. The new engine's character is a lot easier to ride - it's super electric.
"We're still missing a lot of acceleration, but overall I'm satisfied. I think this bike has a lot more potential.
"But apart from the turning, I would say the general stability and the smoothness of the whole bike is unbelievable.
"It reminds me a little bit of the Forward Yamaha I rode five years ago, and this is very good because I think it was one of the best bikes I ever had.
"So we are in just the beginning, but we are [heading] in the good way."
Espargaro managed to score pole position in tricky conditions in 2014 at Assen on the Forward Yamaha, and claimed the only podium for an Open class rider at Aragon later in the season.
KTM "much, much better than last year"
Espargaro's brother Pol shadowed him on the Friday timesheets in eighth, as he too completed his fourth day on the 2020-spec KTM having taken part in the shakedown.
Having previously struggled at Sepang on the RC16, the younger Espargaro - who first tried KTM's new bike back in November - was buoyed by KTM's gains, but conceded "20%" of the bike needs changes ahead of next month's Qatar season opener.
"We [KTM] are not ones who use a completely brand new bike [each year]," he said.
"We prefer to slowly go with new parts and putting everything together.
"I think it's the safest way to improve the package. We have done quite well, our pace is actually close to last year's fastest lap here. So we are much, much better than last year.
"It feels good. I think we are more competitive here than ever in Malaysia, where we struggled.
"Engine is better, chassis is better. We need to try some swingarms that we bring here that we have still had no time to test.
"All the bike has changed quite a bit, and I think we have some margin still.
"20% of the bike still needs to change before the first race."
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