Aprilia racing manager Romano Albesiano believes the fact his MotoGP outfit has been ahead of rival manufacturer KTM for most of this season is "almost an anomaly".
In the third season of its MotoGP comeback, Aprilia has experienced mixed fortunes, equalling its best premier class result in Qatar but losing other strong finishes to myriad reliability problems, most notably with its engine.
Such issues have restricted the Italian marque to fifth in the manufacturers' standings, only five points ahead of 2017 newcomer KTM with five rounds remaining of the season.
Speaking to Motorsport.com this month, lead Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro urged his team to "give everything" to bolster its position in 2018 or consider quitting MotoGP, in the light of the level of investment KTM is pumping into its own project.
But Albesiano said he was relaxed about the Austrian manufacturer's rapid progress this season when Espargaro's comments were put to him.
He highlighted the fact that KTM's RC16 first hit the track at the end of 2015 prior to making its eventual race debut in last year's Valencia race - several months before an entirely redesigned Aprilia RS-GP made its debut in early 2016.
"The fact that we are getting closer to Honda, Yamaha and Ducati is extremely positive if we consider that this project is still young," Albesiano told Motorsport.com.
"It’s true that KTM is also becoming stronger, but we must not forget that it’s not a younger project than ours. Indeed, their bike was on track before ours, because they went for a different strategy to us, preferring to do a year of testing. The fact that they are normally behind us is almost an anomaly.
"About giving everything, Aleix is right. We understood [this year] that we can be very competitive, because we have already arrived at a level where we can dream of achieving great things.
"We must face next season with higher ambitions than we started this year with."
Asked what areas of the RS-GP need to be improved, Albesiano highlighted several weak points, but added that the Noale firm must aim to improve "more or less everywhere" for 2018.
"We need to improve the power delivery at low speeds, because the RS-GP is still a bit unresponsive," he added. "At high speed, however, the bike goes well, that's what both the riders and the data say.
"Then there is a phase in the middle of the corner, when the rider is not using any throttle or brake, where the bike needs more turning ability. There are also some cases of chattering, but nothing serious.
"We say there is no critical point in particular [that needs improving], we need to make a step more or less everywhere."
Pramac Ducati rider Scott Redding will replace Sam Lowes alongside Espargaro for 2018, with rookie Lowes' two-year deal being terminated early amid a disappointing run of results.
Albesiano believes that Redding will be able to provide useful technical input with his experience of Ducati and Honda in past seasons, in the same way that Espargaro brought two years of Suzuki knowledge to Aprilia at the start of this season.
"Unfortunately we have been unable to get results with both riders this year, but in 2018 we will have a more balanced line-up with greater potential," commented Albesiano.
"When you take on a new rider, it helps if they can give you feedback on rival bikes, especially more competitive ones. Aleix last year helped us better understand the characteristics of other bikes."
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