BRADLEY Smith believes he is closing the gap to his teammate ahead of MotoGP’s return next month.

The 29-year-old from Forest Hill is Aprilia’s test rider, but he has a race seat while Andrea Iannone appeals a ban.

It is a step up for Smith, whose last regular racing in MotoGP came in 2018.

But 207 laps in a test at Misano have helped get him and the team back in the groove after the long coronavirus-enforced break.

And by the end of the session Smith’s fastest lap was only six-tenths of a second behind Aleix Espargaro.

Smith, who had one minor crash, said: “I’m honestly pleased at the end of these tests.

“I had to make a physical and mental step to go from tester to rider and I think I managed, especially on this last day.

“Right now, it is fundamental for us to gain experience on this new bike, gathering data and understanding how it reacts.

“On my part, I know that I still have room to improve and Aleix’s performance demonstrates as much, but the gap has shrunk and I feel much more at ease taking the 2020 RS-GP to the limit.”

Romano Albesiano, Aprilia’s technical director, said: “We assessed the various chassis, engine and electronics solutions, in addition to breaking in a team that is brand new in many aspects.

“The riders needed this test as well to get back into the rhythm after such a long stop and I must say that I saw them improving day after day.”