Aprilia are one of the most successful manufacturers ever, so why can’t they get a MotoGP podium?
Aprilia hold 25 x 125cc and 25cc titles with riders such as Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi being included in the Aprilia ranks over the years, it is clear to see that Aprilia know how to win titles, so why can’t they perform in MotoGP?
Aprilia joined the premier MotoGP class in 2015, so far, their best result has been 6th place with Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone. Aside from this, they normally sit around 10th place, despite having 5 seasons in MotoGP. This, compared to KTM, who have had one less MotoGP season, is not the greatest record given KTM’s two MotoGP class race wins.
The Italian manufacturer race under the Gresini Racing banner with Aleix Espargaro and Bradley Smith for 2020 whilst their contracted rider, Andrea Iannone, has been banned from racing following a banned substance was found in his system. The team have gone through a flurry of riders in 5 seasons, they have had Alvaro Bautista, Marco Melandri, Stefan Bradl, Sam Lowes, Scott Redding all race for the team as contracted riders before leaving/terminating their contract.
Aside from Aleix Espargaro who is signed for the team until 2022, the team have struggled to maintain riders for more than one calendar year, the only other rider to finish two consecutive seasons with the manufacturer is Alvaro Bautista. Therefore the team have struggled to stay consistent, they cannot compare data from over two seasons in race situations with both riders, leaving Aleix Espargaro to do most of the work.
Rider Bradley Smith who is replacing Iannone, raced in a few wildcard races in 2019, however, is coming into the team this season as a replacement rider, therefore will only have race data from a select number of tracks, this is severely hindering development.
Losing Andrea Iannone was a huge blow for the manufacturer from Faenza, at Phillip Island in 2019, we saw Iannone lead the MotoGP race on the Aprilia, the first time an Aprilia has done so, giving the team valuable information, yet once again, this data cannot be used to its full capacity as the rider who gave the team the data is banned.
The manufacturer seems to hit setback after setback, season after season, however, after a long winter, Aprilia unveiled the 2020 RS-GP, a bike which has been completely changed in every way, following the Sepang Test in the pre-season Aleix Espargaro said, “The 2020 RS-GP has improved in every aspect. It is a step forward that, quite frankly, almost surprised me. There are clearly many areas where we need to work, but they are problems due to how young the project is and not real deficiencies.”
Aprilia debuted a bike for 2020 with a new seamless gearbox and a double rail frame in aluminium, the same material used for the swingarm, Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola commented on the bike at the start of the season saying, “We will most likely have a complicated early part of the season with a bike that is very much still wet behind the ears, but I am certain that from mid-season, we will be able to see the true value of the hard work done in Noale.”
So far this season the Aprilia have struggled a little, refining the bike as they go with the help of back-to-back races, Aleix Espargaro has scored the teams best finish of the season with 10th place at Brno. It remains to be seen if Aprilia can arrive at the front in MotoGP.
Aprilia has been linked with Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso for 2021, both top riders who know how to win races and world championships, either rider would be a great bet for Aprilia to really take it to the next level. If anyone can do it, Crutchlow/Dovizioso can.
So the question remains, will Aprilia ever get a MotoGP podium? It is clear to see that the work and graft is there, but what are they missing?
Featured image – www.motogp2020.aprilia.com