Aprilia have revealed their 2021 MotoGP challenger in Qatar ahead of the shakedown tests, and it is a big evolution of their 2020 machine.
Aprilia promised changes on their latest RS-GP, after their 2020 model was a revolution for them. In 2020, they changed basically everything on the bike after falling behind their rivals and it looked extremely promising when they revealed it on track, even getting a top speed of 217mph out of their new V4 which changed from a 75-degree angle to 90 degrees which was in line with the other V4 engined bikes. This change meant more power, but sadly also meant more fragility the bike which meant it was regularly tuned down to avoid the engines failing. This fragility was evident from the off at their reveal day at Sepang, making waves with the radical redesign but an exhaust failure after only 20 laps curtailed the day for Aleix Espargaro, this theme would sadly continue throughout 2020.
So onto 2021, and we saw the changes that would be evident at a private test for the tail end of 2020, when we got our first look at the new exhaust system. This big change would be a precursor of what we would see revealed on the Qatari track, and we will start from the front to the back.
The first change is immediately obvious, with the already massive front wing gaining even more width and angle, as seen below. The aero joins onto the body at a completely different angle, while the bend of the wing is also hugely changed. This is due to the front end being dramatically lower than 2020’s, which is probably an attempt to make the downforce actually usable, as although it existed on the 2020 bike it created massive amounts of drag that did not help the top speed, despite it posting big numbers. The wing curves a lot lower down towards the fork aero, which will help it to pass the air down the side of the bike more efficiently, all in an effort to reduce the aforementioned drag. The air ram is also increased in size, to help with power. The front fairing itself is also slightly more acute, again no doubt in order to prevent drag.
The changes between the Aprilia aero in 2020 (left) and 2021 (right).
FRAME AND ENGINE
There is a change to the frame too, with bracing in different places as they look to make the sweet handling machine even better. It is not a huge change, but it is noticeable on the bike as it is clearly of a differing thickness to the 2020 machine. The tank is also re-shaped, with it looking to be more ergonomic for the riders to allow them more comfort. It also appears they have reduced the wheelbase of the bike slightly, this is probably in an effort to aid turning. The engine is where the real headlines lie as they have an almost completely new engine design, this is thanks to former Ferrari F1 man Luca Marmorini helping to re-develop the entire lump with significant weight savings over the 2020 spec as well as increasing power throughout the torque curve, including a big gain at the top end.
The exhaust is also brand new with the design looking similar to Ducati’s powerhouse V4 exhaust. The dual exhaust would suggest they are using valves to control the power delivery which was a point that needed addressing on the 2020 bike. The slash-cut exhaust suggests they want the power that is being developed but more smoothness on the throttle. They are hoping this translates to more rideability overall when combined with the new aero and the further changes to the rear.
The chassis and exhaust changes are clearly visible from 2020 (top) to 2021’s (bottom) iteration.
The rear of the bike is evidently a lot thinner with the seat unit being much much narrower and a salad box making an appearance, probably housing a mass damper. Their swingarm is now carbon fibre with a snowplough scoop also debuting. The swingarm profile itself is a lot thinner than the previous aluminium one with the now normal underslung design looking to aid traction. The exhaust exits to the side of the salad box, which has massively increased in size, hinting it is concealing something. The whole of the seat unit is massively changed which when combined with the tank creates a more comfortable machine as well as moving the weight more rearwards as 2020’s bike was a little front end heavy. As you can see below, there was an aluminium swingarm that was mounted much further up the frame, hinting the bike is lower overall than it’s predecessor.
The changes to the exhaust and salad box are evident here.
So what does all this mean? For Aprilia, they had a much closer base than in previous years and they will be hoping the 2021 bike is the evolution to take them to the front. They have clearly put in a lot of effort over winter to take advantage of their much-changed base, and the Qatar test will be the acid test instantly. If their changes turn out as they have hoped, they could well be competing at the top end of MotoGP. But 2020 also looked promising and even with concessions, they were unable to drag themselves to the top. They will be hoping this is not another false dawn in Noale, and they have made 2021 a lot more interesting already.
Featured images – Aprilia Media