Aprilia Back In MotoGP!

Italian factory preparing for grand return to motorcycle racing’s top class.

Aleix Espargaro race action shot

Piaggio CEO Roberto Colaninno has announced that Aprilia will return to MotoGP in 2015 with a four-year plan that will give the Noale specialist the time to fully develop what it expects will be a fully competitive motorcycle.

Now the obvious question: What will happen to Aprilia’s commitment in World Superbike? At this moment, the most realistic perspectives are for either strong factory support of a top team, or, in case no real top team should come forth, quit SBK, since the option of keeping the factory team is regarded as marginal.

Aprilia is not particularly pleased with the evolution of SBK rules for next year since it limits the technical advantages that the RSV4 had over the competition, especially those coming from the cassette-type gearbox and proprietary electronics, which are way ahead of anything fielded by the competition. At this stage, investing in MotoGP the vast experience gathered in SBK appears to be the most rational way not to waste a real wealth in top technologies.

Aprilia has, of course, already set foot in MotoGP, albeit through the back door. The RSV4-based CRT racers entrusted to Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro proved their remarkable potential, having dominating the secondary category in 2012 and ’13. New “Open” rules killed a lot of that potential, and in 2014, only lonely Danilo Petrucci made the grid and with poor results, mainly because of the incompatibility of the Marelli ECU with the rest of the original electronics.

Randy de Puniet headshot

Putting everything together, Piaggio management came to the conclusion that going to MotoGP all the way was the most promising solution in terms of return on the racing investment. Aprilia is already working on the 2015 racer, which will be a transition bike, based on last year's CRT with evolved and much lighter rolling gear and an evolution engine featuring the right electronics, pneumatic valves, and cylinders enlarged to the limit 81mm bore.

The new bike will come in 2016 and receive a real GP engine, much more compact and lighter, though it should keep the present 65-degree V-4 configuration. Aprilia will entrust its machines to Gresini Racing, one of the top "satellite" teams, now fielding a factory Honda. Gresini will have two bikes, one for its present rider, Alvaro Bautista, while the name of the second rider has not yet been announced. Rumors include the possibility of Marco Melandri migrating from Superbike back to MotoGP, but that is not final.

During its rich history, Aprilia has collected 294 wins, and 19 manufacturer and 19 rider world titles in the 125 and 250cc GP classes, plus 45 wins, and three manufacturer and two rider world titles in World Superbike. Gresini Racing has 40 wins and two world titles in the 250cc and Moto2 classes.

Aleix Espargaro.

Randy de Puniet was the top CRT class finisher at Phillip Island in 2013.

Aleix Espargaro (41) looks for a way past Andrea Dovizioso at Sachsenring in 2013.