Aprilia kicks off my A to Z of MotoGP with the official factory team re-entering the fray in 2015. After being absent from the Paddock for 10 years, departing the grid at the end of 2004 it’s good to see the Aprilia Racing Team back in action for the 67th FIM Road Racing World Championship. Having rejoined the Premier Class in 2015 the Aprilia will join both Ducati and Suzuki in the unofficial ‘Factory Option with Concession’ category, which aims to make these teams more competitive against the likes of Honda and Yamaha.
Of course the Italian Company did re-enter the MotoGP Class under the CRT (Claiming Rule Team) Category in 2012 when the factory supplied ‘ART’ (Aprilia Racing Technology) RSV4 SBK-derived bikes to Aspar Racing and Paul Bird Motorsports however in my opinion that doesn’t count. Aspar Racing now continues under the Honda Open Class banner whilst the PBM team no longer competes in the Premier Division, concentrating their efforts on the British Superbike Series.
Aprilia’s history in Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing can be traced back to 1985 however it wasn’t until 2002 that they entered the renamed MotoGP class for the first time with the ill-fated RS-Cube. 2002 was a year of change for MotoGP, which witnessed the arrival of the 990cc four-stroke machines raced by the factory teams of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Aprilia, whilst the satellite teams continued to race the 500cc two-stroke bikes.
Whilst the Aprilia RS-Cube introduced several new features not previously seen in MotoGP racing – Pneumatic Valves, Traction Control and Ride by Wire, the machine was once described by 2003 Team Rider, Colin Edwards as being ‘born bad’ and having ‘just so many things that need fixing’. His teammate for the year, Noriyuki Haga, crashed the Cube 28 times that season.
In 2015, the experienced campaigners of Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri, will pilot the Aprilia RS-GP factory bikes. Officially known as Aprilia Racing Team Gresini they were not expected to line-up on the MotoGP grid until 2016 however a change in plans will now allow the team to develop the bike during the 2015 season before they unleash their “full factory” prototype machine next year.
Some of that development work was on show at the recent Jerez test with the debut of a seamless gearbox. The advanced gearbox technology, that was described as ‘full’ seamless, allows faster and smoother gear changes. Aprilia Racing Manager, Romano Albesiano described the test as a ‘complete success.’
The factory Honda, Yamaha and Ducati teams already utilise seamless shift technology, with only the Aprilia and Suzuki (factory) machines still racing with conventional gearboxes. One would expect Aprilia to add this technology development to the RS-GP bike during the next upgrade, maybe as early as Mugello in late May.
Alvaro Bautista: “I like this new challenge. It gives me new stimulation and great motivation. We are well aware that we have a lot of work to do and we are also aware that this will be a season marked by development, so we aren’t setting any goals for ourselves except to improve race by race.”
Marco Melandri: “Following Aprilia in its ambitious return to MotoGP is a brave choice, especially after the decision to move the plans up. I am very motivated. I am confident and I know what this racing department is capable of, although that doesn’t change the difficulties that we will inevitably have to face…We have a long road ahead of us, but I believe that with patience and determination we’ll be able to achieve a good level, realistically in the second half of the season.”
So there you have it, my first instalment of the A to Z of MotoGP, 2015.
Photographs: ©2015 by Darren Marlowe | Octane Photography – All Rights Reserved