Amidst all of the uncertainty with the future of Aprilia’s racing plans, Roberto Colaninno, chairman of the Piaggio Group, which owns Aprilia, confirmed Tuesday at EICMA that the brand was in fact making a full-fledged return to MotoGP in 2016 as a factory team.
Colaninno was quoted as saying, “In 2016 Aprilia will return to MotoGP to win and match the success it had in [World] Superbikes.” Aprilia has been going through some turmoil of late when it was announced that technical director Luigi Dall’Igna was jumping ship to rival Ducati. This announcement aims to quell the turmoil and refocus the racing team’s attention.
Aprilia has been dabbling its toes in the MotoGP pond the past two years in the CRT category, entering a highly modified version of the RSV4 for privateers. That bike has proven itself well, as Spaniard Aleix Espargaro has been the highest scoring CRT man since the class was created.
A full factory team, however, is much different than a CRT effort. Aprilia hasn’t participated in MotoGP in that capacity since 2004 with the ill-fated RS Cube. Who can forget the infamous picture of Colin Edwards jumping off the Cube as it hurled down the racetrack in flames? An official factory entry means that a MotoGP manufacturer can run its own ECU software, but is limited to 20 liters of fuel, compared to 24 liters the “open class” bikes. The factory team will also be allowed only five engines throughout the season, compared to 12 the open bikes get.
With the return of Suzuki to the MotoGP grid in 2015, when Aprilia makes its official return the following year, that could potentially mean five factory teams — Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki, and Aprilia — fighting for top honors. Add in the satellite and open class bikes, and we can look forward to large grids in the top class again.