Aprilia officially revealed its new RS-GP racer ahead of its return to premier class Grand Prix racing. Veteran MotoGP racers Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri will pilot the RS-GP in what is expected to be a season focused on development.
The Italian manufacturer boasts an impressive track record off 54 world titles, but none in the MotoGP/500cc Grand Prix class. Aprilia withdrew from the MotoGP championship after the 2004 season, unofficially returning in 2012 by supplying racebikes based on the RSV4 under the series’ claiming rule team category.
Aprilia initially planned for an official return with a new prototype for 2016 but later decided to start a year early, devoting this season to development before making a more serious effort next year.
“We chose to move up our start date, getting into the mix in the 2015 MotoGP World Championship because we believe that this is the solution which is certainly the most risky but also the best one to become competitive as quickly as possible,” says Romano Albesiano, Aprilia racing manager. “We certainly could have avoided the pressure and waited until next year, but that’s not what Aprilia wanted.
“For us this will be a year of testing, development and in some ways even sacrifice, to be taken full advantage of as we look toward 2016 when we will be able to ride a real Aprilia prototype bike onto the track. We do not underestimate the difficulties of this effort but we have all the elements we need in order to take it on successfully: a solid technological platform, a top shelf racing department and a partner to support us in this new challenge.”
Both Bautista and Melandri have a single world championship on their resumes. Melandri won the 250cc title in 2002 while Bautista took the 125cc title in 2006, both winning on Aprilia machines. They know they aren’t expected to win a title this season,
“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, working hard,” says Bautista. “I was very pleased with the first two test sessions in Malaysia. It was nice to see a lot of people working hard to improve and listening to my requests. All of our mechanics are top notch and they all have a drive that makes for an excellent atmosphere in the garage. We are all very confident and this is an important factor in order to make progress and take on this difficult challenge with maximum energy.”
For Melandri, this season also marks his return to MotoGP racing after competing in World Superbikes the last four seasons including last season riding the Aprilia RSV4. Melandri finished in the top four in each of his WSBK campaigns but he recognizes he will face different expectations this year.
“Following Aprilia in its ambitious return to MotoGP is a brave choice, especially after the decision to move the plans up,” says Melandri. “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. There are also some advantages, like being able to ‘tailor’ myself to a bike, something that I have never been able to do until now in my career, helping the guys in the development process and giving them my indications. For now it is just a matter of acquiring a feeling with the bike-tire package, much different than the one I used last year. 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.”