After completing a rather low-key inaugural MotoGP season last year, Aprilia is back for 2016 with a completely new prototype. Alvaro Bautista returns for a second season with Aprilia, along with by Stefan Bradl who joined the team midway through the 2015 season, replacing Marco Melandri.
The two returning riders split three 10th-place finishes riding the 2015 Aprilia RS-GP but otherwise struggled to finish within the top 15 most of the year. For some manufacturers, those results are disappointing bu Aprilia made it clear early on that the focus of the first season was more on development than competitiveness (Aprilia calls 2015 its “laboratory season”). The data collected through the year led to the development of an all-new RS-GP for 2016.
Apart from the name, the 2016 RS-GP shares little with its predecessor which was an evolution of the previous CRT machines Aprilia sold to race teams. The engine remains a V4, like Aprilia’s RSV4 superbikes, but the RS-GP sports pneumatic valves and a counter-rotating crankshaft while claiming a maximum power output in excess of 250 hp.
The new RS-GP is important for the company, enough so that it will serve not just as the flagbearer for Aprilia but for the entire Piaggio Group, whose logo holds the prime spot on the body panels of the livery.
“From a Group strategy point of view, Aprilia Racing is not just the Aprilia racing team: it is the most advanced technological experimentation and development platform for the entire Piaggio Group from which all of our products and brands benefit,” says Roberto Colaninno, chief executive office and managing director for the Piaggio Group. “For this reason, from this 2016 season the Piaggio Group logo stands out prominently on the bikes’ livery. In fact, the technology developed for racing operations is not intended only for racing, but it also serves the purpose of testing innovative solutions that will then be applied to road-legal products, from supersport bikes all the way to scooters, with the end goal of improving our products in terms of performance, safety and the ability to provide our customers with riding pleasure and fun.”
Aprilia’s expectations for this season remain tempered; yes, it’s year two for the team but a brand new motorcycle will still require a lot of development. Aprilia expects a bit of a fine-tuning phase but the team hopes to start being competitive as the season progresses.
“We aren’t starting from zero, but in any case we’ll have to develop a completely new bike. I think that Aprilia has very clear ideas about what they can expect this season,” says Bautista. “To be honest, it would be nice to be competitive around the mid-season mark. It’s difficult to predict now because there are so many things that need to be sorted, but I’m confident because during the winter break Aprilia did a great job with the data gathered in 2015. I’m pumped up and I want to have a good season, getting back into the battle for top positions, but I am under no illusions. With patience, hard work and sacrifice we can do it.”