Aprilia, making its factory return to MotoGP this season, has unveiled this race livery for Marco Melandri and Alvaro Bautista.

Winner of the former CRT category with its RSV4-based ART, Aprilia has joined forces with the Gresini team and brought forward its official MotoGP return by one season.

Melandri and Bautista will thus race an upgraded version of the ART, the RS-GP, in the factory class this year. The bike already has a pneumatic valve engine, with a seamless gearbox next on the list.

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Aprilia have used a red and black livery during 2015 testing, adding the silver and white similar to its WSBK machines for today's launch.

The testing livery also featured a large Aprilia logo on the side of the fairings. The lack of such branding on the race design suggests Aprilia are hoping for a title sponsor to step for the start of the season.

"We have already been on the track for the first testing sessions of this new adventure that officially starts today," said Aprilai Racing manager Romano Albesiano. "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.

"We certainly could have avoided the pressure and waited until next year, but that's not what Aprilia wanted. In terms of development we are starting on a solid foundation which is the result of our winning experience in Superbike and the ART project, the only CRT that was able to show potential close to 'real' MotoGP bikes.

"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."

Melandri has followed Aprilia's change of focus from World Superbike to MotoGP, where he won five races from 2003-2010.

However the 32-year-old Italian struggled badly during the 2015 tests at Sepang, being left at the bottom of the timesheets throughout last week's second visit, after which he tweeted "I can't ride, feeling disappointed for the guys..."

A more upbeat Melandri commented at today's launch: "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.

"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-tyre 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."

Bautista has remained with Gresini for its transition from satellite Honda to factory Aprilia team. Preparing for his sixth premier-class season, the Spaniard has three MotoGP podiums and one pole position to his credit. Bautista was 19th quickest at the end of the Sepang tests.

"I like this new challenge," he said. "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, working hard.

"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."

Although yet to win a premier-class grand prix world championship, Aprilia claimed 19 manufacturers' and 19 riders' titles in the former 125 and 250cc two-stroke categories.

In terms of four-stroke success, Aprilia's RSV4 has won seven World Superbike titles, including the riders' crown in 2010, 2012 and 2014.


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Why is it I always get the feeling, than when Aprilia joins MotoGP, it's not to win anything but just to participate. They seem so under-prepared for this season that maybe it would be better to wait a year and build a proper bike.