Aprilia released the first official images of its all-new RS-GP MotoGP machine at the conclusion of a private test in Qatar.
The three-day outing followed a shakedown test in Aragon and marked the bike's debut in the hands of race riders Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista.
Aprilia has been represented in MotoGP by the superbike-based ART from 2012-2014, which was then upgraded and renamed the RS-GP for the factory's official return last season.
But the 2016 version is a true prototype, having 'nothing in common with previous Aprilia projects except for know-how. It is a completely new MotoGP bike in every component without exception'.
The V4 engine is now rumoured to feature a counter-rotating crankshaft (the inclusion of which caused the late debut) and, in final spec, will be 10kg lighter than its predecessor.
|Bradl on 2016 Aprilia|
"After the Aragon shakedown with the test riders, Alvaro and Stefan began to get to know the new Aprilia RS-GP here in Qatar,” confirmed Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano.
“These were three very intense and positive days of work. We are bringing home a lot of information and some growing pain problems we need to solve, but above all we are leaving with confirmation that the new bike's dynamic performance is significantly better than the 2015 bike.
“We have an important development path ahead of us that will be necessarily accelerated, but we are confident that this will be a season of growth toward a decidedly interesting level."
The good news for Aprilia in terms of development is that, like Suzuki, they are currently exempt from the MotoGP engine development freeze. That means they are free to make as many modifications as they like during the season and also have no restrictions on testing.
|Bautista on 2016 Aprilia|
"In these three days we explored the new bike, doing a lot of work with short sessions since this was the first real test with the 2016 RS-GP,” confirmed Bautista. “Obviously we are not at 100% but we have a very good starting point. I think that we are already at a similar level as the end of 2015 with the difference being that we are just at the beginning.
“There is a lot of room for development whereas with the old bike we were at the limit. We still need to work on a lot of things but I'm pleased with the work Aprilia has done. In the next tests I hope to be able to lay the foundation for the new season.”
|Bradl on 2016 Aprilia|
Bradl, who joined Aprilia midway through last season and later matched Bautista's best result of tenth, added:
"This test was really important as it was the first contact with the new bike. First impressions are good. I see a clear difference compared to the old bike and we are moving in the right direction.
“At the moment I have a good feeling despite the fact that we have a long way to go before we'll be able to say that we're satisfied. That was to be expected at the beginning. This is a completely new and decidedly demanding project, but we can truly say that we are off on the right foot.”
Aprilia used last year's machine during the opening official test at Sepang, while the timing of the private Qatar test meant the team did not attend the next official outing at Phillip Island.
Bradl and Bautista will thus put the new RS-GP head-to-head with its rivals for the first time during the final pre-season test, also at Losail, from March 2-4.
The new season then gets underway at the same venue from March 17-20.
Aprilia did not release lap times from its private Qatar test.