Alvaro Bautista has described his first impressions of Aprilia's new RS-GP machine as 'really positive' ahead of the first round of the 2016 MotoGP season, but admits 'we are in another world' when compared to other manufacturers.
Race chief Romano Albesiano confirmed to Crash.net
that the Noale factory's preparations for the new year were delayed in part due to a decision on whether running an engine that features a counter-rotating crankshaft was viable.
That, coupled with 'normal, supplier delays' left Aprilia frantically working to play catch-up, with the '16 machine making its public debut at the final preseason test of the year at Qatar.
While acknowledging that there was still much to be done, Bautista noted the bike's handling and stability was a marked upgrade on its predecessor.
“The first time I jumped on the bike I thought, 'This is a real race bike,'” explained the Spaniard at the preseason test in Qatar. “It's not like the old one. The impression was really positive. But you know with the other bike we were at the maximum. With this one we are starting so we don't know it. We have to understand what we need to go fast, what we need for my riding style.
“For sure, it's different. This bike has better handling and is a bit lighter so it's easier to ride. Also it is more stable in every entry and exit. So it's completely different. The base I like more than the old one.
“For sure I think because the bike is more stable on the exit from the corner it looks like the bike is more smooth. Also, with the electronics we are working to improve the traction control. It is not like the Aprilia electronics. With Aprilia we were at the top. Now we don't have a way to follow. We are trying different solutions but we are still not 100 percent.”
Albesiano also spoke of the machine's improved manoeuvrability, something he had hoped the new engine design would achieve, and feels that once the '16 RS-GP's teething problems are ironed out, both Bautista and Stefan Bradl will have a 'real weapon' at their disposal.
“Honestly, we are really happy with the bike, the feeling overall, as Alvaro told you, is very positive. But I don't want to be only positive. We have a lot of work to do. We are quite late in our programme. We still have small issues there to fix and which quite often disturb the work. We are rushing in order to fix all these things. Once we have fixed all these things I believe we have a good weapon.
“The first comment they said is that manoeuvre. It's enough to move the head and the bike is going this way [in the direction of the head]. Also, the big problem last year was the turning of the bike. When you were in a corner and you wanted to go there, the bike didn't come and this seems to be fixed with this bike. This is normally the worst nightmare that you can have on a motorcycle. I'm really happy on this side. The base of the project seems good but there is a lot of work to do to be competitive.”
Albesiano rated Aprilia's engineers current grasp of the new electronics at around 70 percent of the package's capabilities and knows a great deal of work is still needed to allow riders to feel fully comfortable with Michelin's new tyres.
Bautista concurred, stating once some basic issues are worked through, finding a way to enter a corner with more confidence is a priority.
"For sure now it's quite difficult. The bike has 400 kilometres and now we doing the short runs," said the 2006 125cc world champion. "Every time I stop we find something, 'Oh, this is not good, this isn't good…' We always find some problems but it is the time to find these. The bike is really, really new. The bike started here one week ago with Stefan and me. Unfortunately the test rider [Mike de Meglio] crashed in Aragon and they cannot make the test run. We are very, very late from the others.
"I follow one time Marc [Marquez] and what I saw is that on the straight we do not lose as much as last year. Even the first part we are really competitive with the Honda. What I saw is that he has more confidence to go into the corner. For me it was quite difficult. I didn't make many laps. Also tyres. There are many things to understand. I think we can improve the setting of the bike. We don't' change nothing. We have to go, work and find a good set-up.
"On the other hand I follow [Jorge] Lorenzo and Yamaha is much better than Honda. The acceleration is really good, really good traction. Also in the speed it is quite fast. Now looking from outside, it's looking that the Yamaha is much better set up than the Honda. Now, we're in another world. Right now, I can't compare with Honda or Yamaha."