For Italian motorsport fans, the Alitalia brand will long be synonymous with rallying but from 2010 they will need to get used to seeing the distinctive tricolour logo adorn a bike following the company's decision to sponsor Aprilia's World Superbike effort.

The Italian national airliner received global recognition in the 1970s when it provided backing to Lancia's World Rally Championship effort, a collaboration that has since made the Alitalia-liveried Stratos one of the most enduring images of its discipline.

Although the recognisable 'A' logo has been absent from motorsport for some time now, Alitalia will return to the international racing scene in 2010, albeit on a two-wheeled machine, after confirming it will back Aprilia.

Prompting a bold new makeover for the bike, as well as rebranding for the team, the Aprilia Alitalia Racing RSV-4 was launched at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport, the bike resplendent in its new colours, which also include significant backing from Italian oil company Eni-Agip.

For Maurizio Roman, director of Aprilia's parent company Piaggio, the 'Italianness' of the two brands makes the marriage wholly appropriate.

"Partnerships are often forged between brands and sponsors that have very little in common, with no relation whatsoever between their respective activities. Today, however, we are witnessing one of those rare cases of an auspicious union between brands that share many values.

"They share the same Italianness and, above all, the same commitment to technological advancement and excellence. Behind both are companies that strive to elevate prestigious brands to new heights, and which have made history in their respective segments.
In the early days, the Aprilia logo featured a tricolour capital A, which was strongly inspired by the graphic symbol of the national Italian airline.

"Today we are truly proud that Alitalia has chosen the fairings of the magnificent Aprilia RSV4 as the canvas to continue its history as brand involved to world class motor sports. It is a great honour and opportunity for Aprilia to bear the colours of a prestigious brand such as Alitalia and to represent its values in the highly competitive arena of the world Superbike championship."

Aprilia made its return to World Superbike competition in 2009, Max Biaggi led the team to victory at Brno on the way to fourth in the overall standings. Leon Camier joins Biaggi having been signed to replace the retired Shinya Nakano.