Mick Shanley, team manager of Shaun Muir Racing, saw enough at a recent test in Jerez to convince him the squad's new Aprilia-backed World Superbike project has serious potential, as they seek to prove themselves on the world stage.
The Milwaukee SMR Aprilia squad boasts a talented rider line-up with Eugene Laverty hopeful of returning to winning ways after a two-year spell in MotoGP, and Italian Lorenzo Savadori keen to build on a rookie season of promise.
In Shanley's words, Aprilia's support is “as full factory as anything gets”, as riders tested new suspension parts and engines in Jerez at the close of November, while five technicians from the Noale factory were present in the SMR-manned garage.
“People talk about factory support,” Shanley told Crash.net in an exclusive interview. “The effort we're doing this year is as full factory as anything gets.
“Aprilia is paying all the mechanics wages basically, and a full technical support package comes from Aprilia. We've got five guys in the garage from Aprilia and the rest of it, on the management and logistics side, the bikes, that all comes down to SMR.
“It'll be very much a big, joint team effort with Aprilia tasked with the development side, the electronics management and we'll take care of everything else.”
Arriving in the series as British champions, expectations were high as riders Josh Brookes and Karel Abraham had a BMW-supported S1000 RR apiece to compete on.
However, results were not always forthcoming, as both riders placed outside the top ten in the championship standings. Yet Shanley feels the experience gained – “a year of grounding” as he calls it – was invaluable, and will be critical as the team seeks to “develop into one of the front running teams” in 2017.
“Everything that happened [at the end of 2015], for the right reasons really at the time, we chose the BMW route to come into the championship. In hindsight maybe things have worked out for the best,” says Shanley.
“We've done a year of grounding. We're probably in a situation now that we can do the Aprilia situation some justice. We're in the championship now, established and we've found our footing. It's time to prove ourselves.”
Challenging the might of Kawasaki and Ducati will be no small feat, especially as the RSV4 had next to no development throughout the past two seasons.
The test in Jerez was an opportunity for Aprilia to underline its intentions with development parts and that, coupled with a good working dynamic between SMR and Italian engineers, was enough for Shanley to sound optimistic when judging the team's chances for next year.
“The bike's we're running at the minute are principally bikes that we were running last year. We have new suspension and new engines. We have a few new items to tick off the list, to try with a view for the '17 bike. Then in January we'll go and build the '17 bike with the results that we get here and some other work that Aprilia is doing back at the factory.
“The Aprilia hasn't had any development since 2014. There was a little bit in 2015 but it was pretty much the bike that went before. Last year it had absolutely nothing. This test here is about us testing together as a team and getting some baseline knowledge. We have updates for 2017. The development process has already started. We just need to confirm a few things at that test.
“We'll get this test out of the way, the familiarity of everyone working together – we've been used to a slightly different working dynamic – both from our side and Aprilia's side. Once we get that, judging by how everything's been running in the past couple of days, it's a nice working environment and I'm sure we can have a real strong season together.”
CLICK HERE to read the full interview with Mick Shanley