Aprilia Racing

Aleix Espargaro, 2024 Aprilia livery
Aleix Espargaro, 2024 Aprilia livery

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About Aprilia Racing

Aprilia Racing in 2024

2024 will be the third full season featuring Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales in the factory Aprilia line-up.

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Aprilia Racing in 2024

2024 will be the third full season featuring Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales in the factory Aprilia line-up.

Espargaro is the RS-GPs only race winner to date, courtesy of victories at Argentina 2022 and then Silverstone and Barcelona in 2023. Vinales is still seeking to become the first MotoGP rider to win on three different brands of bike after prior wins for Suzuki (1) and Yamaha (8).

Aprilia Racing’s MotoGP history

Despite winning 19 riders’ titles in the 125cc and 250cc grand prix classes, Aprilia was never able to crack the premier 500cc class.

The factory’s premier-class struggles continued after the switch to four-stroke ‘MotoGP’ machines in 2002, when Aprilia built its RS ‘Cube’ three-cylinder, featuring F1 technology - including pneumatic valves - from Cosworth.

The bike delivered perhaps the most horsepower on the grid but sometimes seemed to have a mind of its own due to heavy reliance on experimental traction control and ride-by-wire electronics (no physical connection between the twist grip and engine) to try and tame the power delivery.

There were also ‘reliability’ issues. The most spectacular of which saw Colin Edwards forced to bail off at 120mph when the fuel cap fell off at Sachsenring, spraying rider and machine with fuel, which then ignited.

The RS Cube, which was also ridden by the likes of Regis Laconi (2002), Noriyuki Haga (2003), Jeremy McWilliams (2004) and Shane Byrne (2004), disappeared from MotoGP at the end of 2004 having never bettered the sixth place by Edwards on his MotoGP debut at Suzuka 2003.

Aprilia rebounded in WorldSBK with the RSV4 Superbike, which won the world championship with Max Biaggi in 2010 and 2012, then Sylvain Guintoli in 2014.

With MotoGP having returned to a 1,000cc engine size for 2012, and the entry of modified Superbikes now encouraged under the CRT rules, Aprilia made a low-key return to the grand prix paddock by supplying ‘customer’ bikes.

Despite losing its racing boss Gigi Dall’Igna to Ducati, Aprilia - now under the design guidance of Romano Albesiano - upped its MotoGP involvement and, tempted by measures such as the single ECU, was ready to make an official MotoGP return for 2015.

The restriction on grid places, and perhaps Dorna’s memory of Aprilia’s brief RS Cube adventure, meant the factory had to join forces with an existing team.

A deal was agreed with Italian outfit Gresini, title runner-up with Honda machinery in the early MotoGP years but now struggling financially, with the project a full factory entry in all but official status.

The early years of the renamed and revamped RS-GP project proved difficult, with the team barely breaking into the top ten and haunted by technical issues.

A key turning point was the signing of ex-F1 manager Massimo Rivola for the new title of Aprilia Racing CEO at the start of 2019. That allowed Albesiano to fully focus on the technical side and, crucially, exploit his knowledge of aerodynamics.

Success didn’t happen overnight, and Aprilia’s situation was summed up when a trio of Moto2 riders - Marco Bezzecchi, Fabio di Giannantonio and Joe Roberts – all turned down the chance of a factory contract to ride alongside Espargaro for 2021.

Espargaro perhaps made them regret that choice by taking the RS-GP’s first podium at Silverstone, the race before nine-time MotoGP race winner Maverick Vinales took over from Lorenzo Savadori as his team-mate, following a shock mid-season split from Yamaha.

Espargaro had joined Aprilia from Suzuki in 2017 and took on the role of ‘captain’ by being their leading rider in the world championship thereafter, outperforming the likes of Scott Redding (2018), Andrea Iannone (2019) and Bradley Smith (2020).

Aprilia split from Gresini and was granted its own grid places for 2022, when Espargaro was rewarded for his loyalty and perseverance with his and the RS-GP’s first MotoGP victory, in Argentina. The early win proved a springboard to a title challenge, being later followed by four rostrums in a row.

But a foot injury at Silverstone kicked off a tough second half. The RS-GP again struggled in the flyaway rounds, not helped by a technical issue on the grid in Japan, but Espargaro remained a mathematical title contender until the penultimate round.

A cruel technical problem in the Valencia finale robbed Espargaro of third in the world championship and Aprilia second in the constructors’. Vinales took three podiums on his way to eleventh.

Aprilia’s success saw the loss of technical concessions for 2023 but team and riders began the season with high hopes of building on the previous year’s success.

While Aprilia largely avoided the post-concessions slump of Suzuki and KTM, the expectations of instantly stepping up and fighting Ducati for victories - in a marathon season of 20 rounds, plus the new Saturday Sprint races - created too much pressure.

Although Vinales began the season in style with second in Portimao, Aprilia didn’t take another podium until Espargaro broke his 2023 duck just before the summer break at Assen.

But Espargaro began the second half in perfect style with a last-lap victory over reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia at Silverstone, then led a dream Aprilia one-two in his home Catalunya round.

However, he wouldn’t be seen on the podium again as Aprilia’s flyaway woes returned, including the RS-GP cooking its riders to the point of retirement in the hotter events.

Vinales added a third runner-up finish in Indonesia and got within two points of snatching sixth from Espargaro, who rode the Valencia finale with a leg fracture after being hit in a friendly fire incident with RNF’s Miguel Oliveira in Qatar.