Aprilia racing director Romano Albesiano spoke to Crash.net at the close of the final MotoGP preseason test in Qatar about the reasons for delays in the project, first impressions of the new RS-GP, and realistic targets for the season ahead.

Crash.net:
So Romano, what were the first impressions of Aprilia's riders when they tested the new bike in Qatar?

Romano Albesiano:
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.

Crash.net:
The bike obviously differs to the machine they were running in 2015 greatly. What is the main difference?

Romano Albesiano:
The first comment they said is that [it] manoeuvres. 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.

Crash.net:
How is the power at this stage?

Romano Albesiano:
Now the power is similar to last year's, something around 250 horsepower. We are not looking for special power now. As I said, it's not Moto3, but it counts. Now we have other priorities. Aprilia has a long tradition of very fast bikes. This track has seen a few months ago in Superbike Aprilia winning also because of this top speed. Obviously in MotoGP we want to get back to there but it's going to take some more time.

Crash.net:
Bautista and Bradl debuted the bike in public here for the first time. It's clear you are a little behind schedule. What were the main reasons for this?

Romano Albesiano:
Well the delay was [because of] some decision we took in redesigning some parts, like the counter rotating crankshaft. This is the major reason for this. Then some normal delays, supplier delays, normal life. We made so many meeting in deciding, 'No, stay with the other [design]!' And then at the end we made some simulation programme in order to understand these things, in the simulation mode. At the end we are quite convinced that it is better. Sometimes you need to trust in some choices that you make but I believe this is the right one. Most of our competitors are this way so it's not crazy.

Crash.net:
Did the tests at the end of last year give you enough information from the new Michelin tyres to understand the balance that this bike needs?

Romano Albesiano:
To be honest, no. We used those tests to understand the new electronics and understand the new tyres. So with the electronics we made some steps and now it's not so bad. With tyres it was not so easy. You remember many crashes. It was very, very difficult. I think our riders are still a little conservative. But then Michelin the tyres radically so they restarted new tyres now. In general we didn't get a lot of information for the new bike. It's so different.

Crash.net:
Are the current electronics and those that you used in 2015 drastically different?

Romano Albesiano:
Sure. It's hard to say if it's better or worse. We had our own electronics, which was a very good system. This one is more developed in some areas. In some other areas it's less developed. It's like changing a software language. Every engineer have to kind of learn a new language. Because, for example, our software was built for traction control, fixing the traction control with ten parameters. Our people were experts in optimising these ten parameters. With the new system the parameters are different, the physical meaning is different. So you have to get trained to understand what is the optimum. It's hard to say if it's better or worse but it's a lot of work. That's for sure. A lot of work. For me, we are 70 percent of the way and 50 percent of the tyres, the feeling.

Crash.net:
When will you bring updates for the new RS-GP? Will we see them arrive regularly throughout the season?

Romano Albesiano:
Well, we'll have some engine updates from the next race. I believe race-by-race it will be not possible because of the sealing of the engine but in this phase the learning curve is big. We normally plan for Mugello a step up of engine spec performance. We probably do it as well this year. But the effort now is to build the consistency of the function of the machine.

Crash.net:
Looking at the World Superbike championship, the Ioda squad are running RSV4s. Does Aprilia officially have involvement with that project?

Romano Albesiano:
Yep. Definitely. We are keeping an eye on the Superbike for sure. We are supporting the Ioda team because they are doing an important thing. It's very important for us that an Aprilia is still there. we give them assistance. So far we are not planning any special development because we have to do a lot of development here. But it's a good thing. I'm personally very pleased that Lorenzo Savadori, who has won the Superstock championship with us, could have a chance to show his value in Superbike. He did very well in Phillip Island. He was eighth. He had never tried qualifying. So it's unbelievable. I'm very happy. OK, we are not there with the ambition that we had before but it's OK.

Crash.net:
If Ioda ask for help or updates this year would Aprilia be willing to help?

Romano Albesiano:
If we can, for sure we'll do it.

Crash.net:
So it it fair to say the majority of the Aprilia engineers that were working in World Superbike are now involved in the MotoGP project?

Romano Albesiano:
Yeah, for sure. We concentrated almost all the engineers and the technicians on this project because we have to make the step in this category.

Crash.net:
Looking ahead to 2017. It was announced in the autumn of last season that Sam Lowes would be joining Aprilia's MotoGP squad after a year with Gresini in Moto2. What attracted you to sign Sam?

Romano Albesiano:
Well, we are very interested in young, talented riders on which to build the future. There are some very good, young riders that are showing very well their talent yesterday [at a Moto2/3 test in Jerez]. We believe Sam can be a good rider in MotoGP. We will help him learn MotoGP before next season. So we hope we can do well with him.

Crash.net:
When can he expect to test the MotoGP machine this year?

Romano Albesiano:
We are planning this. We have to discuss with Gresini. Hopefully he will be fighting for the championship so on one side we don't want to disturb him. On the other we would like to give him the opportunity to learn something very different.

Crash.net:
When do you believe you can start talking about being competitive in 2016?

Romano Albesiano:
I think Jerez will be a turning point. It must be.

Crash.net:
So, what are your targets for the year ahead?

Romano Albesiano:
Well, when we started this programme the target was to stay in the second year to fight for the top ten, to be there. This is our target for the season from Jerez. And then we will make a step the year after.

 

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