Espargaro: Oliveira, Fernandez signings ‘can help develop Aprilia, fight Ducati’

Aleix Espargaro believes the additions of Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez to the new 2023 RNF Aprilia team will help the Noale-based manufacturer ‘fight eight Ducatis’ going forward.
Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia MotoGP Misano, Italy 2022
Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia MotoGP Misano, Italy 2022

With Ducati far and away the leaders in the 2022 MotoGP manufacturers championship, while also leading the teams’ standings from Aprilia, adding two more bikes to a very competitive Aprilia project could make a huge difference in 2023 and beyond.

Espargaro and team-mate Maverick Vinales have been two of the most in-form riders of late - in Espargaro’s case it’s been season-long - and with Oliveira who is a proven race winner and the extremely talented Fernandez joining the ranks, Ducati could be set for a stiffer challenge in both championships despite having eight bikes on the grid. 

Ducati’s level of competitiveness in 2022 has arguably been the Italian brand’s best ever in MotoGP, but that’s also true for Aprilia. 

Speaking at the pre-event press conference at Misano, Espargaro said: "I congratulate Aprilia, Razlan [Razali] and the two riders. I want to say welcome to the Aprilia project to both Miguel [Oliveira] and Raul [Fernandez]. 

"They are two talented riders and they have a very good future in front of them because they are both young. 

"Hopefully it can help us develop the bike and fight against eight Ducatis for the championship. I can’t wait to see how they react when they jump on the bike in Valencia." 

While it’s not been confirmed, Oliveira and Fernandez could be racing RS-GP22 machinery, so the same bikes that Espargaro and Vinales are currently competing on. 

Asked if they will serve as somewhat of a testing team for the factory outfit, Espargaro added: "I don’t think anybody has the answer yet. The organisation in Aprilia has improved a lot in the previous years and they are now ready to give service to a satellite team. 

"Raul and Miguel will have competitive bikes but it’s new for everyone in Aprilia to have satellite bikes. 

"Let’s see how they work and how they can help us, which material they will have. For sure, it’s going to be helpful to have two strong riders and help arrive at the level."

Bagnaia ‘happy’ with Ducati’s decision to sign Bastianini, had no say in the decision

Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP race, Austrian MotoGP, 21 August
Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP race, Austrian MotoGP, 21 August

Along with Oliveira and Fernandez being confirmed at RNF Aprilia, another big rider move to take place within the last couple of weeks involved Bastianini being chosen over Jorge Martin for the second Lenovo Ducati seat. 

While happy with the decision Ducati have taken, Bagnaia was clear that it was down to the team and that he had and wanted no part of the decision process. 

"I’m happy. I didn’t want to help decide who would be my team-mate because I think it’s a decision [that needs] to come from the team and not the rider," claimed Bagnaia. 

"In any case I think we can do a good job with Enea. I know him very well from when we were young. 

"The most important is to let him know and to let him learn our type of work that can be great."

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